Indianapolis2: Team Mopar eliminations summary

Morgan streaks to the semifinals at the U.S. Nationals Mopar Funny Car Wrap Up CLERMONT, Ind. (Sept. 7, 2003) -- Mopar's Larry Morgan trekked to the semifinals during today's rain-delayed 49th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis ...

Morgan streaks to the semifinals at the U.S. Nationals
Mopar Funny Car Wrap Up

CLERMONT, Ind. (Sept. 7, 2003) -- Mopar's Larry Morgan trekked to the semifinals during today's rain-delayed 49th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

On the strength of a strong fifth-place qualifying effort, Morgan moved into the semifinals before falling to Kurt Johnson. Against Johnson, the Newark, Ohio, resident took a (.029 to .037) of a second starting-line advantage, but his 6.873-second elapsed time at 201.88 mph wasn't enough in the end. Johnson posted a quicker 6.831-second pass at 201.88 mph.

"I'm so proud of both of these teams today," said Morgan, commenting on teammate Gene Wilson's second-round appearance. "We just made a horrible run on that last one. But, it was a great weekend for us. I have nothing to complain about.

"We don't have but a dozen runs on our new Stratus," Morgan continued. "It's going to be a great race car. (Chassis builder) Rick Jones and (Mopar aero-thermal engineer) Terry DeKoninck have done a great job with this new car. And I can't say enough for how hard my team has worked to get us to this point. I'm really looking forward to Reading (Pa.) because I think we might have something for them."

Morgan, who won this event back in 1989, beat six-time U.S. Nationals winner Warren Johnson on a holeshot in round number one. His .018 of a second reaction time and 6.834-second pass at 200.95 mph was enough to hold off W.J.'s slightly quicker 6.823/202.58 combination. In the second round, Morgan left on Jim Yates and pulled away with a 6.862-second elapsed time at 201.04 mph. Yates recorded a slower 6.867-second lap at 201.10 mph.

Wilson traveled to the second round in his Mopar Parts Dodge Stratus today. The Georgia resident lost to Jeg Coughlin, Jr., after posting a 6.870-second elapsed time at 201.13 mph. Despite having a slower reaction time by .006 of a second, Coughlin's 6.812-second lap at 201.16 was quick enough to eclipse the 2002 NHRA Rookie of the Year.

"Jeggy and I always give it a hundred percent when we're up there," Wilson said. "I was good enough to come out on top at the starting line, but there wasn't enough there at the end. We were a little aggressive today in the second round, and knew we had to make an awesome run. We went for it, but the track wasn't there to hold it. A lot of heat built up into the track before we were able to make our pass and we didn't plan for that. You have to have a little luck on your side. It takes that and a good team to win. I have the good team and Mopar backing us, but I just need a little good luck now. I'm happy to go a round here at the U.S. Nationals because this is such a great race. We both went round today. What more can you ask for -- this is a great deal."

Wilson moved into the second round after defeating Taylor Lastor in round one. The 30-year-old Wilson drove around the slower Lastor with a 6.844-second elapsed time at 201.07 mph.

Mopar's Allen Johnson did his job on the starting line, taking a .030 of a second advantage on Coughlin, Jr. But, Coughlin's 6.814-second elapsed time at 201.16 mph was enough to beat out Johnson's 6.855-second lap at 201.07 mph.

"The right lane seems to be a couple hundredths slower than the left lane," Johnson said. "That's the case in Pro Stock, you have to run well in qualifying and pick up lane choice. When you run behind the fuel cars, there is always a better lane out there. The team did what we needed to do, we made the third best run of the round in that lane, and I did my job, but it wasn't enough. We'll regroup at Reading (Pa.) next weekend.

"We went for the jugular that time," Johnson added. "When we get our car running a little better, we'll be something to deal with. We're really making good runs and I'm driving pretty decent now. Maybe Reading will be it."


Gary Scelzi and the Oakley Dodge Stratus lost in the first round to Tim Wilkerson. Scelzi, who qualified second, experienced mechanical trouble and only run a 4.968-second elapsed time at 299.80 mph. Wilkerson drove to a quicker 4.829-second pass at 321.27 mph.

"We put a hole out right at the hit of the throttle," Scelzi said. "We haven't done that in a long time. We recycle our stuff all the time and I have no idea what happened. Whatever happened, it completely ruined us from the hit of the throttle. It tried to drive out of the groove, and it almost hit the centerline. I saved it, but it dropped another cylinder at the top end as well. It's unfortunate, but we have a good race car and we've been really good since Denver. We'll be good again, but this isn't the race you want to get bit at. But you can't choose, so we'll pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and go do this thing again next weekend."

Whit Bazemore, driver of the Matco Tools Dodge Stratus, was edged out in his first round loss to Cruz Pedregon. The local Indianapolis resident made a 4.886-second lap at 316.67 mph, but it wasn't enough to run down Pedregon's 4.887-second elapsed time at 313.88 mph.

"That was a very tough loss," Bazemore said. "I feel really bad for the team because we had such a great car this weekend. I did the best I could, but it was only decent. Cruz did a slight better job on the lights (.061-.069) and he won. We got beat. This is why we don't run these races on paper because anything can happen. We'll suck it up because we have three more in a row. I'm excited to think about where we are going to be within the next three weeks."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Whit Bazemore , Gary Scelzi , Larry Morgan , Gene Wilson , Cruz Pedregon , Allen Johnson