Johnson Punctuates Championship with Seventh Win of the Season; Beckman Claims Funny Car Crown with Mopar Power at NHRA Finals
The 2012 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season can now be dubbed ‘Year of the HEMI’ as Pro Stock World Champion Allen Johnson wrapped up his winning season by taking the victory in an all-Mopar final round battle while Jack Beckman added another Championship trophy to Mopar’s mantle by earning the Funny Car crown for Don Schumacher Racing on Sunday at the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals in Pomona. The two championships highlight the brand’s 75th anniversary year in which Mopar-powered drivers also captured 10 wins in each of the Pro Stock and Funny Car classes.
“Mopar-powered cars have either led or been near the front of the field all year in both Pro Stock and Funny Car, which shows the strength of our Mopar HEMI engines that compete in the NHRA,” added Gorlier. “It was tremendous to watch our Team Mopar drivers battle for wins all season long and be rewarded with two championships.”
After clinching the World Championship on Saturday, Johnson drove his Mopar Dodge Avenger to the win over teammate Vincent Nobile earning a career-best seven wins in one season and first at Pomona.
“Our team is so awesome and the Mopar Dodge Avenger has just performed flawlessly,” said Johnson after punctuating his first championship with the win.
When asked what kept him going for 17 years he added, “Determination and my father (who is his engine builder). He wanted to do this all his life and my whole focus was winning this with him. A lot of hard work and determination went into winning this. We had a dominating performance in this Countdown, won a championship and ended with a win. What more can we do? That has added just a little more emotion to it.”
Johnson, starting from the No. 2 spot, first dispatched of Greg Stanfield in the opening round with a run of 6.513-seconds at 212.76 mph to Stanfield’s 6.564/210.77. In the quarterfinals Johnson (6.520/212.63) took out veteran Ron Krisher (6.537/211.79), earning lane choice for his semifinals battle with Mike Edwards. Johnson was quickest of the round with a 6.526/211.16 to best Edwards, who slowed after launch, and advanced to his 11th final of the year, and his third against teammate Vincent Nobile, who competes with Mopar HEMI engines built by Johnson’s J&J Racing team.
Nobile was stellar off the starting line at Pomona, recording a perfect .000 reaction time in his first-round defeat of Mopar/JEGS.com Dodge Avenger driver Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Coughlin finished ninth in the final NHRA Pro Stock standings). Nobile nearly matched that in the quarterfinals with a .002 reaction time, scoring a stunning hole shot victory over Jason Line, who posted the quickest run of the round with a 6.495/213.13 but still fell to Nobile’s 6.546/211.79. Nobile was quickest again against Erica Enders in the semis, scoring yet another holeshot win thanks to a .015 reaction time and 6.543/211.49 run to Enders’ .023 mark and 6.542/211.86 pass.
With sunset upon Auto Club Raceway, Johnson and Nobile lined up for the final race of the 2012 Pro Stock season. The veteran was quicker off the tree (.024 to Nobile’s .026) and also had the better run, a 6.528/212.76 to his opponent’s 6.533/211.66. The victory was the tenth of the season out of 23 events for a Mopar-powered NHRA Pro Stock racer.
The result gave Nobile the third spot in the final NHRA Pro Stock points standings behind Johnson. Fellow Mopar-powered Dodge driver V. Gaines (No.7 in the final standings) exited in the quarterfinals against Erica Enders on a red-light foul after he left the starting line too early. Chris McGaha bowed out in the opening round in his Dodge.
Whereas Johnson locked up the 2012 NHRA Pro Stock championship during qualifying on Saturday, the NHRA Funny Car crown came down to a final-day slugfest between a pair of Mopar HEMI-powered heavyweights, lasting until the second-to-last round of the season. The Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) duo of Jack Beckman and Ron Capps treated the NHRA Finals audience to an entertaining back-and-forth battle that saw the lead change hands five times.
Beckman entered the day with a miniscule two-point lead over Capps, who was first out of the pair in the opening round. Capps seized the points lead, defeating Tony Pedregon with a 4.092/311.13 effort, but Beckman quickly regained it by powering to a win over Alexis Dejoria with a 4.038/317.19 pass.
With the onus back on Capps in the quarterfinals, the veteran racer came through with a defeat of Robert Hight, laying down a number of 4.071/315.19. Beckman held serve with a hearty exclamation point, trailering Jeff Arend with a 4.027/317.79 mark, the quickest of the round, and again retaking the lead by two points.
Those two points made all the difference. Capps, needing to win to stay alive, came up just short against Courtney Force in the semifinals, his 4.091/313.95 not enough to best Force’s 4.069/318.25.
Already declared champ, Beckman also fell in the semis, losing to Cruz Pedregon. The crown was the first for Beckman and second straight for a Mopar-powered DSR driver in Funny Car and third for a Mopar in the last eight years (Gary Scelzi claimed the 2005 championship in a DSR Mopar Dodge).
“You think about this and dream about this but I couldn’t root against my teammate Ron Capps,” said Beckman who watched from the seat of his Dodge Charger R/T in the staging lane as his Don Schumacher Racing teammate lost the semi-final round to give him the Championship win. “The team let me know that we just won it but I couldn’t celebrate as I was trying to win the round but we even though we didn’t, I’m not too upset about it.”
A pair of Mopar-powered Dodge Charger R/T drivers fell in the first round. Johnny Gray exited in a first-round loss to Hight and finished the season sixth in the points. Mopar Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car driver Matt Hagan, the 2011 Funny Car champion, was defeated by Force and wrapped up his season 11th in the standings.