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High Stakes at Las Vegas for Mopar in NHRA Championship Battle


Johnson provisional No.1 in Pro Stock qualifying at 13th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals, the second to last event of the season

Coughlin still atop the Pro Stock standings ahead of Mike Edwards; Johnson is in fourth place, but within 69 points of the leader

Johnson looking to defend championship and hoping to set up a Mopar showdown against teammate Coughlin

Beckman is top Mopar with second place run in Funny Car qualifying; Hagan is fourth

Hagan is second in Funny Car championship standings behind the leader John Force; Defending champ, Beckman is third



October 25, 2013 , Las Vegas -

The stakes are high for Mopar drivers at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend with only two NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series nationals events and eight elimination rounds remaining to defend two world titles.

Leading the Pro Stock battle for Mopar is Jeg Coughlin Jr. who took over top spot with his win at the last event at Reading, Pa., along with defending champion Allen Johnson who is just 73 points behind him in fourth place heading into qualifying for the 13th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals. Also setting his sights on a championship drive in this fifth of six playoff events in the NHRA “Countdown to the Championship”, Don Schumacher Racing’s Matt Hagan and his “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” Funny Car are trying to run down the 15-time world champ John Force and his 65 point advantage from second place in the standings.

Looking for his fourth straight win at Las Vegas, Johnson raised the odds in his favor by going straight to the top of time sheets in the first two Pro Stock qualifying sessions. His first pass aboard the Mopar Express Lane Dodge saw an elapsed time run of 6.654 seconds (207.46 mph) to earn three valuable bonus points. Jason Line, Mike Edwards, and current Pro Stock points leader Coughlin at the wheel of the Jegs.com Mopar all posted identical 6.658-second runs differentiated only by their speeds [207.37, 207.34 and 206.92 mph] for their second through fourth place positions respectively.

Johnson topped the second session as well with a 6.651 sec (206.99 mph) and had his teammate Coughlin right on his heels with the second quickest run 6.655 sec. (207.11 mph). Edwards and Line were third and fourth with Vincent Nobile rounding out the top-five by posting 6.663 second runs in both sessions.

Johnson finds himself in a different position than he was at this event last season when he was the one being chased as the championship leader. The defense of his title has been more difficult amongst very close competition all season long, especially from his teammate lately, as evidenced by their showdown in the final elimination at the previous event. But while the Mopar Express Lane Dodge pilot knows he has his work cut out for him from his fourth place spot in the points, he is on a mission and not leaving anything to chance.

“We feel like we have to win both races and have the fastest car for all eight rounds of qualifying to have a shot at it and so far we’re sticking to that plan,” said Johnson who won the final two national titles of the 2012 season to win his first championship with Mopar. “Hopefully we’ll do the same thing we did last year to defend our championship in this final stretch. We lost three really close races leading up to this weekend for a combined total of just 12 inches and if we hadn’t we’d probably be tied or even in the lead in the points right now.”

“That’s incredibly close racing so we’ve got it on kill to get every little point available and the mentality is that we have to go for it on every single run,” Johnson added. “We have the Mopar to do it. We have the HEMI power to do it. We have the team to do it. We want to give the yellow Mopar a battle right to the end. It’s going to come right down to the wire if I’ve got my way about it and wouldn’t it be great to have two Mopars in the last round of the year battling for the championship?”

"There's little question in my mind that the championship will come down to the last day of the year in Pomona," said Coughlin who adds two bonus points to his total for his second place run. "That seems to be the way they script it every season and certainly that makes it exciting for all of us, fans and racers alike.”

“I don't think the title will be decided one way or the other in Vegas but we may leave town with a much clearer picture,” adds the four-time Pro Stock champion. “You have to remember, the three guys behind us in the points are all past NHRA champions. It's going to be a thrill ride."

In Funny Car action, defending world champion Jack Beckman put his Don Schumacher Racing Dodge Charger R/T second in qualifying after two sessions with a best run of 4.052 seconds (315.56 mph) and just missed out on the provisional No.1 qualifier position taken by Courtney Force with an equivalent elapsed time but quicker speed of 318.24 mph.

Beckman added two bonus points to his third place standing in the championship battle behind his teammate Hagan who had a best qualifying pass of 4.078 sec (313.00 mph) to give him a provisional fourth place qualifying spot. Both are chasing the elder Force, who earned three bonus points of his own for posting the quickest run in the first session, and ended up sixth overall after Friday’s qualifying sessions.

Fellow DSR driver Ron Capps and Johnny Gray were seventh and 13th respectively.

The final two qualifying sessions for the 13th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals will take place Saturday, Oct.26, with qualifying highlights from The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway scheduled to be televised on ESPN2 on Sunday, Oct. 27 at 2:30 am (ET) and re-broadcast at 3:00 pm (ET). Three hours of elimination rounds coverage will be broadcast on ESPN2 and ESPN2HD starting at 8 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Oct 27.


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


About Mopar Motorsports
Mopar’s commitment to professional motorsports competition was established in the 1950s when a partnership ignited with drag racing pioneer Don Garlits, resulting in the breaking of numerous speed and performance barriers in HEMI®-powered vehicles over the next several decades. In 2013, Mopar looks to defend its two NHRA 2012 World Championship titles in Pro Stock and Funny Car categories, and celebrates 25 consecutive years as title sponsor of the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals in Colorado. While Mopar remains involved in a various professional motorsports series, it continues to honor its roots by being a proud supporter of amateur racing within the NHRA with its sponsorship of the HEMI Challenge and Mopar Sportsman Cup.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Gaines and Beckman Pace Mopars in Final Qualifying at Las Vegas

Mixed qualifying results for Mopar at 13th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals, the second to last event of the season

Mopar’s Gaines and points leader Coughlin are second and third behind No.1 Pro Stock qualifier Edwards

Reigning champ Johnson still focused on winning after frustrating results in final two sessions put him sixth in qualifying

Beckman is top DSR Mopar with third place qualifying effort in Funny Car qualifying; Hagan is fourth


October 26, 2013 , Las Vegas -

Final qualifying at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway held mixed results and a few surprises as Mopar drivers and teams prepared for Sunday’s elimination rounds at the 13th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals, the second to last event of the season.

It wouldn’t be Las Vegas without a seeing a hot streak suddenly go cold and that’s exactly what happen to Allen Johnson for the final two Pro Stock qualifying sessions. The driver of the Mopar Express Lane Dodge ceded the provisional No.1 position he earned on Friday to his rival Mike Edwards after shaking the tires on the first run of the day and being down on power in the final two qualifying sessions. While disappointed to miss out on earning more bonus points, Johnson is still focused on vying for his fourth straight trip to the winner’s circle at this track in order to keep hopes of defending his championship alive.

“We’ve got a lot of data but we had a lot of things happened that were unfortunate,” said Johnson who ended up seventh based on his best time from Friday of 6.651seconds (206.99 mph) and will match up against Ricky Jones for the first elimination round. “We’ll dig in tomorrow and it’s still the same game plan. We’ll roll with it. We have to win this race. We’ve got a good team. We’re still going for broke.”

V. Gaines on the other hand had a hot hand on Saturday as he carried the banner for Mopar by earning the top spot in the final qualifying session with his run of 6.649 seconds (208.26 mph) after running second in the earlier session, essentially taking a total of five bonus points away from the championship contenders. While Gaines had two outstanding runs, it wasn’t quite enough to dislodge Edwards from the No.1 qualifier position earned by his 6.632 sec (208.23 mph) pass that had him quickest of the third session. Gaines will face Larry Morgan as his first round opponent in eliminations on Sunday.

Current Pro Stock points leader Jeg Coughlin Jr. had four consistent runs and earned a bonus point in the third qualifying session with an elapsed time run of 6.645 seconds (207.43 mph). While he is playing it cool, his efforts put him third overall and has him 45 points ahead of Edwards and 73 points from his Mopar teammate Johnson. The JEGS.com Mopar driver, who has five Pro Stock victories in Vegas, will line up against Greg Stanfield in the first round.

"We've got a really good car," said Coughlin whose four passes were all within 0.013 seconds. "We've been a top-four car all four runs, and we're qualified third. That's a great effort. Tomorrow is going to be much like the last two days; it's going to be warm. We're going to be following the [top] fuelers, and it's going to be a little testier for the crew chiefs, but I feel like we've got a great setup for it, and we're ready for action."

Vincent Nobile ended up ninth and will see Greg Anderson as his first round match-up.

In Funny Car qualifying, all four Don Schumacher Racing Dodge Charger R/Ts had strong outings to find themselves within the top six spots on the eliminations ladder. Reigning world champion Jack Beckman paced his Mopar teammates with a best e.t. of 4.052 seconds (315.56 mph) for the third place spot with Ron Capps right on his heals with a 4.057 (315.05 mph) in fourth. Beckman will see Bob Tasca in the first round while Capps is paired up with Tim Wilkerson.

