Defending 2012 NHRA Funny Car Champ is top Mopar entry with second place position on eliminations ladder. HEMI®-powered Gaines leads Dodge Avengers in Pro Stock qualifying with a second fastest elapsed time
Pomona, Calif. (Saturday, Feb 16) – The 2013 National Hot Rod Association Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season is officially under way as Mopar teams and competitors completed their qualifying runs at the Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif., in preparation for the final eliminations at the Winternationals this Sunday.
V. Gaines’ HEMI®-powered Dodge Avenger was the fastest Pro Stock entry in the first qualifying session of the season with a 6.538- second pass at 2.11.49 mph.
Taking the top spot away from Gaines, after his quick run in the second round of qualifying to eventually claim the No. 1 Qualifier points, was Mike Edwards.
Third place finisher in the standings last season, Vincent Nobile put together a very solid string of four qualifying runs to start the year off strong in his HEMI-powered Dodge Avenger.
Nobile kept it in the groove with the quickest elapsed time of the final round of qualifying, positioning him fifth overall to pit him against the part-time Dodge entry Matt Hartford.
For Mopar drivers and teammates Allen Johnson and Jeg Coughlin Jr., it wasn’t the strong start to the 2013 season that they had hoped for as both had set backs in the first two days of qualifying, leaving them at the bottom of the scoring sheets.
However, both were back on the right track Saturday, even with warmer temperatures slowing speeds down. A six-time winner at Pomona, Coughlin brushed off his two missed passes to grab the sixth spot on the eliminations ladder with a 6.572-second /210.97 mph on his third run of the weekend in his JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger. He’ll face Steve Kent in the first round competition.
"We tested so well and had some big ideas about what we were going to do when we got here, but lo and behold, both of our team cars went out there and shook like crazy on both Thursday and Friday," said Coughlin referring his and Johnson’s Mopar. "I'll be honest, it caught us all by surprise and had us more than a little perplexed, but we're both in now and we have a chance tomorrow so we're happy.”
Johnson, the defending Pro Stock World Champion, improved in his last two runs, posting a 6.594-second / 210.93 mph final qualifying pass to put him tenth in the field, but leaving him without lane choice as he battles Rodger Brogden as his first eliminations match-up.
“We started off behind the eight ball trying things that had worked in testing but didn’t here, but we got back to basics quickly,” said Johnson who is hoping to build on the title win he had posted at Pomona in November.
“We were a bit conservative but we’ll get after it a little more in the first round. This crew is solid and we’ll get back to the consistency that helped build our confidence last season which led to success.”
In Funny Car action, Mopar Dodge Charger R/T driver Jack Beckman was bumped from the pole he had earned on Friday by Courtney Force in the third qualifying session, despite running his quickest elapsed time of 4.045 sec / 316.67 mph.
While the 2012 defending NHRA Champ posted the best time of final session, he remained second on the eliminations ladder to face Todd Lesenko in his 2010 Charger.
In sixth and seventh spot are Don Schumacher Racing teammates Ron Capps and Johnny Gray, who will respectively face Johns Force and Alexis DeJoria in opening round of eliminations.
Matt Hagan who’s Dodge Charger R/T is sporting a new Mopar paint scheme for the season opener, qualified ninth with his first run of 4.097 sec., 304.46 mph to face first round opponent Tim Wilkerson.
"What we've accomplished so far just in the first couple of days has been huge,” said Hagan who is working with a new crew chief, Dickie Venables, and assistant crew chief, Mike Knudsen. “The whole team already has a lot to be proud of and we'll just keep moving forward and working hard."