His Dodge Dart is the top qualifier for Sunday's Summernationals
Picking up right where he left off last weekend with his Pro Stock title win at the Kansas Nationals, Allen Johnson drove his “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” Dodge Dart to the top spot on both qualifying days at the 45th annual National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Summernationals to earn his 33rd career No.1 qualifier position.
With cool evening conditions on Friday, Johnson drove his HEMI®-powered Mopar to the provisional pole position by setting the track elapsed time record at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park with a 6.502 second / 213.00 mph pass. He followed up that performance by improving on it in the final session on Saturday with the second quickest pass in Pro Stock history to take his second No.1 qualifier honor of the season.
“This track is absolutely awesome when you have cloud cover and cool conditions especially that left lane so when we saw it coming, we went back and reset the car on kill and it worked,” said Johnson of his quickest career pass of 6.472 seconds (214.35 mph). “Right before our run, Erica (Enders-Stevens) and her crew chief told me not to do anything heroic and throw them a bone and I said “Nope”. It was exciting to go out and grab it from them. I’ve got a great crew and Jeg (Coughlin Jr.) is right there behind me and we have a good combination going into race day.”
Johnson, who finished runner-up last year at the Summernationals, will face Chris McGaha as his first round opponent in eliminations.
Mopar teammate and reigning champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. heads into elimination in sixth spot after posting a win and a runner-up finish in consecutive national events leading up to this weekend’s competition.
Coughlin posted his second best career e.t. run of 6.489-second (214.25 mph) in the JEGS.com Dodge Dart in Saturday's early session to match-up against Kenny Delco in the opening round.
"We're in the top half, and that's what matters the most," said Coughlin, who earned the win in Atlanta from the eighth spot on the eliminations ladder. "I think the left lane here is slightly better because it's smoother and seems to have better traction from 60 feet to around 400 feet, which is an important area for Pro Stock cars."
While the debut of the new Dodge Dart Pro Stock was celebrated with a win by Johnson at the Gatornationals in March, it took the HEMI-powered two–car Mopar team a few more events to get a good handle on the new combination. Their hard work, however, has most recently been rewarded with three consecutive final round appearances and two victories, including the all-Mopar final elimination showdown between the teammates last week in Topeka, which they are hoping to repeat on Sunday.
Fellow HEMI-powered Dodge Dart driver, V. Gaines qualified 14th with a 7.583-second e.t. and will face Shane Gray as his first round opponent.
Jack Beckman led the way for the Don Schumacher Racing contingent of Mopar Funny Cars with the quickest run in the final qualifying session by posting a 4.017-second (318.99 mph) to put him fifth on the eliminations ladder. He’ll see Chad Head as his first round competitor.
Also qualified in the top half of the ladder is Mopar teammate Tommy Johnson Jr., who drove his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T to an eighth place position and will face teammate Ron Capps in the opening round.
Last year’s Funny Car title winner at Englishtown, Matt Hagan is looking to rebound from a difficult start to the season and repeat last year’s performance after qualifying 13th with a best run of 4.080-seconds set in Friday's first session.
"It's been a tough weekend and it's been a tough year,” said the Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T driver who will see John Force as his first elimination round opponent. “There's no way around it. It's just that we're still fighting through some stuff that's biting us. We did make a good run this weekend with that 4.08 and we have a tough battle first round tomorrow."