Sonoma: Team Mopar final report

STEVENS A FIRST-ROUND FINISHER IN SONOMA With only two national events left before the Countdown to the Championship kicks in for the top eight in Pro Stock points, Richie Stevens Jr. is still in contention for one of those valuable...

STEVENS A FIRST-ROUND FINISHER IN SONOMA

With only two national events left before the Countdown to the Championship kicks in for the top eight in Pro Stock points, Richie Stevens Jr. is still in contention for one of those valuable spots, despite his first-round loss today at the Fram-Autolite NHRA Nationals at Infineon Raceway.

Stevens, driver of the Team Mopar/Valspar Dodge Stratus R/T for Don Schumacher Racing, is 10th in the standings, just 16 points short of the No. 8 spot.

Seven feet was the difference between winning and losing for Stevens in the opening round today, and Kurt Johnson was the victor with a 6.663-second elapsed time at 207.62 mph to Stevens' 6.645/207.08. Reaction times were .057 for Johnson, .096 for Stevens.

"The two Mopar cars are running awesome," said No. 7 qualifier Stevens. "That's what makes it even harder to swallow when we lose first round. We qualified well, we made an awesome run just now in that round. It was pretty good for the session compared to everybody else (fifth quickest).

"We have a good car. We'll do some testing and hopefully I can work on my game there and get myself back where I need to be."

A.J. CLINCHES SPOT IN COUNTDOWN, EARNS FULL THROTTLE AWARD, GOES TO SEMIS

It was a stellar weekend for Allen Johnson and the Mopar/J&J Racing Dodge Stratus team. The team first earned the Full Throttle Challenge Award for consistency in qualifying, qualified No. 2, clinched a spot in the top eight for the Countdown to the Championship - which begins following the next two national events in Brainerd, Minn., and Reading, Pa. - then landed in the semifinal round.

En route to the semifinal today, his third of the season, he dismissed Larry Morgan with a 6.643/207.24, then used a 6.660/2067.86 lap to defeat Kurt Johnson in the quarterfinal.

In the semis, Jason Line nailed a .009 reaction time (.000 is perfect) to Johnson's .039, then also outran A.J. to the finish line, taking the win with a 6.645/208.07 to Johnson's 6.659/207.15.

"We had a great weekend," said Johnson, fourth in the points rankings. "There when the track started getting hot, it started getting away from us a little bit. That last run there, Jason just threw a bulb at me and it was too much to overcome.

"Clinching a spot in the championship is awesome, for the first time we ever had this playoff concept. We're real happy about it. We need to get Richie a little luck, though.

"The team is just really jelling right now," he said of earning the Full Throttle award. "It's the first time we ever won that award, actually. We've come close several times. It just speaks volumes about the whole Mopar/J&J Racing team."

-credit: dsr/mopar

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Larry Morgan , Allen Johnson , Jason Line