Matt Hagan, whose Mopar is currently second in the championship hunt, had his best run in the final session posting a 4.057 sec (312.50 mph) e.t. to put him fifth overall, but lost a little more ground in the standings to the points leader and No. 1 qualifier, John Force. The 15-time world champion, who has been on a roll as title winner or the last two national events, earned the pole position with a track record 4.011-second pass and gained six extra bonus points for being top qualifier in two of the four sessions. Hagan now has 72 point deficit that he is hoping to overcome with a strong performance on Sunday. Hagan’s “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” machine will line up against Alexis DeJoria in the opening round.

Johnny Gray qualified right behind his Mopar teammates with a 4.060 sec (311.85 mph) pass on his final run to secure the sixth place spot on the eliminations ladder and will see Jeff Arend as his first opponent.

Qualifying highlights from all four sessions at the 13th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals will be televised on ESPN2 on Sunday, Oct. 27 at 3:00 pm (ET). Three hours of elimination rounds coverage from The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will be broadcast Sunday evening on ESPN2 and ESPN2HD starting at 8 p.m. (ET).


2013 NHRA “Countdown to Championship” Points Standings
(following final qualifying at Las Vegas)



PRO STOCK (season wins in parentheses)
1. Jeg Coughlin Jr. (4) - Dodge Avenger – 2472
2. Mike Edwards (6) – 2432
3. Jason Line (2) – 2421
4. Allen Johnson (4) - Dodge Avenger – 2399
5. Erica Enders-Stevens (2) –2353
6. Shane Gray – 2348
7. Greg Anderson – 2293
8. V. Gaines - Dodge Avenger – 2261
9. Vincent Nobile (3) - Dodge Avenger – 2247
10. Rodger Brogdon (1) – 2115

FUNNY CAR (season wins in parentheses)
1. John Force (2) – 2501
2. Matt Hagan (4) - Dodge Charger R/T – 2429
3. Jack Beckman - Dodge Charger R/T – 2370

4. Robert Hight (2) – 2355
5. Cruz Pedregon (4) – 2341
6. Ron Capps (3) - Dodge Charger R/T – 2334
7. Courtney Force (2) – 2306
8. Johnny Gray (4) - Dodge Charger R/T – 2257
9. Del Worsham – 2249
10. Tim Wilkerson – 2206


About Mopar Motorsports
Mopar’s commitment to professional motorsports competition was established in the 1950s when a partnership ignited with drag racing pioneer Don Garlits, resulting in the breaking of numerous speed and performance barriers in HEMI®-powered vehicles over the next several decades. In 2013, Mopar looks to defend its two NHRA 2012 World Championship titles in Pro Stock and Funny Car categories, and celebrates 25 consecutive years as title sponsor of the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals in Colorado. While Mopar remains involved in a various professional motorsports series, it continues to honor its roots by being a proud supporter of amateur racing within the NHRA with its sponsorship of the HEMI Challenge and Mopar Sportsman Cup.
 

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Mopar Leaves Las Vegas with Runner-Up Finish by Gaines, Coughlin Widens Points Lead; Championship Hopes Dashed for Johnson and Hagan


Gaines takes his Mopar to a runner-up Pro Stock finish at the 13th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals

Pro Stock points leader Coughlin keeps championship in his sights after a semi-final appearance at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Reigning Pro Stock champ Johnson sees hopes of defending his world title fade with a quarterfinal loss

Hagan’s final shot at vying for the Funny Car Championship come to an end with a first round loss


October 27, 2013 , Las Vegas -

Based on the drama that unfolded at the 13th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals this weekend, leaving Las Vegas is somewhat bittersweet for Mopar with a strong runner-up performance for one driver, a championship within reach for another, while two others saw their drives for any chance at their second world title come to an abrupt end at the penultimate playoff event in the “Countdown to the Championship".

HEMI-powered driver V. Gaines’ runner-up finish against Shane Gray at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was his fourth final round appearance of the year; the most he has ever had in a single season. Gaines posted an elapsed time run of 6.698 seconds (207.46 miles per hour) but was defeated by Gray’s 6.699 sec. (206.89 mph) pass with quicker reaction time (0.073 to 0.032 seconds) for a hole-shot victory and first trip to the winner’s circle this season. Gaines’ strong performance through the elimination rounds moved him up one spot in the standings to seventh place.

