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Mopar Drivers Motivated for NHRA Midwest Nationals

Mopar drivers and teams are racing this weekend at Second Annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, the 21st of 24 NHRA events

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

Hagan leads the Funny Car standings with 2272 points, 51 point lead over second place

Coughlin second in Pro Stock standings, eight points behind the new leader Jason Line

Defending Pro Stock world champion, Johnson just 74 points behind in fifth place


September 27, 2013 , Madison, Ill -
In the hunt for the NHRA championship world titles in both Pro Stock and Funny Car classes, the battle intensifies this weekend for Mopar drivers and teams as they get set to contest the third playoff event in as many weeks at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals near St. Louis, Mo.

Matt Hagan has kept his “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” machine atop the Funny Car standings since June following his win at the NHRA Nationals in Englishtown. Heading into Friday qualifying at Gateway Motorsports Park, the Don Schumacher Racing driver has a 51 point lead over second place Cruz Pedregon but knows that the battle will be intense in this final stretch of four nationals.

"We need to have a little luck along the way,” said Hagan who has four wins and eight final round appearances thus far this season. “The biggest thing is you can't count points. I know we are, but we can't concentrate on them. You can't worry about points until the end of Vegas [next-to-last race]. At the end of that race, you'll know if you're in it or you're not. I just look at it that way. It's tough to do and everyone handles things in their own way and that's just the way I'm handling it. If I need to worry about the points after Vegas I will and if I don't then I know that we still had a great season.”

In the battle for the Pro Stock title, things got a little more interesting at the last event in Texas where the points battle tightened up and Jason Line dislodged Mike Edwards from the No.1 spot in the standings, a position he had held since the Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte last April. Mopar’s Jeg Coughlin Jr. is within eight points of the new leader in second place and knows that the battle for the championship will likely go right down to the wire at the finale in Pomona.

"It's a dogfight, without question," said Coughlin, who has three wins this season with the latest coming in the first of the six playoff events. "We really have a lot of good teams fighting for this championship, including two of my Mopar teammates, Vincent Nobile and Allen Johnson. We've got a lot of data with the three cars, so I feel like our opportunities to do well are certainly good."

While the 2012 Pro Stock Champ, Allen Johnson, he hasn’t driven into the winner’s circle since the Mopar Mile High Nationals in Denver, he and the team head into St. Louis motivated and with a little more confidence after having tested at Gateway International Raceway last month.

“We ain’t quitting; the Mopar Express Lane team is going to dig, dig, dig, and work to defend our 2012 championship,” said Johnson who has four wins so far this year and is just 74 points from the leader in fifth place. “We’ve tested at St. Louis, tested really well there, and I think we hit on something in the engines. I think we’ve got the best package we’ve had. We scored a runner-up finish at St. Louis last year on our road to the title, and I can’t wait to get to the track and show off what we got.”

Qualifying highlights from the Second Annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park near St. Louis, Mo., the 21st of 24 NHRA Mello Yello Series events, is scheduled to be televised on ESPN News at 1 a.m. (ET) on Sunday, Sept. 29 with a re-airing on ESPN2 at 3:30 a.m. (ET). Three hours of elimination rounds coverage will be broadcast on ESPN2 starting at 8:30 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Sept. 29.

2013 NHRA “Countdown to Championship” Points Standings
(following race results at the Texas FallNationals)


PRO STOCK (season wins in parentheses)
1. Jason Line (2) – 2264
2. Jeg Coughlin Jr. (3) - Dodge Avenger – 2256
3. Mike Edwards (6) – 2230
4. Shane Gray – 2207
5. Allen Johnson (4) - Dodge Avenger – 2190
6. Erica Enders-Stevens (1) –2146
6. V. Gaines - Dodge Avenger – 2146
8. Vincent Nobile (3) - Dodge Avenger – 2128

9. Greg Anderson – 2116
10. Rodger Brogdon (1) – 2063

FUNNY CAR (season wins in parentheses)
1. Matt Hagan (4) - Dodge Charger R/T – 2272
2. Cruz Pedregon (4) – 2221
3. Robert Hight (2) – 2209
4. John Force (1) – 2208
5. Jack Beckman - Dodge Charger R/T – 2196
6. Ron Capps (3) - Dodge Charger R/T – 2170
7. Johnny Gray (4) - Dodge Charger R/T – 2155

8. Courtney Force (2) – 2141
9. Tim Wilkerson – 2089
10. Del Worsham – 2068
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Team Mopar Racers Johnson and Hagan Run to Provisional No. 1 Spots in Friday Qualifying at NHRA Midwest Nationals

• Allen Johnson leads a Mopar 1-2-3 sweep of the top three spots in Pro Stock qualifying

• Matt Hagan sets a new track record in his Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar Dodge Charger R/T to capture the provisional NHRA Funny Car pole

• V. Gaines is No. 2 and Jeg Coughlin Jr. No. 3 in their Mopar-powered Dodge Avengers


September 27, 2013 , Madison, Ill. -

Team Mopar NHRA Pro Stock driver Allen Johnson raced to the provisional pole on Friday at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park in suburban St. Louis, keying a sweep of the top three spots by Mopar-powered drivers. Meanwhile, in NHRA Funny Car qualifying, Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar Dodge Charger R/T driver Matt Hagan set both ends of the track record en route to the preliminary pole.

