Team Mopar Drivers Johnson and Hagan Race to Semis at U.S. Nationals
Clermont, Ind. (Sept. 5, 2011) – Team Mopar® enjoyed a solid weekend at the 57th Annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, as Mopar Dodge Avenger NHRA Pro Stock driver Allen Johnson and Mopar Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car driver Matt Hagan both advanced to the semifinals in their respective classes today at Lucas Oil Raceway.
Johnson qualified No. 4 and took out defending event champion Greg Stanfield in the opening stanza with a 6.589-second pass at 209.39 mph coupled with a solid .017 reaction time off the starting line, in comparison to his opponent’s 6.623/208.39 effort. The Team Mopar veteran next ended Ronnie Humphrey’s day with a 6.582/209.79 run to his opponent’s 6.570/210.70 pass.
Johnson, in his fifth career U.S. Nationals semifinals, had lane choice in his matchup against Jason Line. The Greeneville, Tenn. native absolutely blistered the starting tree, recording a near-perfect .003 reaction time to Line’s .043 mark. In the end Johnson’s 6.612/209.43 run wasn’t enough to hold off Line at the top end, who posted a winning 6.550/210.08.
“We’re very encouraged at how the Mopar Dodge performed today and yesterday,” said Johnson, who will start sixth in the six-race NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoffs, his fifth straight playoffs appearance. “We changed the car around after doing all that shaking on Friday and Saturday. We’ll take this and build on it as we prepare for the first race in the Countdown to the Championship at Charlotte.
“I’m happy with my performance off the starting line. I’ve worked my butt off practicing on the simulator. I guess when you get to be my age, you really have to work hard at honing your reactions. My goal has been to be in the .020 range or better, and I’ve pretty much done that all season. I just need to keep it up during the Countdown.
“We’re heading to Charlotte to test on Wednesday and Thursday. We had 14 or 15 runs there last week, and we’ll go there and do some testing on our Mopar HEMI engines. We’re trying to get our new generation motors to perform as well as the dyno says they should. All in all, I think we’re heading into the playoffs on a very positive note.”
Mopar-powered Dodge Pro Stock rookie Vincent Nobile exited in the quarterfinals on a red-light loss to Mike Edwards. HEMI-fueled compatriot V. Gaines bowed out in the first round. Nobile will also join Johnson in the Pro Stock Countdown playoffs, in the No. 4 position.
Hagan, running a special Mopar graphics wrap on his Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car, also qualified No. 4. He took out Tim Wilkerson with a 4.066/308.14 number and knocked off fellow Mopar-powered Funny Car driver Jack Beckman with yet another 4.066-second elapsed time at 315.05 mph before falling to event winner Mike Neff in the semis after smoking the tires.
Hagan will start the Funny Car Countdown playoffs in the No. 6 position. His Don Schumacher Racing Dodge Charger R/T teammate Ron Capps, who also advanced as far as the semifinals today, will begin the playoffs in the No. 5 spot, with Beckman No. 2, just thirty points behind leader Neff.
Next up for the Mopar-powered NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series competitors is the 4th Annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals, Sept. 15–18 at zMAX Dragway inConcord, N.C.