Historical Day for Mopar Drag Racing: six hemi-powered Pro Stock Cars qualify; first time since early 1970's. SONOMA, Calif . (Aug. 3, 2002) -- Almost 30 years ago, Hemi-powered Chargers, Darts and Challengers dominated NHRA Pro Stock...
Historical Day for Mopar Drag Racing: six hemi-powered Pro Stock Cars qualify; first time since early 1970's.
SONOMA, Calif . (Aug. 3, 2002) -- Almost 30 years ago, Hemi-powered Chargers, Darts and Challengers dominated NHRA Pro Stock competition. And at this weekend's Fram Autolite Nationals at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., history could repeat itself.
For the first time since the early 1970's, six Mopar-powered Pro Stock entries have qualified for a 16-car NHRA field. Gene Wilson led the way by driving his factory backed Mopar Parts Dodge Neon R/T into the fourth slot with a 6.799-second elapsed time at 202.24 mph.
"We are starting to see the fruits of our labor," said Brett Fischer, DaimlerChrysler Drag Racing Program Manager."We debuted the Hemi engine at the beginning of the 2000 NHRA season, and came out with the Neon halfway through the 2001, so this is quite gratifying. I have to hand it to our Mopar engineers and all of our race teams; they have done a tremendous job getting Mopar to this point."
The Hemi-powered Dodge Neon R/T of Allen Johnson took home ninth and the Mopar Parts Dodge Neon R/T of Darrell Alderman was 10th. Larry Morgan, driver of the blue Mopar Parts Dodge Neon R/T, grabbed 11th while Johnson's teammate Thomas Lee took home 12th. Last but not least, Greg Stanfield and his DBP Motorsports Dodge Neon R/T nabbed the 14th slot, bumping into the field
"The teams have really prospered a lot over a short period of time," said David Nickens, team owner of Nickens Brothers Racing and the Mopar Parts Dodge Neon R/T's of Darrell Alderman and Gene Wilson."We still feel like there is a lot of room for improvement, especially with our program. We hope we continue the way the things are going right now.
"We already put so much pressure on ourselves," Nickens added."I think a lot of these new Dodge Neon teams prospered because of the hardships that we went through early on. We worked on the parts and helped get the performance to where these other teams can have success. We knew there was going to be growing pains when we started, and we're happy that everyone has gone out there and done very well."
Morgan came on board prior to the 1999 season.
"I joined the program because I knew this is what would happen," Morgan said."I knew it would turn around if we all worked together to make this happen. It's definitely worked out well. And I really think this is only the beginning."
The following are a set of quotes after the final round of qualifying.
GENE WILSON, driver of the Mopar Parts Dodge Neon R/T
Gene Wilson tied a career-best qualifying effort in the fourth slot after running a 6.799-second elapsed time at 202.24 mph. The Mopar-backed rookie also took home the fourth-qualifying slot in Heartland Park Topeka (Kan.), earlier this season.
"We're really happy with our qualifying efforts this weekend," Wilson said."I feel like that we have two good cars to race on Sunday. I'm really looking forward to eliminations because we have good cars underneath us now. It will also give me a chance to redeem myself after red lighting in Seattle. I'm really pumped."
Wilson has a round one match up with V. Gaines.
LARRY MORGAN, driver of the Mopar Parts Dodge Neon R/T
Larry Morgan and the blue Mopar Parts Dodge Neon R/T wound up the weekend in the 11th slot. The Newark, Ohio, resident logged a 6.821-second elapsed time at 202.39 mph; setting up a round one match up with Mark Whisnant.
"I couldn't be happier with our race car," Morgan said."We've struggle with the tune up lately; and it's finally all coming together. We pout some clutch discs in there that last time because we knew it would be hotter."
DARRELL ALDERMAN, driver of the Mopar Parts Dodge Neon R/T
Nickens Brother Racing has worked out the bugs on Darrell Alderman's Mopar Parts Dodge Neon R/T. The three-time POWERade Pro Stock World champion collected the 10th-qualified slot with a 6.818-second lap at 202.45 mph.
Alderman will go against Kurt Johnson in the first round of eliminations.
"We made two good runs today," Alderman said."We were a tad heavy on that last pass, but I'm pretty pleased with the Rick Jones car. I feel like we're back in the groove with the car. We're going to go out and run well tomorrow.
"The track is awesome," Alderman added."It's such an improvement over last year. It's real smooth and it launches good. You couldn't ask for a better race track and facility."
GREG STANFIELD, driver of the DBP Motorsports Dodge Neon R/T
The heat of the day never slowed Greg Stanfield and the DBP Motorsports Dodge Neon R/T. The Bossier City, La., resident was outside the top 16 heading into the final-qualifying session before cutting a 6.830-second lap at 202.06 mph.
Stanfield will take on Jim Yates in the first round of eliminations.
"We figured out first gear," Stanfield said."We lost a little in second and third when we spun the tires, but our good launch helped put us in the show. We're pretty happy with it and we know that we have a lot of power. We made a 202.61 mph pass earlier in qualifying, which was the third fastest for the weekend."
DEAN SKUZA, driver of the Mopar Parts Dodge Stratus R/T
Dean Skuza picked up during the last qualifying session and nabbed the 12th-qualifying position. Skuza ran a 4.971-second elapsed time at 296.96 mph and will take on Cruz Pedregon in the first round of eliminations. The Brecksville, Ohio, resident defeated Pedregon in the second-round of eliminations at the most recent Lucas Oil Products NHRA Nationals at Pacific Raceways in Kent, Wash.
"We have had little things break on us all weekend," co-crew chief Lance Larsen said. We made a nice pass on that last one and we knew what we needed heading into it. We're pretty pleased with what we did today."