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Mopar’s Johnson Earns No.1 Qualifier for Second Consecutive Year at Norwalk

Mopar is competing at seventh annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals this weekend in Norwalk, Ohio. the 13th of 24 national events

Johnson earns first No.1 qualifier honors of the season; second at Norwalk in consecutive years

Capps is third as top Mopar Funny Car qualifier in his 400th NHRA national event

July 6, 2013 , Norwalk, Ohio -

Mopar’s Pro Stock driver and defending NHRA world champion, Allen Johnson has earned his first No.1 qualifier honor of the 2013 season in the Mopar Express Lane Dodge Avenger at the seventh annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals.

Johnson’s second top qualifier position at the Norwalk track in consecutive years was posted with an elapsed time pass of 6.592 seconds (209.75 mph) on his second qualifying run in Friday evening’s unseasonably cool track conditions, a time that held through two more qualifying sessions on Saturday in warmer and more humid conditions, to give him his 29th career pole position.

“Last year we ran really well here and our Mopar Express Lane Dodge just loves this track,” said Johnson who has three wins this season and who’s previous No.1 qualifying effort was last fall in Dallas during the Countdown to the Championship. “More importantly we’re gaining on [points leader] Mike Edwards a little bit and I think we made some progress performance-wise as well. The last few races we’ve pretty much matched him engine-wise and we’re figuring out some things on the car. We had one good run and one not so great today but I think you’ll see pretty close to the same conditions on Sunday. We’ve got a pretty good set-up and we feel good about it.”

With only 15 entries qualified for eliminations at Summit Motorsports Park, Johnson will get a ‘bye’ in the first round but he knows that every single run is going to be important if he is going to defend his championship crown.

It’s going to be a knockdown, drag-out battle through to the end of this season,” Johnson added as this weekend’s event launches the second half of the season with just six more titles up for grabs before the start of the Countdown to the Championship. “This is what I call ‘getting after it’ time. Hopefully we can do well and keep pushing to try and secure that No. 1 position going into the playoffs.”

Johnson’s Mopar teammate and winner of last week’s national title in Chicago, Jeg Coughlin Jr. has never won at Norwalk, his home track, but is hoping to change that this weekend after qualifying third with a 6.614-second run (208.91mph).

"I feel great running here," said Coughlin who had also qualified third on route to winning the “Wally” trophy last weekend. "I love racing at this track. The fans are great, and I have made a lot of runs here in my career. There's nothing more I'd like to do than make four rounds here tomorrow and turn the win light on in the final to boot."

Coughlin’s /Mopar Dodge Avenger, which is sporting a unique JEGS Racing for Cancer Research Foundation ribbon on the hood this weekend to mark their 10th anniversary and their recent $10 million gift to the Ohio State University Foundation's Project One, will line up in the first round of eliminations against Steve Spiess.

V. Gaines was fourth overall with his Dodge entry on the qualifying scoring sheets after posting a 6.616 second e.t. (209.56 mph) to put him up against first round opponent Kenny Delco.
Last year’s Pro Stock title winner at Norwalk, Vincent Nobile, qualified his HEMI-powered Dodge in sixth spot with a 6.629 second pass (208.75 mph) and will face Steve Kent in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations.

In Funny Car action, Don Schumacher Racing’s Ron Capps was the top Mopar qualifier with his third place effort in qualifying for his 400th career NHRA national event. The top position was held by John Force with track record run on Friday night of 4.021 seconds (317.72mph) while Capps set his best time of 4.040 seconds (316.82 mph) in the same session but held on to that third spot through Saturday qualifying to face Jeff Arend as his the first round opponent in eliminations.

DSR teammate Johnny Gray qualified his Dodge Charger R/T fourth with a 4.061-second, 312.64 mph run to face Alexis DeJoria in the opening round.

Last week’s national title winner in Chicago, Matt Hagan, continued to produce consistent runs in his “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar”/ Rocky Boots machine to qualify sixth with an e.t. of 4.071 seconds (313.29 mph) and will battle Tony Pedregon in his first round match. Defending NHRA Funny Car world champion, Jack Beckman was ninth with a 4.100 second (308.92 mph) pass to set him up against Cruz Pedregon.

The seventh annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals will be broadcast on ESPN2 and ESPN2HD with two hours of qualifying highlights at 6 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, July 6, and three hours of elimination round coverage on Sunday, July 7th, starting at 7 p.m. (ET).

2013 NHRA Championship Points Standings (after qualifying at Summit NHRA Nationals):

PRO STOCK (season wins in parentheses)
1. Mike Edwards (3) – 1138
2. Allen Johnson (2) - Dodge Avenger – 1005
3. Jeg Coughlin Jr. (2) - Dodge Avenger – 1000

4. Jason Line (1) – 797
5. Shane Gray – 761
6. Erica Enders-Stevens (1) – 743
7. Greg Anderson – 712
7. Vincent Nobile (1) - Dodge Avenger – 710
9. Rodger Brogden (1) – 596
10. V. Gaines- Dodge Avenger – 569

FUNNY CAR (season wins in parentheses)
1. Matt Hagan (3) - Dodge Charger R/T – 939
2. Cruz Pedregon (2) – 833
3. John Force (1) – 803
4. Johnny Gray (3) - Dodge Charger R/T – 778
5. Ron Capps (1) - Dodge Charger R/T – 772
6. Jack Beckman - Dodge Charger R/T – 752

7. Courtney Force (1) – 744
8. Tim Wilkerson – 713
9. Del Worsham – 696
10. Robert Hight – 648

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Hole Shot Win by Gray in All-Mopar Final at Norwalk

Mopar advanced to final eliminations in both Pro Stock and Funny Car classes at seventh annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals

Gray scored a hole shot win in a Mopar versus Mopar final elimination against DSR teammate Capps

No.1 qualifier Johnson finished runner-up in his 42nd Pro Stock final elimination appearance

Hagan remains Funny Car points leader with Mopar teammate Gray moving into second spot

Johnson and Coughlin are second and third in Pro Stock points standings

July 7, 2013 , Norwalk, Ohio -

In an all-Mopar final elimination showdown, Johnny Gray earned his fourth Funny Car national title of the season on a hole shot win against his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps at the seventh annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, the 13th of 24 national events on the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series circuit. Mopar Pro Stock pilot Allen Johnson also advanced to the final elimination at the Norwalk track finishing runner-up to current points leader Mike Edwards.

