Winner gets third victory of the season
Dodge Dart driver Allen Johnson raced to his second victory in three years and third straight final-round appearance at the NHRA Kansas Nationals, defeating teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. in a repeat of last year’s all-Mopar final at Heartland Park Topeka. Flipping the results from his runner-up finish against Coughlin at the venue in 2013, Johnson drove to his class-leading third victory of the season, third overall at Topeka and 23rd of his career.
Following on the heels of Coughlin’s win in the rain-delayed NHRA Atlanta event on Monday, Johnson’s triumph is the second in less than a week for Mopar Dodge Dart drivers, and third overall since Johnson inaugurated the new Mopar Dodge Dart Pro Stock body with a win in its race debut at the NHRA Gatornationals in March. Counting Johnson’s victory at Phoenix in his since retired Dodge Avenger, Mopar Pro Stockers have accounted for four wins in the eight 2014 NHRA events held to date.
“It is fantastic to see Allen Johnson take the new Magneti Marelli Dodge Dart to the Kansas Nationals winner’s circle for his third win this season,” said Pietro Gorlier, President and CEO of Mopar, Chrysler Group’s service, parts and customer-care brand. “There really is no better way to validate all the hard work that he and his team have put in combined with the work of our Mopar engineers. It’s a great way to get the season rolling and we look forward to seeing what more Allen and this new Dodge Dart can continue to do in such a competitive Pro Stock field.”
Johnson, who moved up to second in the Pro Stock standings with his win, used a 6.676 elapsed time at 206.95 mph to defeat Larry Morgan to begin eliminations and a 6.637/207.21 to best Shane Gray in the quarterfinals. Johnson’s quick reflexes proved the difference against points leader Erica Enders-Stevens in the semis. The pair posted near identical runs, Johnson with a 6.657/206.32 and Enders-Stevens with a matching 6.657 ET but faster speed of 206.51 mph. Johnson took the holeshot win with a quicker .022 reaction time to his opponent’s .046 to set up an all-Mopar showdown with Coughlin, who also competes with Mopar HEMI engines supplied by Johnson & Johnson Racing.
Coughlin, hot off his Atlanta victory, dispatched Rodger Brogdon, Dave Connolly and Vincent Nobile to reach the money round. Johnson, the overall 2012 Pro Stock series champ, was once again first out of the gate with a .028 to the .048 posted by Coughlin, the defending series champ, in his Mopar/JEGS.com Dodge Dart. Johnson never trailed, recording a 6.663/207.18 mark to Coughlin’s 6.664/207.05 to earn his third Topeka Wally trophy, following victories in 2009 and 2012.
“What a great relief when you get to the final with your teammate,” said Johnson, who combined with his 2010 runner-up at Topeka now has five final appearances in the last six years at the venue. “You feel like you’ve won either way. Any time I’m in a final with Jeg it raises my IQ about 50 points, because he’s that good. It makes me want to be better to race him and gets me up for the challenge.
“We’ve been struggling just a little bit. We finally got a handle on Jeggy’s car at the last race, and in the second round today we got a handle on mine. This team just keeps battling. It doesn’t matter what it is, every single run we’re just attacking the car, and that’s just the way this team is. To have half the wins this year (in the class) in our camp is a pretty good feeling.”
With his runner-up spot, Coughlin moved to fourth in the Pro Stock standings. Dodge Dart driver V. Gaines, who took out Greg Anderson before falling to Enders-Stevens in the quarterfinals, is eighth in points.
A pair of Mopar HEMI-powered Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) NHRA Funny Car drivers advanced to the semifinals on Sunday at Topeka, despite starting from deep in the qualifying field. Ron Capps, the No. 10 qualifier, drove his Dodge Charger R/T to round wins over Del Worsham and Bob Tasca III, but was unable to best Cruz Pedregon in the semis. Starting from the twelfth spot, Tommy Johnson Jr. upset No. 5 qualifier Alexis DeJoria in the first round and defeated Chad Head in the quarterfinals, before his day ended against event winner Courtney Force, who earned the 100th victory for a female in NHRA history.
Hoping for his first win of the season and encouraged by a strong No. 4 showing in qualifying, Matt Hagan’s luck failed to change at Heartland Park Topeka. The Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T pilot fell in a first-round match with Head, posting a losing 4.157/301.27 run after drifting to the left down track. Jack Beckman suffered the same fate as his Mopar DSR teammate Hagan, coming up short in the opening round against Dodge driver Jeff Arend, who was knocked out by Force in the quarterfinals.
Next up for Team Mopar NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series competitors is the NHRA Summernationals, scheduled to take place May 29–June 1 at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey.