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Johnson Takes Provisional Top Spot in Pro Stock Qualifying as NHRA Championship Battles Heat Up

Mopar drivers and teams racing this weekend at 29th annual Auto-Plus® NHRA Nationals, the 22nd of 24 NHRA events

This will be the fourth of six playoff national events in the NHRA “Countdown to the Championship”

Defending Pro Stock champ Johnson earns provisional No.1 and five bonus points with his Friday qualifying effort

Coughlin fourth after Friday qualifying and sits second in Pro Stock championship standings

Defending Funny Car Champ Beckman is top Mopar qualifier with third place run at Maple Grove Raceway

Funny Car points leader Hagan is provisionally fourth after two qualifying sessions


October 4, 2013 , Reading, Pa -

With just three NHRA nationals events left in the 2013 Mello Yello Series season, the intensity of the battle for points and position is heating up and defending NHRA Pro Stock champion Allen Johnson knows now is the time to make some gains. The Mopar Express Lane driver did exactly that by earning the provisional No.1 position and five bonus points for his efforts in Friday qualifying at Maple Grove Raceway for the 29th annual Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals.

Johnson paced the Mopars in the first qualifying session with an elapsed time run of 6.597 seconds (209.62 mph) to earn two valuable bonus points for his second place spot on the score sheet. Current Pro Stock points leader Mike Edwards posted a 6.592-second run to grab the top spot and three points. By the time the cars were back in the staging lanes for the second session, track conditions had improved giving everyone the chance to improve their times.

“The sun started going off the track for that last run and it got 10 to 12 degrees cooler than the first so everyone loaded up and went for it,” said Johnson who set the low e.t. with a 6.579-second (210.34mph) run to end the day as provisional No. 1 qualifier. “My Mopar Express Lane crew knows that we have to gobble up as many of those little [bonus] points as we can get. We’re putting it on ‘kill’ about every run now. Hopefully we can gain six or eight points on the leader before eliminations and have a good day on Sunday.”

Johnson, who was the No. 1 qualifier last weekend in St. Louis, came into this weekend sixth in points but within 69 points of the leader, which is less than four rounds. As close as the competition has been this season, he plans to put everything on the line to have a chance to defend his 2012 championship through to the end.

“We’ve got to. We’ve got to make perfect runs on every run and not leave anything on the table. If we can leave here a couple of more runs caught up we’ll feel pretty good going into the last two, but we definitely need to got to get a little closer than we are. “

Johnson’s Mopar teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. came into this fourth of sixth “Countdown to the Championship” events sitting second in the standings, only 10 points behind Edwards. Coughlin has won three races in seven final-round appearances this season and is working for a chance to earn a fifth NHRA Pro Stock world championship title. After two qualifying session, the Jegs.com Mopar sits fourth behind Johnson, Jason Line and Edwards, with an elapsed time run of 6.588 second (209.30mph). The HEMI-powered Mopars of V. Gaines and Vincent Nobile are seventh and 11th respectively.

In Funny Car action, defending world champion Jack Beckman put his Don Schumacher Racing Dodge Charger R/T in third spot with a run of 4.034 seconds (318.99mph) just ahead of his Mopar teammate Matt Hagan. The driver of the “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” machine came into Maple Grove Raceway as the points leader and is provisionally qualified fourth with a pass of 4.035 sec at 319.45 mph. Fellow DSR teammates Johnny Gray and Ron Capps are fifth and 12th respectively.

The final two qualifying sessions for the 29th annual Auto-Plus® NHRA Nationals will take place Saturday, Oct. 4, beginning at 11:15 a.m. ET with complete qualifying highlights from Maple Grove Raceway scheduled to be televised on ESPN News at 11:30 p.m. (ET). Three hours of elimination rounds coverage will be broadcast on ESPN2 and ESPN2HD starting at 8 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Oct 6.


