JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger driver Jeg Coughlin Jr. commences his Pro Stock title defense at Pomona.
Pomona, Calif. — A talented trio of former and defending champions will key the Team Mopar effort heading into the season-opener for the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, the 54th annual NHRA Winternationals, scheduled to take place Feb. 6-9 at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif.
“There’s a definite spring in our step,” said Coughlin. “We’re coming off such a solid season, and obviously we ended the year on the top step of the podium, as it were, so that’s kept us in high spirits throughout the off-season.”
Johnson & Johnson Racing owner Allen Johnson, Coughlin’s teammate, is also determined to keep the Pro Stock crown in his team’s camp — but preferably on his side of the pit stall. After ending a 17-year quest by racing to the Pro Stock title in 2012, Johnson scored four wins in his Mopar Dodge Avenger in 2013, and finished second to Coughlin in the championship standings.
“Along with Jeg, you’ve got back-to-back Pro Stock champs together on the same team, so of course for 2014 I’m very optimistic,” said Johnson, who broke through for his first win at Pomona at the 2012 NHRA Finals. “It’s also a big year for Mopar with the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 426 race HEMI in 2014, so any victories and championships we bring home this year will be icing on their cake.”
Veteran Pro Stocker V. Gaines will also return to the wheel of his own Mopar-powered Dodge Avenger, following a top-10 finish to the 2013 season. The Denver-area native raced to four runner-up finishes last year.
Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) driver and 2011 NHRA Funny Car champion Matt Hagan will start off the season at Pomona with a new look, carrying the yellow-and-blue colors of the Mopar Express Lane quick-oil change service on his 10,000 horsepower Dodge Charger R/T.
“When they sent me the pictures of the Express Lane car, I got even more excited to get back in the car,” said Hagan, who ended the 2013 season with a victory at Pomona in the NHRA Finals, his fifth win of the year en route to a runner-up finish in the standings. “It looks great, looks fast. I love the old school feeling it has. I hope (crew chief) Dickie (Venables) and the guys get to have a lot of pictures of it in the Winner's Circle.”
Hagan will be joined by Jack Beckman, Ron Capps and new addition Tommy Johnson Jr. to form a powerhouse four-driver DSR Dodge Charger R/T squad hunting for the Mopar brand’s third Funny Car crown in four years.
Beckman, the 2012 Funny Car title winner, finished third in the standings last season but was unable to score an event win, a streak he hopes to end at the NHRA Winternationals. Capps, a fan favorite who has earned four series runner-up spots in his pursuit of a Funny Car crown, is the longest serving member of the Mopar-powered DSR team. Johnson is no stranger to Mopar power, having campaigned HEMI-engine fueled Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars during his long career.
Two hours of NHRA Winternationals qualifying coverage are scheduled to be televised on ESPN2 and ESPN2HD on Saturday, Feb. 8, beginning at 11 p.m. (ET). Three hours of elimination rounds coverage will be broadcast on ESPN2 and ESPN2HD starting at 8 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Feb. 9.