Team Mopar® Dodge Pro Stockers Allen Johnson, Kurt Busch Exit in First Round at NHRA Gatornationals
Gainesville, Fla. (March 13, 2011) – Team Mopar® NHRA Pro Stock drivers Allen Johnson and Kurt Busch bowed out early today in the elimination rounds at the Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals, losing to Greg Stanfield and Erica Enders, respectively, at Gainesville Raceway.
Johnson, the No. 9 qualifier in his J&J Racing Mopar Dodge Avenger, faced No. 8 Stanfield in the opening round, without lane choice. The Team Mopar veteran shook the tires as soon as he left the starting line and watched his opponent speed down the track to seize the round win.
“We have to qualify well. Being first out is a place that we’re not familiar with,” said Johnson, who was in the first pair to compete in eliminations. “It’s a very precarious place to be. It’s very hard to get off the starting line in a very fast fashion. You can be conservative, but we didn’t think we could do that racing Greg. Qualifying bad is what got us.
“Otherwise, it was a great weekend. With the run he made and the light he had, Kurt (Busch) would have beat eight of the 16 cars out here, and he’s happy about that fact. But we’ve got to get our car on track. I felt good about my driving today; I felt good about everything. Qualifying and being first out got us.”
Despite his first-round exit, Busch was upbeat concerning his Gatornationals performance. The Pro Stock rookie, No. 12 qualifier and Dodge Motorsports NASCAR Sprint Cup star drew Enders in the first round after quieting the naysayers with passes of 6.532/211.46 and 6.554/211.06 in qualifying yesterday. Advancing to eliminations in his very first Pro Stock event, Busch nearly pulled off a major upset against the veteran Enders, posting a 6.541/211.59 run to her 6.538/211.69 mark. Busch also notched a solid .049 reaction time off the starting line in his Shell Dodge Avenger. Enders’ margin of victory: a mere 10 feet.
“It was a great experience, to be competitive like we were,” said Busch, who will return to his regular No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger next weekend in the NASCAR Cup event in Bristol, Tenn. “It was a solid burnout, it was a great staging. I felt like she (Enders) was taking a long time to jump in and stage, so I rolled in first. It was the best (data) graph we produced in all of testing and in all of our rounds here at Gainesville, with our shift marks and everything else. It was the best run we’ve ever put together, and we just came up short.
“This was a weekend I’ll never forget. I feel we can hold our heads high about this. To have the opportunity to be out here and to make the field was one accomplishment, and to see our run and see how we produced in that first-round effort, we would have beat half the field, with adding together reaction time and elapsed time. So we put together a solid run.”
Asked once again about his future plans in the NHRA Pro Stock class, Busch said, “The way that we evolved, the way that we advanced through this weekend to feel more comfortable as a crew and as a driver, it was a fantastic, gratifying experience. Do I want to go do it again? Yes. Does the schedule pan out? It shows that we could go to Denver in July (at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals). That’s getting close to the cutoff point on when we really need to focus on our Cup points battle. If we’re right there in the 10th or 11th spot of making our Chase, then it’s not going to be the appropriate time to go and do that event. Only time will tell.”
Another Pro Stock rookie, Vincent Nobile, made the show at Gainesville, losing to Jason Line in a first-round battle. Next up for the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series is the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, April 1–3. For more information on the NHRA, visit www.nhra.com.