2013 NHRA “Countdown to Championship” Points Standings
(following final race results from the Midwest Nationals in St. Louis)



PRO STOCK (season wins in parentheses)
1. Mike Edwards (6) – 2326
2. Jeg Coughlin Jr. (3) - Dodge Avenger – 2316
3. Jason Line (2) – 2296
4. Erica Enders-Stevens (2) –2266
5. Shane Gray – 2261
6. Allen Johnson (4) - Dodge Avenger – 2257
7. Greg Anderson – 2188
8. V. Gaines - Dodge Avenger – 2185
9. Vincent Nobile (3) - Dodge Avenger – 2162

10. Rodger Brogdon (1) – 2073

FUNNY CAR (season wins in parentheses)
1. Matt Hagan (4) - Dodge Charger R/T – 2336
2. John Force (2) – 2330
3. Jack Beckman - Dodge Charger R/T – 2292
4. Robert Hight (2) – 2288
5. Cruz Pedregon (4) – 2253
6. Ron Capps (3) - Dodge Charger R/T – 2225
7. Courtney Force (2) – 2202
8. Johnny Gray (4) - Dodge Charger R/T – 2187
9. Tim Wilkerson – 2142
9. Del Worsham – 2142
 

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Johnson, Beckman lead Mopar Contingent in Qualifying at Reading NHRA Nationals

Johnson is top Mopar qualifier at 29th annual Auto-Plus® NHRA Nationals with second place Pro Stock qualifying effort

Coughlin and Johnson, second and fourth in championship standings heading into elimination rounds on Sunday

Defending Funny Car Champ Beckman qualifies his Mopar Dodge Charger R/T third at Maple Grove Raceway

Hagan puts his Mopar fourth quickest in qualifying but cedes the championship lead to No.1 qualifier by just 5 points

Coughlin fourth and V. Gaines rounds out Pro Stock top-five in Pro Stock qualifying


October 5, 2013 , Reading, Pa -

Qualifying for the 29th annual Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals helped mix things up a bit in the championship standings for two Mopar drivers heading into Sunday’s elimination round at Maple Grove Raceway. Defending Pro Stock champion Allen Johnson was the best of the Mopars posting the second lowest elapsed time run in qualifying and earned enough bonus points to jump two spots into fourth place in the points battle. Looking to defend his own world title, Jack Beckman paced the Dodge Chargers with a third place seeding on the eliminations ladder while his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Matt Hagan ran consistently to qualify fourth but was nudged out of his top spot in the championship standings with just three playoff eliminations left in the “Countdown to the Championship”.

After earning the provisional pole on Friday, Johnson’s Mopar Express Lane Dodge earned more bonus points for running the second and third best times in both Saturday sessions and lowering his e.t. to 6.597 seconds (210.34 mph) to place second to Jason Line who took the No. 1 qualifier spot with a 6.573 sec (210.70 mph) pass in the final session.

“I feel like we had a really good car for all four sessions and gained a few little points on a few people,” said Johnson who moves to the fourth spot in the championship fight from sixth after the Midwest Nationals. “Our game plan is good. Our car is good. Team is confident. We just have to go out there tomorrow and get a break or two and try to win it. Some big match ups in the first round to make the second even more interesting. It’s going to be fun and a knock down drag out.”

He will face Greg Stanfield as his first round opponent.

Mopar teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr., who sits second in the points battle to Mike Edwards, had a great final qualifying run (6.581 / 209.95) with his quickest pass of the weekend straight down the lane for second place in that session to put him fourth overall.

"We're real happy with it. We were sixth and then fourth and then sixth and then second for the (final) session and qualified No. 4," said Coughlin who will stage his Jegs.com Mopar against Larry Morgan in the first round of eliminations. "That's a solid effort. Looking at the top seven or eight cars, they're all within a hundredth of a second. It's really just a matter of being on the good end of all the efficiencies. Fortunately, we're in a really good spot and I feel really good about the car. I feel good behind the wheel. It's time for game day.

The HEMI-powered Dodge of V. Gaines also had a strong showing, qualifying fifth with his 6.586-second (210.60 mph) effort, while Vincent Nobile qualified his Mopar in the top half of the eliminations ladder with a 6.589 sec (209.95 mph) pass for the eighth spot.

There was also some movement atop the Funny Car championship standing as the No. 1 qualifier, John Force, bumped the “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” machine out of the lead that Hagan had held since his title win at Englishtown, N.J., in June. Force was quickest in three of four sessions and his Friday night qualifying run of 3.987 seconds and track record speed of 323.50 mph gave the 15-time NHRA champ the extra points needed to unseat Hagan. The Mopar driver did however take solace in having consistent runs and earning a point for the third quickest pass in the final qualifying session. He’ll face Tony Pedregon in the first round.