After quick exits at the previous two events, Johnson entered the St. Louis race more determined than ever to jump start his title defense, as well as fired up over an engine package honed in previous test sessions at Gateway Motorsports Park. The defending Pro Stock champion wasted no time in demonstrating why he felt so confident about his Mopar HEMI engine, tripping the timing lights with a 6.556-second elapsed time at 210.90 mph in his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Avenger to stake his claim to the No. 1 spot.

With falling track temps in the night session at Gateway Motorsports Park offering better conditions and quicker times, Johnson was pushed out of the top half by the time he made his second run in the final Pro Stock pair of the night. Johnson shrugged off the pressure and reclaimed his position as top dog, ripping off a 6.512/212.29 to take back the provisional pole and earn three more critical bonus points, giving him a total of six for the day.

“The Mopar Express Lane Dodge Avenger hit on something last weekend,” said Johnson, who scored a runner-up finish at the St. Louis event last year. “Our guys have got a combination now that’s going to be pretty bad to the bone the entire Countdown. We’re just a couple of rounds back, and that can turn around real quick. I think we’re really close with the car and the set up.

“We've got a great team in Mopar, all the people there are behind us. Our team and Jeggy’s (teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr.) team are working together real nice."

Mopar-powered Pro Stockers swept the top three Friday qualifying spots, and four of the top six. V. Gaines moved up to No. 2 in the second session with a 6.526/211.96 nighttime run. Johnson’s J&J Racing teammate Coughlin, already a winner in the Countdown playoffs with a “W” at the Charlotte race, posted his JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge third with a 6.527/211.20. The third member of the Mopar-fueled J&J Racing trio, Vincent Nobile, improved from 11th to No. 6 with a 6.535/211.46. Matt Hartford (6.600/209.52) and Derick Kramer (6.608/207.80) were ranked 16th and 17th, respectively, in their Mopar Dodge Avenger Pro Stock cars heading into Saturday.

Matt Hagan, sporting the Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar colors on his Dodge Charger R/T, soared to the No. 1 spot in the first session of NHRA Funny Car qualifying with a 4.112/307.93 pass, but was far from done. Hagan cued up a 4.001/320.20 mph run in the night session, claiming both ends of the track record in the process and running his total to six qualifying bonus points on the day.

“It was just an amazing run,” said Hagan, the current points leader. “I wish I could say I was in there driving the wheels off it, but, man, it was just smooth as silk. It’s just a great feeling and a great deal to be able to go No. 1 for now. Obviously that could change tomorrow, but it’s looking real good for us.”

Hagan’s Mopar-powered Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) teammate Jack Beckman (4.113/310.41) was listed No. 11 after Friday qualifying, with fellow DSR Dodge Charger R/T pilot Ron Capps (4.144/303.84) in the No. 13 spot and another teammate, Johnny Gray (4.475/201.73), No. 15 in his Dodge. Jeff Arend (6.236/106.40) was listed No. 16 in his Dodge Charger R/T.

The first of the final two qualifying sessions will begin tomorrow starting at 11:45 a.m. (CT).

Qualifying highlights from the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park in suburban St. Louis are scheduled to be televised from 3:30 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. (ET) on Sunday, Sept. 29, on ESPN2 and ESPN2HD. Three hours of eliminations coverage will be broadcast on ESPN2 and ESPN2HD starting at 8:30 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Sept. 29.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Johnson and Hagan Lock Up Top Spots at NHRA Midwest Nationals
• Allen Johnson wheels his Mopar Dodge Avenger to a third No. 1 spot of the season

• Matt Hagan will start No. 1 for the fifth time this year in his Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar Dodge Charger R/T

• Mopar-powered Dodge Avenger drivers capture the top three spots heading into Sunday eliminations at Gateway Motorsports Park, and four of the top six positions

• Six Dodge Avenger pilots will race for the win tomorrow

• Pole-sitter Hagan will be joined by four fellow Mopar-fueled Dodge Charger R/T cars in the Funny Car field


September 28, 2013 , Madison, Ill. -

Mopar Express Lane Dodge Avenger driver Allen Johnson, the defending series champion, made sure the rest of the NHRA Pro Stock field didn’t forget that fact, firing up his title defense by earning his third No. 1 qualifier spot of the season and 31st of his career today at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, held at Gateway Motorsports Park in suburban St. Louis. Matt Hagan will also lead the NHRA Funny Car field into eliminations, thanks to a track-record run on Friday in his Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar Dodge Charger R/T.

