MOPAR MINUTE 1999 Mopar Parts Nationals Old Bridge Township Raceway Park Englishtown, N. J., May 20-23, 1999 TEAM MOPAR INCREASES TOP FUEL LEAD TO 88 POINTS MOPAR TOP FUEL REPORT Nearly one-third of the 1999 NHRA Drag ...
MOPAR MINUTE 1999 Mopar Parts Nationals Old Bridge Township Raceway Park Englishtown, N. J., May 20-23, 1999
TEAM MOPAR INCREASES TOP FUEL LEAD TO 88 POINTS
MOPAR TOP FUEL REPORT Nearly one-third of the 1999 NHRA Drag Racing season is history, and the Top Fuel points lead is still being hotly contested among a handful of teams.
Mike Dunn, in his seventh year driving the Team Mopar Top Fuel Dragster for team owner Darrell Gwynn, took an early-season points lead by virtue of winning two of the first three national events. He has used those victories and subsequent round wins to remain solidly atop the standings. Dunn's semi-finals appearance last weekend in Atlanta increased his points lead to 88.
However, Dunn knows that now is not the time to be cautious. "There are so many good teams out there that anyone has a chance to become the 1999 Top Fuel champ," Dunn said.
"This is when the season really starts rolling. As we get into the summer months, the hot, humid weather affects the tune-up on the car. Teams who may have had a horsepower advantage earlier in season now have to contend with extensive engine combination changes. We're always refining what we have," Dunn said.
"The teams seem to be running much harder than before, and a lot of them are using advanced data acquisition systems. To boost our chances of winning, we updated our on-board computer system and recruited the consulting services of former Wayne County Speed Shop Pro Stock crew chief Mike Sullivan. Mike and David Hutchens earned three Pro Stock World Championship titles for Mopar, and bringing Mike on board our team has given us a shot in the arm - he's been very helpful in assisting Ken Veney and me in analyzing the large amounts of data recorded after each run."
MOPAR PRO STOCK REPORT Pro Stock's "other" Johnson family
Allen Johnson and his father, Roy, have been racing Chrysler products for over two decades. In fact, this family of racers from Tennessee has held numerous IHRA and NHRA Super Stock records with their stable of Plymouth and Dodge race cars.
"My dad started running Plymouths and Dodges in the mid-1960s," Allen Johnson said. "His first real race car was a 1968 Plymouth Road Runner powered by a 383 engine. He eventually built a 1962 Sport Fury that featured the same engine, but had dual Carter AFB Carburetors for a specific Super Stock class. My dad really liked the 383 engines. His next car was a Dodge Challenger that he campaigned for many years in IHRA."
Being raised in a Mopar family, it was just a matter of time until Allen Johnson got behind the wheel of his first race car. By 1978 he began racing his father's Plymouth Sport Fury at local drag strips and in selected NHRA and IHRA events. By 1979, Johnson was carving out a reputation for himself, finishing second in the IHRA World Champion points for Super Stock.
"During the 1980s, we took a step back from racing," Johnson said. "I got married, went to school to get my accounting degree, and eventually started to run the family business." The family is in the oil distribution business.
After a few years watching from the sidelines, the father and son decided to return to the sport. By 1993, they started to campaign a Super Comp car and, according to Allen Johnson, "The Super Comp class (8:90 Index) seemed like a good place to start." After some limited success, the Johnsons moved up to run the ultimate door-slammer class, NHRA Pro Stock. Johnson won his first NHRA Pro Stock national event in Richmond earlier this month.
"It was always a dream for my father and me to run a Dodge in a professional class, and now that dream has come true," Johnson said. "Life is good."
MOPAR PRO STOCK TRUCK REPORT The Team Mopar Pro Stock Truck contingent is half-way through their longest racing stretch of the season - a two-month, six-race stretch that will see them race in five different states. And how are the guys faring?
"The strain hasn't been too bad on the crew," said Bo Nickens, son of team owner David Nickens and driver of a Team Mopar Dodge Dakota. "Before we left the shop in Houston we made sure we had plenty of spare parts to get the team through. We carry three engines in our race transporter, allowing us to rotate the engines. We can air-freight a motor back to the shop if repairs are necessary that we can't do on the road."
And what is life like on the road? When you're a member of a professional race team, it can be difficult, as Nickens crew member Doug Ivey knows first hand. He has been an integral part of the Nickens race team for years, and apart from setting up the clutch and transmission on Nickens' Pro Stock Dakota, Ivey drives the team's 18-wheeler transporter from race to race.
"It can get a little rough at times," Ivey said. "Being away from your family for weeks on end is hard enough, but when you have a bad weekend at the track and the race truck isn't running like it should, it's downright frustrating. But that's what drives us to compete and improve at each event."
MOPAR ASSOCIATE NOTES Funny Car pilot Dean Skuza, currently fifth in points, is looking forward to the trip to Englishtown, N.J. In fact, Skuza's Matco Tools Team Mopar Dodge Avenger is ready to take on the best of field.
"We're primed and ready to go," Skuza said. "We'd love to win our first race of the season at our sponsor's race - the Mopar Parts Nationals. The crowds at this track are huge, knowledgeable and real Mopar fans."
MOPAR SPORTSMAN NOTES Local hero gearing for a World Championship three-peat
Frank Manzo is no stranger to Englishtown's Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. Literally. This 46-year-old Morganville, N.J. resident lives so close to the track that he commutes from home during the Mopar Parts Nationals. Manzo is also no stranger to the winner's circle - this two-time and current Federal-Mogul Funny Car World Champion drove his Dodge Avenger Funny Car right to the winner's circle in front of the hometown crowd and his Mopar sponsors last year. And he has his sights set on winning a third world championship title.
The 1998 win ended a 10-year drought in Englishtown - Manzo had not won at the Mopar Parts Nationals since 1988. "My guys love this track, because it's like a second home," Manzo said. "We always try to do well here - lots of our friends and family come out to support the team. We even take advantage of the situation by putting some of them to work on the race car."
MOPAR REWIND ... ... from the 29th Annual Mopar Parts Nationals, Englishtown, N. J., May 14-17, 1998
QUALIFYING * Mike Dunn qualified his Team Mopar Top Fuel Dragster in the eighth position with a run of 4.656 at 318.39. * Dean Skuza put his Dodge Avenger in the 11th qualifying position, 5.062/307.23. * In Pro Stock, Darrell Alderman's 6.994/197.42 earned him the 16th qualifying position. Scott Geoffrion, Larry Morgan and Larry Nance did not qualify. * Frank Manzo led all Federal-Mogul Funny Car (F-MFC) competitors with a 5.696/252.76 qualifying run in his Dodge Avenger.
ELIMINATIONS * Dunn lost in the first round of eliminations to Eddie Hill (5.570/167.72 to Hill's 4.749/286.92). Dunn left Englishtown third in points. * Skuza lost a first-round Funny Car eliminations run to Chuck Etchells. Skuza was sixth in points after the event. * Alderman had his best showing of the year, winning over Kurt Johnson and Pete Williams before losing in the semi-finals. * Manzo won an all-Avenger final over Bob Newberry.
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