Faced Jason Line in a 2006 rematch.
Mopar Pro Stock pilot V. Gaines drove his HEMI®-powered Dodge Dart from a ninth place qualifying spot to a runner-up finish at the 27th annual National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Sonoma Nationals marking a 17th career final round appearance for the Kendall Western Motorsports entry and a third this season. Gaines’ final elimination face-off against competitor and title winner Jason Line was a rematch of their 2006 meeting at Sonoma Raceway which had a similar result.
It was a strong effort by Gaines as he posted an elapsed time pass of 6.564 seconds at 211.30 miles per hour (.063 reaction time) falling short to Line’s 6.548 sec / 211.73 mph (.054 reaction time). After starting the season with back-to-back runner-up finishes, this third one helped break an unfortunate streak of six events marred by first round losses and one in which he failed to qualify. It also helped Gaines move up a spot in the Pro Stock points standings to eighth place with three events left to determine which top-ten drivers will make the NHRA “Countdown to the Championship”.
Gaines was first to the finish line in the opening round against Chris McGaha and then turned on the win lights against the No.1 qualifier Shane Gray who also had traction issues. It was an all-HEMI showdown in the semifinal round between Gaines’ and reigning NHRA Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin Jr., with the Kendall Dodge Dart taking advantage of loss of traction by the JEGS.com Dodge Dart to advance to the final.
Coughlin makes semifinal
Coughlin made it to the semifinal match-up against Gaines by first running down the Dodge Avenger of Deric Kramer after recovering from a late start with a .173 reaction time to run a 6.527-second lap. He then posted a .048 reaction time and 6.558 second (212.23 mph) elapsed time run to give him the win light in a close drag race against Greg Anderson’s .050 second reaction time and an e.t. of 6.563 seconds /211.73 mph in the second round to face Gaines.
“I had a good jump on V (Gaines) at the start line but I would have never guessed my car would strike the tires and react the way it did,” Coughlin said. “I tried to efficiently navigate it in order to calm it down and get it through the gears, but about that time I saw V on my right and knew it was over. We had great cars this weekend coming into game day today but we were just a little off. If we can take this result and turn it into something even more positive as we trek down the road and into the Countdown, then that's going to win us rounds, win us races, and hopefully another championship.”
While Coughlin drops a position in the standings behind event winner Line by just one point, the Mopar driver’s semifinal appearance helped assure his playoff berth.
Johnson clinches playoff berth
Meanwhile, last weekend’s winner at the Mopar Mile High Nationals, Allen Johnson put his “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” Dodge Dart third on the eliminations ladder and in doing so clinched his playoff ticket following qualifications. Johnson advanced to the second round of Sunday’s eliminations with a win over Tommy Lee who had red light start, but as the track heated up and conditions changed, things didn’t go quite as planned in the following match-up against Dave Connolly when the Dodge Dart lost traction off the start.
“We had great HEMI horsepower and an “iffy” track but didn’t manage it correctly,” said Johnson who remains second in the standings. “Neither Jeg or I adapted to the change in conditions as well as others did. I think out of the last six pairs, three or four of them shook their tires but that’s not an excuse. For the most part it was a pretty decent showing for our camp so we’ll take what we learned here and go to Seattle and hopefully be able to correct it.”