One of the drivers that Gaines dispatched on his way to the final was the current leader in the Pro Stock championship, Jeg Coughlin Jr., in a semi-final Mopar showdown. Coughlin saw his closest competitors for the world title, Mike Edwards, Jason Line and Mopar teammate Allen Johnson, lose their match-ups within the first two rounds to help put a little more distance between them in the points tally heading into the NHRA finale in Pomona, Calif., in two weeks.

“We had a great effort this weekend,” said Coughlin who now has a 71 point lead over his second place rival Line, but was somewhat disappointed that he wasn’t able to go further. “Our JEGS.com Mopar was a top-four car every session we went down the race track. The car was still running really well but we just didn’t get away with it in the semifinals. We would have loved to have won that round obviously for championship reasons to put a little more distance between us and Jason Line. We’ll move this drama to Pomona and get out and do what we love to do which is put those win lights on and ideally hoist that championship trophy.”

On the flip side, the reigning Pro Stock champ Johnson saw his hopes of defending his world title fade with a quarterfinal loss to Gaines after a few mechanical setbacks in the pits had the team working overtime after initially setting the bar on Friday.

“Man, we had drama all weekend and we just couldn’t get going in our camp,” said Johnson who drops to fifth in the standings. “Jeggy’s [Coughlin Jr.] car was running awfully good and he had a great day. He’s going to be hard to beat for the championship and it’ll be great to see him bring home another championship for Mopar and Chrysler. That’s what it’s all about.”

“We’ve got to hold our heads up high because we worked as a team and the effort has been there every day in a really competitive field all year long,” added Johnson who still has his sights set on scoring a win at the finale in Pomona in two weeks to cap off the year. “I want to win the race and Jeggy to win the championship and that would be a good ending.”

Also disappointed to be eliminated from championship contention following a stellar turnaround season was Mopar Funny Car driver Matt Hagan. He came into the weekend second in the standings with an outside chance of catching the points leader until his first round loss in eliminations, combined with John Force’s eventual title win at Las Vegas to clinch a 16th NHRA world title, finally put that to rest.

"The Countdown hasn't gone the way we wanted or would've liked it to," said Hagan who took the “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” Dodge Charger R/T to four title wins, eight final round appearances and five No.1 qualifier positions in 2013 after missing the playoffs last year. "We had a very, very strong regular season and just couldn't seem to finish strong towards the end. I think it's easy to get greedy in the aspect of you don't always appreciate what you've done sometimes but you have to stop and look back. A lot of folks would trade their season for ours."

Currently third in the standings, Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman was also disappointed to officially cede the championship title won for Mopar last season to a new victor. Beckman made his way to the semifinals for the seventh time this year, only to lose to eventual runner-up Courtney Force. While the championship has already been decided, Beckman has three runner-up finishes but looking to add a win and give Hagan a run for the second place spot before closing the curtain on the season in Pomona.

Ron Capps and his Dodge Charger R/T lost in the second round of eliminations while fellow Mopar teammate Johnny Gray was a first round casualty.

The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season will conclude in Pomona, Calif., at the 49th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals on Nov 7-10.

2013 NHRA “Countdown to Championship” Points Standings
(following final eliminations at Las Vegas)



PRO STOCK (season wins in parentheses)
1. Jeg Coughlin Jr. (4) - Dodge Avenger – 2512
2. Jason Line (2) – 2441
3. Mike Edwards (6) – 2432
4. Shane Gray (1) – 2428
5. Allen Johnson (4) - Dodge Avenger – 2419
6. Erica Enders-Stevens (2) –2373
7. V. Gaines - Dodge Avenger – 2321
8. Greg Anderson – 2293
9. Vincent Nobile (3) - Dodge Avenger – 2267
10. Rodger Brogdon (1) – 2115

FUNNY CAR (season wins in parentheses)
1. John Force (4) – 2581*
2. Matt Hagan (4) - Dodge Charger R/T – 2429
3. Jack Beckman - Dodge Charger R/T – 2410

4. Robert Hight (2) – 2375
5. Courtney Force (2) – 2366
6. Ron Capps (3) - Dodge Charger R/T – 2334
7. Cruz Pedregon (4) – 2341
8. Del Worsham – 2269
9. Johnny Gray (4) - Dodge Charger R/T – 2257
10. Tim Wilkerson – 2206

*Clinched 2013 Funny Car Championship
 
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