"We've been very solid all weekend," said Hagan who hopes to add to the four wins and eight final round appearances he’s had this season to retake the lead in the points fight. "The car has been down the racetrack every lap. Obviously we earned up a few points in qualifying and that's what we are here to do."

DSR teammate Beckman, who is currently third in the championship battle without having posted a win yet this year, lead the team’s qualifying efforts with a third place showing based on his 4.034-second (318.99 mph) pass Friday evening at the Reading, Pa., drag track, but also was second quickest with a 4.099-second (312.42 mph) run in the final session. For a third consecutive event, Beckman’s first round rival will be Alexis DeJoria.

Johnny Gray had a solid qualifying effort that saw him improving his time aboard his Alex’s Lemonade Stand Dodge Charger R/T with each pass to set the second quickest run of the third session (4.081 / 313.88) The Mopar driver will start fifth and match up against his teammate Ron Capps, who had some disappointing qualifying runs that saw him seeded 12th for the opening round.

Complete qualifying highlights from Maple Grove Raceway scheduled to be televised Saturday, Oct. 5, on ESPN News at 11:30 p.m. (ET). On Sunday, Oct 6, three hours of elimination rounds coverage at the 29th annual Auto-Plus® NHRA Nationals will be broadcast starting at 8 p.m. (ET) on ESPN2 and ESPN2HD.


2013 NHRA “Countdown to Championship” Points Standings
(following final qualifying at AutoPlus Nationals in Reading)


PRO STOCK (season wins in parentheses)
1. Mike Edwards (6) – 2368
2. Jeg Coughlin Jr. (3) - Dodge Avenger – 2353
3. Jason Line (2) – 2343
4. Allen Johnson (4) - Dodge Avenger – 2300
5. Erica Enders-Stevens (2) –2299
6. Shane Gray – 2293
7. Greg Anderson – 2220
8. V. Gaines - Dodge Avenger – 2219
9. Vincent Nobile (3) - Dodge Avenger – 2195

10. Rodger Brogdon (1) – 2083

FUNNY CAR (season wins in parentheses)
1. John Force (2) – 2377
2. Matt Hagan (4) - Dodge Charger R/T – 2372
3. Jack Beckman - Dodge Charger R/T – 2331

4. Robert Hight (2) – 2223
5. Cruz Pedregon (4) – 2287
6. Ron Capps (3) - Dodge Charger R/T – 2257
7. Courtney Force (2) – 2246
8. Johnny Gray (4) - Dodge Charger R/T – 2223
9. Tim Wilkerson – 2175
9. Del Worsham – 2174
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Title Win in All-Mopar Final At Reading Gives Coughlin NHRA Championship Lead

Coughlin wins Pro Stock title at 29th annual Auto-Plus® NHRA Nationals to give Mopar the lead in NHRA “Countdown to the Championship”

Coughlin beats Mopar teammate Johnson on a holeshot by one-thousandths of a second

Johnson’s runner-up finish puts him fourth in the championship standings, 73 points behind the new points leader

Hagan leaves Maple Grove Raceway with the ‘Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar’ Dodge Charger R/T second in Funny Car points


October 6, 2013 , Reading, Pa -

A dramatic finish in an all-Mopar final elimination Pro Stock showdown at the 29th annual Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals gave Jeg Coughlin Jr. the lead in the NHRA “Countdown to the Championship” with a title win over teammate Allen Johnson earned by just one-thousandths of a second on a holeshot. The Jegs.com Mopar Dodge Avenger driver scored his second win of the six-event playoff series, the fourth of the NHRA Mello Yello series season and the 56th national title of his career.

"To come out with the points lead certainly feels fantastic, but we've got a lot of racing left," said Coughlin who took over the top spot with two nationals events remaining. "We'd love to say this thing is all but over, but there's a lot of racing left and we're looking forward to it. To get that win in such a huge final round, that was big for us.

To advance to the final, Coughlin defeated Larry Morgan, Shane Gray and Jason Line, and with his title win relegated the previous leader, Mike Edwards, to second place with a 45 point deficit.

“Everyone at Mopar is excited to see Jeg (Coughlin Jr.) earn his second win of the playoffs and the lead in the Countdown,” said Pietro Gorlier, President and CEO of Mopar, Chrysler Group LLC’s service, parts and customer-care brand. “All season long there has been a lot of hard work and effort to get the HEMI-powered Dodge entries in position to defend Mopar’s Pro Stock championship. It’s great to see Mopar performance rewarded with our two drivers battling it out in a final elimination and now have an advantage in points with just two race events left.”