“Congratulations to Johnny (Gray) from all of us at Mopar on his title win at Summit Motorsports Park and his fourth victory of the year,” said Pietro Gorlier, President and CEO of Mopar, Chrysler Group LLC’s service, parts and customer-care brand. “It great to see the Mopar-powered Funny Car package competing so strongly, leading the standings, and back in the winner’s circle for the eighth time this year. It’s great to seeing all four Don Schumacher Racing teammates contending for wins in defense of the championship title nearly every week throughout what continues to be an exciting and incredibly competitive season.”

Gray’s fourth final round appearance and series-leading fourth win of the season followed three consecutive first round losses. After last weekend’s event in Chicago, the DSR Pitch Energy team returned to their Indianapolis based shop to rebuild the front end of chassis in less than a day. Not only did the driver appreciate the efforts but he took full advantage by defeating Alexis DeJoria, Chad Head and then his DSR teammate, defending Funny Car world champion, Jack Beckman, on his way to the final Mopar versus Mopar showdown against Capps.

Both Gray and Capps posted identical 4.103-second passes, but with a quicker 0.061 reaction time Gray’s Dodge Charger R/T beat his teammate by just 0.006 seconds.

“Everybody said it was back-and-forth all the way down the track, and it was just a great drag race,” said Gray who also posted wins at Gainesville, Atlanta, Topeka this season to bring his career total to seven national titles. “You just can’t say enough for what my crew does for me and this was my day. We came to Norwalk and the car never missed a step. When I get a race car like this, it’s really hard to screw it up.”

Capps’ runner-up finish came in his 80th career appearance in a final elimination at his 400th national event and puts him fourth in the standings.

Matt Hagan started off strong in his “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” / Rocky Boots Dodge Charger R/T by making his best run of the weekend in his first round match up against Tony Pedregon only to lose the battle against his DSR teammate Capps. Hagan does however remain in the Funny Car championship points lead on the strength of three wins and two no.1 qualifier positions with just five races to go in the regular season.

In Pro Stock action, bolstered by his first No.1 qualifier position of the season, Johnson advanced to his 42nd career final elimination appearance to face off against Edwards. While the Mopar Express Lane Dodge Avenger had the starting line advantage with a 0.015-second reaction time, not having the critical lane choice had its consequences. Loss of grip and violent tire shake early in the run ended Johnson’s chances of gaining some ground on the track and in the points battle against his opponent. Edwards scored his fourth win of the year and the 38th of his career and remains the leader in the Pro Stock standings.

“We had a great day but lost critical lane choice with our semifinal run and that ended up hurting us for the final,” said Johnson who has had six final round appearances this year and jumps into second place in the points with his runner-up finish. “We hurt a motor and had to swap out the engine before that semifinal but didn’t have a good enough run to maintain lane choice and that made the difference. We’re on a good run right now, feel like we’re doing things right and we have some momentum heading into Mopar Mile High Nationals. We have guarded optimism heading to Mopar’s signature event but it’s an event we love and have a lot of confidence going into.”

Ohio native Jeg Coughlin Jr. was upset on his home turf in the second round by fellow HEMI-powered teammate and defending Norwalk title winner Vincent Nobile. They had each won three times against one another in prior events but in this Mopar showdown, Nobile had the starting line advantage and never trailed for the win. Coughlin remains third in the points chase close behind Johnson, while Nobile, who was unable to defeat Edwards in the semifinals, jumps into sixth spot.

V. Gaines drove his Dodge Avenger to the second round where he fell victim to the dreaded left lane and hazed the tires against Shane Gray but remains tenth in points.

The NHRA Mello Yello Series teams and drivers return to racing in two weeks for the first of a three week western swing that begins at the Mopar Mile High Nationals in Golden, Colo. on July 18-21 where Mopar will be celebrating their 25th anniversary as title sponsor as well as their long standing relationship with Bandimere Speedway.

2013 NHRA Championship Points Standings (following the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals):

PRO STOCK (season wins in parentheses)
1. Mike Edwards (4) – 1218
2. Allen Johnson (2) - Dodge Avenger – 1065
3. Jeg Coughlin Jr. (2) - Dodge Avenger – 1020

4. Jason Line (1) – 817
5. Shane Gray – 801
6. Vincent Nobile (1) - Dodge Avenger – 750
7. Erica Enders-Stevens (1) – 750
8. Greg Anderson - 712
9. Rodger Brogden (1) – 596
10. V. Gaines- Dodge Avenger – 589

FUNNY CAR (season wins in parentheses)
1. Matt Hagan (3) - Dodge Charger R/T – 959
2. Johnny Gray (4) - Dodge Charger R/T – 858

3. Cruz Pedregon (2) – 833
4. Ron Capps (1) - Dodge Charger R/T – 832
5. John Force (1) – 823
6. Jack Beckman - Dodge Charger R/T – 792
7. Courtney Force (2) – 784
8. Tim Wilkerson – 713
9. Del Worsham – 696
10. Bob Tasca III – 651
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