Las Vegas: Mopar preview

Team Mopar® Driver Allen Johnson Leads a Large Pro Stock Pack into SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals Center Line, Mich. -- Mopar®/J&J Racing Dodge Stratus R/T driver Allen Johnson will have plenty of HEMI®-powered company as nine MoPowered ...

Team Mopar® Driver Allen Johnson Leads a Large Pro Stock Pack into SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals

Center Line, Mich. -- Mopar®/J&J Racing Dodge Stratus R/T driver Allen Johnson will have plenty of HEMI®-powered company as nine MoPowered NHRA POWERade Pro Stock drivers will do battle at the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals on April 10--13 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

At the recent Houston race, five HEMI-powered Dodge Stratus R/Ts qualified in the field of 16. Johnson has been the leader of the pack, with two semifinals appearances and the fifth spot in the Pro Stock standings. V. Gaines, steering his Kendall Oil Dodge Stratus R/T, is hot on Johnson's heels in the sixth spot. Gaines claimed victory in February at the Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals.

Surprising young HEMI-powered drivers Rickie Jones and Matt Hartford have stood out in the early stages of the 2008 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing season. Jones, the 20-year-old son of Pro Stock chassis builder Rick Jones, has qualified for Sunday eliminations in the first two events of his rookie year. This is an impressive feat considering the cut-throat competition in the NHRA Pro Stock field. Hartford, driving for Nickens Brothers Racing, has qualified for each of the first four events and scored his first-ever round win last week at Houston.

Larry Morgan and Max Naylor are returning veterans with a long track record of past success on the Pro Stock circuit, with Morgan pulling double duty as a premier Pro Stock HEMI engine builder. Newcomers to the Mopar fold in 2008 include Johnny Gray, Vinnie Deceglie and John Nobile.

According to Johnson, the dean of Team Mopar's roster of NHRA drivers, this presence of so many HEMI-powered racers is a big plus.

"We leased a motor to Rickie Jones and we've worked closely with his father, Rick Jones, because that's the kind of cars we run," said Johnson, who competes in a Rick Jones chassis. "He and my crew chief, Mark Ingersoll, work real close together. In turn, we work pretty close with them on their engine and the set up for racing. And the guys who run Morgan engines work together. It sort of brings in the teammate feeling, and helps make some changes on the cars in different ways. We can better see what works best."

Johnson added, "The parts sort of speak for themselves. More people are jumping in and running the HEMI because it's reliable and there are good parts that have been designed for the HEMI."

Johnson focuses on going "one step further" at the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals Johnson and his Mopar/J&J Racing team have had some success at previous race stops in Las Vegas, including a semifinals appearance at the 2007 SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals.

"We've done pretty well at Vegas in the past," recalled Johnson. "We've been to the semifinals a couple of times, I believe. We're looking forward to going there."

Johnson is coming off a semis appearance at Houston race, but nonetheless will shakeout his Dodge Stratus R/T in test sessions next weekend. A finals berth in Las Vegas has proved elusive, however, for the Greeneville, Tenn. native. Johnson would like to change that next weekend. A finals appearance in Las Vegas would be his first of the 2008 campaign.

"More than any thing, we need to conquer the changing conditions on Sunday, running behind the fuel cars," Johnson said. "It just seems like we can't get a handle on that. We may go up here to Bristol and test a bit. The Bristol track hasn't been run on much, and we're hoping that the starting line will be a little slick or marginal. We still got some bugaboos we need to fix when the track gets really bad, but we've got a good race car right now."

-credit: mopar

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Nobile , Larry Morgan , Allen Johnson , Johnny Gray , Max Naylor , Matt Hartford , Rickie Jones