Coughlin had an impressive 0.004 second reaction time against Johnson’s 0.033 seconds to beat the defending Pro Stock champ at the line by 0.0017 seconds.

“I saw my win light come on and that's when the celebration began,” said Coughlin. “The J&J team did a heck of a job to get both our cars in the finals."

“It was a great match up and I had to dig deep but didn’t quite get it done and I’m disappointed with myself,” said Johnson who defeated Greg Stanfield, Erica Enders-Stevens and Greg Anderson on the way to facing his Mopar teammate. “We had a great car all weekend and I’m very proud of the job the Mopar Express Lane crew did with the car and engine. We’ll have our work cut out for us to try to catch and beat Jeg [Coughlin Jr.] but we’re going to give it all we’ve got.

Johnson posted an elapsed time of 6.588 seconds at 209.39 mph in his runner-up finish to Coughlin’s 6.616 second at 208.75 mph pass. It was the third time this season that the two had met in a final elimination, with this edition serving as the tiebreaker in Coughlin’s favor. Despite the loss, Johnson gained two positions in the standings this weekend, moving from sixth to fourth and is 73 points behind the new points leader. Heading into the final two events, he knows that the two Mopar entries won’t be doing anything different than they have all year long even if they find themselves battling once again on track or for the championship.

“I’m very proud of this whole team because we worked together as a team, put a HEMI in the winner’s circle and into the points lead and we’re going to keep going after it.”

In Funny Car action, Matt Hagan and his ‘Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar’ Dodge Charger R/T didn’t quite have the kind of results at Maple Grove Raceway that he had hoped would keep him atop the standings where he had been since June after a win at the Englishtown, N.J., Summernationals.

Hagan saw any chance of doing so go up in tire smoke in a second round loss to his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps. As a result, the Mopar pilot ceded the championship lead to the eventual event winner, 15-time NHRA Champion John Force, who had a near perfect weekend posting his first career three second run and No.1 qualifier honours.

"It's just one of those deals,” said a disappointed Hagan, who now sits 65 points behind the new leader. “We just have to keep working hard and this team always works hard. No matter what happens on race day it isn't for a lack of effort. I'm still proud of every one of my guys. These boys are working really hard to keep things moving forward and that's what we'll do going into Vegas."

Directly behind Hagan in Funny Car standings is defending NHRA Champ Jack Beckman, who came into race day seeded third, but lost the chance to advance in eliminations and the points with a first round loss to Alexis DeJoria.

After beating teammates Johnny Gray and Hagan in the first two rounds, Capps was the lone Mopar left to halt Force’s gains in the championship battle with a semifinal match up. Capps fell short when he lost traction on his run but remains sixth in points while Gray trails in eighth spot.

Mopar drivers and teams will continue the fight to defend two NHRA World Championships in three weeks at 13th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals in Las Vegas, Nev., for the fourth of six playoff events in the NHRA Mello Yello Series “Countdown to the Championship”.

2013 NHRA “Countdown to Championship” Points Standings
(following the AutoPlus Nationals in Reading)


PRO STOCK (season wins in parentheses)
1. Jeg Coughlin Jr. (4) - Dodge Avenger – 2433
2. Mike Edwards (6) – 2388
3. Jason Line (2) – 2383
4. Allen Johnson (4) - Dodge Avenger – 2360
5. Erica Enders-Stevens (2) –2319
6. Shane Gray – 2313
7. Greg Anderson – 2260
8. V. Gaines - Dodge Avenger – 2219
9. Vincent Nobile (3) - Dodge Avenger – 2215

10. Rodger Brogdon (1) – 2083

FUNNY CAR (season wins in parentheses)
1. John Force (2) – 2457
2. Matt Hagan (4) - Dodge Charger R/T – 2392
3. Jack Beckman - Dodge Charger R/T – 2331

4. Robert Hight (2) – 2323
5. Cruz Pedregon (4) – 2307
6. Ron Capps (3) - Dodge Charger R/T – 2297
7. Courtney Force (2) – 2266
8. Johnny Gray (4) - Dodge Charger R/T – 2223
9. Del Worsham – 2214
10. Tim Wilkerson – 2175
 
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