Johnson locked down the No. 1 qualifier spot on Friday with a 6.512-second elapsed time at 212.29 mph in a night session that offered favorable track conditions. The qualifying charts didn’t see much shake-up on Saturday with Johnson keeping his grip on the top position, although the defending champ did take full advantage of the opportunity to score extra bonus points. Johnson was third-quickest in Saturday’s first qualifying round (6.555/211.93), banking one extra marker, and second-quickest (6.572/210.60) in his final effort, scoring two more points and bringing his grand total to nine bonus points for the weekend. The Greeneville, Tenn., native will face Larry Morgan in the opening round tomorrow.

“We gained at least ten points on the frontrunners, including little (qualifying bonus) points and (our) qualifying position, so we made up a little ground there,” said Johnson, who will look to make his second-straight final round appearance at Gateway Motorsports Park tomorrow and score his first career win at the venue. “Hopefully tomorrow we can take the Mopar Express Lane Dodge to the final and make up some more.

“We’ve got a real good combination now with all three cars. We’ve got all three of the (J&J Racing) Mopars in the top six, and then V. (Gaines) is there, so four of the top six positions are Mopars.”

Gaines (6.526/211.96) will start tomorrow from the No. 2 spot and draw another Dodge, No. 15 qualifier Matt Hartford, in the first stanza. Johnson’s J&J Racing teammate, Jeg Coughlin Jr., who qualified No. 3 in his JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger based on his 6.527/211.20 pass from Friday, also earned three bonus points with the low elapsed time (6.545/211.49) of the first qualifying session on Saturday, and is now tied for the overall Pro Stock points lead with Jason Line. Coughlin will square off with Greg Stanfield to begin his Sunday, while fellow J&J Racing stable mate and No. 6 qualifier Vincent Nobile (6.535/211.46) will meet former Pro Stock champ Greg Anderson. Mopar-powered driver Deric Kramer (6.603/209.30) will start No. 13 and meet Erica Enders-Stevens in round one tomorrow.

Hagan roared to his fifth pole of the year and 15th of his career thanks to his Friday night run in his Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar Dodge Charger R/T, unleashing a 4.001/320.20 number to set the elapsed time and speed track records at Gateway Motorsports Park. No driver could better that mark on Saturday, including Hagan, who posted a solid 4.092/315.64 pass in his final qualifying attempt. The 2011 NHRA Funny Car champ will battle Daniel Wilkerson first on Sunday as he seeks to pad his points lead and secure his fifth victory of the season.

“It’s tough to lead,” said Hagan. “It’s easy to chase, but tough to lead. Anybody that’s ever led will tell you the same thing. Everybody is after you, their gunning for you, and you know that you have to bring your ‘A’ game. But what’s great about this team is they bring their ‘A’ game every weekend, and it always seems to work out really well. I’ve got all the confidence in the world in (crew chief) Dickie Venables."

Hagan will be joined by his three Mopar-powered Don Schumacher Racing teammates in the elimination rounds, with each of the trio making their best qualifying runs and improving positions in their final attempts. Ron Capps (4.058/310.05) jumped to No. 6 and will duke it out with Bob Tasca III in the opening stanza. Defending Funny Car champ Jack Beckman (4.070/313.66) moved to eighth and will race Alexis DeJoria, while No. 12 Johnny Gray (4.098/311.77) will meet Del Worsham. Dodge Charger R/T racer Jeff Arend (4.196/280.95) will start 15th and go heads up with John Force Racing’s Robert Hight.

Elimination rounds are scheduled to begin tomorrow starting at 11:00 a.m. (CT). Qualifying highlights from the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park in suburban St. Louis are scheduled to be televised from 3:30 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. (ET) on Sunday, Sept. 29, on ESPN2 and ESPN2HD. Three hours of eliminations coverage will be broadcast on ESPN2 and ESPN2HD starting at 8:30 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Sept. 29.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Beckman Tops Team Mopar Effort with Runner-Up Finish at St. Louis

• ‘Fast’ Jack Beckman races to his third 2013 Funny Car final-round appearance at the NHRA Midwest Nationals and moves his Dodge Charger R/T to third in the Countdown standings

• Despite a rough weekend for Team Mopar Pro Stockers, JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger pilot Jeg Coughlin Jr. remains second in the Pro Stock Countdown, just 10 points behind the leader

• Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar Dodge Charger R/T driver Matt Hagan exits in the second round at St. Louis but keeps his spot atop the Funny Car standings

• Mopar Express Lane Dodge Avenger driver and defending Pro Stock champion Allen Johnson falls in the quarterfinals but remains within striking distance of a repeat title

September 29, 2013 , Madison, Ill. -
Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) driver “Fast” Jack Beckman muscled his Mopar-powered Dodge Charger R/T NHRA Funny Car to a runner-up showing on Sunday at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals in suburban St. Louis, advancing to his third final of the year. The defending Funny Car king took a giant step towards recapturing his crown, moving to third in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship Funny Car standings, and also brightened up an otherwise tough outing for the Team Mopar contingent at Gateway Motorsports Park.

