Auburn Hills, Mich. —Team Mopar® NHRA Pro Stock driver Allen Johnson was faced with a similar situation at the U.S. Nationals: qualify for the event and lock up the top spot in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
This week at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona the stakes are a bit higher — qualify for the 48th annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals, which are set for Nov. 8–11, and Johnson will clinch the 2012 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Pro Stock championship.
“We want to go there and seal the deal, push just as hard as we have all year and win the race. We are approaching it the same way as we would if we only had a 26-point lead.”
Johnson claimed his series-leading sixth win of the season in the most recent NHRA event at Las Vegas on Oct. 28, in a Mopar vs. Mopar matchup against teammate Vincent Nobile, which helped him extend his points lead to 126 markers over his nearest competitor.
Johnson’s six wins are a career-high for the 17-year Pro Stock veteran. The native of Greeneville, Tenn., has also earned a career-high 51 rounds wins in his Mopar Dodge Avenger with a possible four rounds of racing remaining this season.
“I’ve been to the final round at Pomona, but I’ve never been able to get the win,” said Johnson. “Winning there is like a win at Indy or Gainesville — it’s a must-do.
It’s still on my ‘bucket list’ to do, and there’s no better time to do it now and put an exclamation point on our season.”
The Team Mopar veteran has reached the final round at Pomona once in his career, and has advanced to at least the semifinals on six occasions.
He opened the 2012 season at the venue located just outside of Los Angeles as the No. 4 qualifier and raced his way into the quarterfinals.
Johnson has qualified among the top half of the field in 11 of his last 13 starts at Pomona, scoring his first career No. 1 Qualifier award at the venue in the season-ending event in 2010.
“We’ll go at qualifying just like we have all year, trying to be No. 1 each round and get all the little qualifying points we can,” said Johnson.
“We’re going to proceed like we’ve got a big hammer in our hands. We learned a few things at Pomona earlier in the year that should help us this week.”
Johnson has earned a career-high 10 No. 1 Qualifier awards this season and has been sixth or better on the clock in all 22 events thus far in 2012. At one point during the summer, the Mopar-powered racer was the quickest qualifier in six straight events.
Johnson has led the Pro Stock standings after each of the first five rounds of the NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoffs. The current 126-point advantage is the largest lead he has held thus far during the first five rounds of the six-race Countdown.
Jack Beckman and Ron Capps bring one of the closest Funny Car title battles in the history of the series to Pomona.
Capps was victorious at the NHRA event in Las Vegas to close to within four points of Beckman, as the pair of Mopar-powered Dodge Charger R/T Don Schumacher Racing teammates squared off in the final round at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Teammate Johnny Gray, who enters the event at Pomona with a pair of wins in 2012, is fourth in points. Matt Hagan looks to end the year with his first win, piloting his Dodge Charger R/T with a special Mopar paint scheme.
The native of Christiansburg, Va., was victorious in the season-ending event at Pomona last year en route to claiming the Funny Car championship.
Jeg Coughlin Jr., driver of the Mopar/JEGS.com Dodge Avenger, advanced to the final round in the season-opening event at Pomona, which marked his return to the Pro Stock ranks after a one-year hiatus.
In his career, the native of Delaware, Ohio, has won six times in Pro Stock at Pomona in 10 final round appearances. His most recent victory at the venue came in 2007.
Coughlin enters the event at Pomona eighth in points, less than 30 markers out of seventh and within striking distance of the top-five.