Mopar Driver Johnson to Start No. 9 at NHRA Finals; Hagan No. 1 in Funny Car
Pomona, Calif. — Allen Johnson advanced one spot to the ninth position in the final qualifying session today at the Auto Club NHRA Finals, and will post his Mopar® Dodge Avenger NHRA Pro Stock car against fellow HEMI®-powered driver Vincent Nobile in an all-Mopar Dodge first round battle in eliminations tomorrow at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
The Team Mopar veteran began the final day of qualifying with a 6.587-second elapsed time at 210.80 mph under cooler weather conditions (71 degree track temps) and overcast skies, holding the tenth spot he earned yesterday with a 6.575/210.60 pass. In his fourth and final effort Johnson recorded a 6.568/211.10 mark, third quickest of the round, to advance forward up the ladder and set up the Mopar vs. Mopar showdown with Nobile, the No. 8 seed. Dodge Avenger Pro Stocker V. Gaines failed to qualify, just one spot out of the show at No. 17
Johnson will attempt to race to his third straight final-round appearance tomorrow and capture his second victory of the year, tenth of his career and first at Auto Club Raceway.
“Our plan is always to get better every run, and make a good run for Sunday, and we made a good step up today,” said Johnson, who captured his 250th career round win at the previous NHRA event in Las Vegas. “The only thing unfortunate is we don’t have lane choice tomorrow, and that right lane is going to be a challenge. But we’re up to it, and we’ll go over to that lane and try to make the best run we can.”
Johnson will face Nobile for the fifth time this year tomorrow. The two Mopar-powered drivers also met at the season-opening event here in Pomona in February, with Nobile coming out on top. Johnson emerged on the winning end against Nobile, who also competes with Mopar HEMIs supplied by J&J Racing, in a rematch in the final round at the NHRA Englishtown race in June.
“We’ve raced Vincent a number of times this year, including here in Pomona at the start of the season,” Johnson said. “We don’t like that, because it takes one of us out. I guess looking at it on the bright side, it means one of our Mopar HEMI/J&J Racing engines will be in the second round. We’ll go up there and do our best in our Mopar Dodge, and hopefully I’m up to the task.”
Mopar HEMI-powered Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car driver Matt Hagan increased his lead in a razor-close title fight, gaining vital bonus points by shooting up to the No. 1 spot with a 4.033/315.27 mark and setting the track speed record. Hagan will go heads-up with Jon Capps tomorrow, with fellow championship contender and Mopar-fueled Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman starting No. 8 and matching up with Tim Wilkerson. No. 6 qualifier Johnny Gray will post his Dodge Charger against John Force, with Ron Capps (No. 10) drawing Jeff Arend in the opening round.
Eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. PT tomorrow.