The No. 8 seed heading into Sunday, Beckman bested Alexis DeJoria to start eliminations, posting a 4.079-second elapsed time at 312.78 mph to DeJoria’s 4.110/310.70. Next up for Beckman was an all-Mopar second-round showdown with his DSR teammate, pole-sitter and Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar Dodge Charger R/T driver, Matt Hagan, who knocked out No. 16 Daniel Wilkerson in the first round. Beckman triumphed in the HEMI vs. HEMI grudge match, notching a 4.088/308.64 to Hagan’s slower 4.187/304.53.

In a wild semifinals battle against Del Worsham, in which both racers struck the tires, Beckman was able to get back in the gas of his Dodge Charger R/T first, taking out his foe thanks to a 4.546/253.47 run. Beckman lined up against John Force in the final in search of his first win of the season and was first off the line, but Force had a little more at the top end. Beckman’s 4.127/309.84 was solid but short of Force’s winning 4.097/310.13 pass.

"The problem is we keep opening the door wide open for ourselves and then we fail to take full advantage of it," said Beckman after the final. "We have to win a race if we are going to win the championship. We are probably going to have to win two of the last three races. I guess the upside is we have a car that can do it."

“Fast” Jack’s Mopar-powered DSR teammate Ron Capps exited in the second round against Force, his 4.108/308.99 mark not enough to overcome Force’s quicker 4.095/312.21 pass. No. 12 qualifier and DSR Dodge Charger R/T racer Johnny Gray came out on the losing end of a first-round match with Worsham, and Jeff Arend, who was unable to drive his Dodge past Robert Hight, also was unable to advance past the opening round.

JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger pilot and No. 3 qualifier Jeg Coughlin Jr. was dealt a hard-luck second-round defeat at St. Louis. After posting a 6.541/211.39 run to advance in round one against Greg Stanfield, who drew a red-light foul after leaving too early, Coughlin squared off against Greg Anderson in a fight of past Pro Stock champs. Coughlin recorded a solid .039 reaction time paired with a 6.539/210.57 pass, but Anderson’s near-perfect .005 reaction off the starting line and 6.571/210.47 run provided him the margin for the upset holeshot win. Despite the quicker-than-desired exit, Coughlin is second in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship Pro Stock playoffs standings, just 10 points behind leader Mike Edwards.

The top qualifier for the third time this year in his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Avenger, Allen Johnson knocked off Larry Morgan to open the day on the strength of a 6.527/212.03 pass to Morgan’s 6.566/209.98, recording the second-quickest pass of the session. In a quarterfinals race with Rickie Jones, Johnson came out on the wrong end of an excruciatingly tight contest, coming up short by a one-inch margin, or three ten-thousandths of a second on the timing lights. Johnson reacted first off the line with a .037 time to Jones’ slower .043, but A.J.’s 6.543/211.86 effort wasn’t enough to best the 6.537/211.83 laid down by Jones.

Johnson fell one spot to sixth in the Countdown standings, but in the wide open chase for the Pro Stock title he will leave St. Louis closer to the leader than when he entered. Coming into the event Johnson was 74 points behind first, but is now just 69 points behind new leader Edwards.

“We’re going to leave here in not much worse condition than how we came in, but the races are dwindling down,” said Johnson, the defending Pro Stock series champion. “The biggest thing is that we have a really good car, a really good engine package. Losing close races is part of racing, but we’ll leave here with a strong the car. The engine program’s really good – we were the quickest car in about 75 percent of the runs here this weekend. We head to Reading very upbeat.”

No. 2 qualifier V. Gaines was also the victim of a holeshot loss, falling in the first-round to fellow Mopar-powered Pro Stocker Matt Hartford, who was unable to get by Edwards in the quarterfinals. Vincent Nobile, a member of the J&J Racing trio that includes Johnson and Coughlin, lost to Anderson in the opening round, and Dodge Avenger driver Deric Kramer met his match in round one versus event winner Erica Enders-Stevens.

Three hours of eliminations coverage from the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest will be broadcast on ESPN2 and ESPN2HD starting at 8:30 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Sept. 29. Next up is the fourth event in the six-race NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoffs, the NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pa., Oct. 3-6.

2013 NHRA “Countdown to Championship” Points Standings
(following final race results at the NHRA Midwest Nationals)


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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