Englishtown: Mopar Motorsports preview

Mopar Motorsports NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series 33rd Annual Matco Tools SuperNationals Old Bridge Township Raceway Park Englishtown, N.J. Pro Stock may look to history for its next champion. Alderman finds himself in quite a ...

Mopar Motorsports
NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series
33rd Annual Matco Tools SuperNationals
Old Bridge Township Raceway Park
Englishtown, N.J.

Pro Stock may look to history for its next champion.
Alderman finds himself in quite a battle.

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (May 14, 2002) -- It's been a long time since Mopar's Darrell Alderman has heard the words' title chase' attached to his name. The 2002 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Pro Stock quest is turning into one for the history books. Will another chapter be written this weekend?

Alderman, who drives the Hemi-powered Mopar Parts Dodge Neon R/T, currently rests third behind Warren Johnson and Jim Yates for this year's NHRA Pro Stock honors. Ironically, with the exception of Jeg Coughlin, Jr., in 2000, these three drivers are the only ones to etch their names in the championship trophy over the past 11 NHRA seasons.

The Morehead, Ky., resident has been there before, collecting championship hardware in 1990, 1991 and 1994, including a dramatic final-round victory over his Mopar teammate in the 1994 Winston Finals at Pomona (Calif.) Raceway clinching Alderman's last championship. Alderman has recorded 28 NHRA national event victories, his last being at this year's Gatornationals at Gainesville (Fla.) Raceway. One of Alderman's most dramatic.

"It may be too early to talk about another championship run, but it's always at the back of your mind," said the 52-year-old Alderman."I want to give my crew chief Rickie Smith a lot of the credit here. He has been a difference maker. He knows what the car wants and excels in the heat of the day. That consistency is what wins championships.

"We also have the tools," Alderman continued."The folks over at Mopar, and you can't forget about the engineers, along with this whole Nickens Brother Racing team, have done a tremendous job. In my 13-plus years of racing, I've never seen a team work as hard as this one does. They put in 15-hour days to try to find just one or two more horsepower. That's dedication. When you combine all of that with the power we're producing with a three-year-old Hemi engine and the great aerodynamics of the Dodge Neon R/T, we have a strong combination.

"Right now, we want to take it one pass at a time," Alderman added."Not one race at a time. Pro Stock is such a competitive category that if you miss one race it could mean losing the title. That's why each and every run is so important. I can't stress that enough. Our first qualifying pass could be just as important as winning that semifinal race. You just can't let your guard down and compete for a title."

Alderman has had some success at the historic New Jersey quarter-mile flat, winning three national events while lining up in four final rounds. In 1997, Alderman recorded victory number 27 by outgunning long-time nemesis Bruce Allen in the finals, while running past current crew chief Smith in 1991 and Mark Pawuk in 1990.

"We've always run well up there," Alderman said.

Mopar Motorsports NHRA Storylines

* How about Darrell Alderman? He is only one of five NHRA Pro Stock drivers to qualify for every NHRA national event this season. And that's a testament to how tough this season has been, with seven different winners in the seven NHRA national events contested in 2002.

* Who Got the Light Award? Alderman has had Warren Johnson's number this season. On three different occasions, Alderman has strapped a holeshot victory on the six-time champ. The last one came during the second round of the most recent Summit Racing Equipment NHRA national event at the Atlanta Dragway.

* It's Not Always Lane Choice. Alderman has been logging round victories and climbing the points ladder without the aid of a top-eight qualifying position yet this season. His high was a ninth at the season-opening Winternationals in Pomona, Calif., with a low of 14th in Las Vegas.

* Has Skuza Found Something? Despite ending his day with a blower explosion in the first round, Mopar Parts Nitro Funny Car driver Dean Skuza was very upbeat about his team's most recent weekend. With high fives all around the Skuza Motorsports pits at the Atlanta Dragway, the new Dodge Stratus R/T recorded its fastest speed and two consistent qualifying passes. Here is a quote from Dean after his first-qualifying pass in Atlanta.

"We found a problem that's been plaguing us on and off for the last two years," Skuza said."We addressed it in our testing session at Bristol (Tenn.), even though we didn't get down the track. When we smoked the tires all three times, it showed us something. We looked at run after run over the last two years and we kept seeing the same problem in the clutch. We changed it and made a great run. The problem was such an intermintent deal that it was hard to track."

* Larry Morgan's Playground. Old Bridge Township Raceway Park has been a successful track for Larry Morgan, driver of the blue Mopar Parts Dodge Neon R/T. The Newark, Ohio resident made his only run to the semifinal during last year's event. Morgan beat out current Mopar teammate Alderman in 1994.

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Darrell Alderman , Mark Pawuk , Warren Johnson , Larry Morgan , Bruce Allen , Rickie Smith