BRISTOL, TN – June 20, 2016 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – Mopar Dodge Chargers have taken a big bite out of the competition in NHRA in 2016, and with their latest performance at Bristol Dragway and the 16th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, the fearsome HEMI®s are continuing to shine as the class of the field. Mopar-powered Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) teammates Tommy Johnson Jr. and Matt Hagan squared off in the Bristol title, and ultimately it was Johnson with the win in his Make-A-Wish branded Dodge Charger R/T.
- Tommy Johnson Jr. powers Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T to first win of season on Father’s Day at Bristol Dragway
- Johnson wins 13th national event title in a nitro Funny Car
- NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals site of fifth consecutive all-Mopar Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car final
- Team Mopar’s Matt Hagan flies to third final of season in Rocky Boots/Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T
- Jeg Coughlin Jr. and his “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” JEGS.com Dodge Dart reach first semifinal round of the season
- Solid pass but early exit for Mopar Performance Dodge Dart pilot Erica Enders
Johnson’s victory was the sixth of the season for Team Mopar, the fifth consecutive all-Mopar final round, and the seventh time in 11 events that a Mopar Dodge Charger landed in the winner’s circle.
Tommy Johnson Jr. scored the fifth consecutive win this season for a Mopar Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car driver at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol, Tennessee.
In the final round, Hagan was impressively quick off the starting line with a .057-second reaction time in his Rocky Boots/Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T, but his opponent was even quicker with a brilliant .035 launch, and Johnson held onto the advantage for a holeshot win, 4.038-second at 313.22 mph to a 4.030/317.57.
It was the first victory of the season for Johnson, the 13th of a career that began in 1989, and his second NHRA win at Bristol Dragway.
“We had a great season last year and finished third in the points, but it started slow and then we made a really good charge late,” said Johnson, who won the Thunder Valley Nationals in 2014. “This year, we had that same slow start, then we were runner-up in Epping, and that just seems to set the tone for the rest of the year. My guys did a great job. We’re not an aggressive team; we race the racetrack, and [crew chief] John Collins makes some really great calls on what to do. He’s feeling it out as the season begins, and we get all that data and then really start to make a charge.”
En route to the final, Johnson, now No. 7 in NHRA’s Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car standings, used a swift 3.988/316.38 in the first round to easily get around Cruz Pedregon’s troubled 5.735/121.52. In the second round, a smooth 3.990/314.83 to Robert Hight’s 4.095/283.85 got the job done, sending Johnson to the semifinals for the third time this season. There, Johnson met Alexis DeJoria, and he launched ahead of his competitor and journeyed down the drag strip to a low-of-the-round 4.039/312.42 to defeat a 4.138/288.33.
The victory is extra-special for Johnson, as it not only marks the birthday celebration of his father, Tommy Johnson Sr., but it is also Father’s Day.
“I love this race, and Father’s Day seems to be really good to me,” said Johnson, now a four-time victor on the holiday. “But we came here last year off that runner-up at Epping, and we thought, alright, we’re going back to the place we won the previous year, this should be great. We kind of stubbed our toe, but my crew chief made a lot of notes last year, and we came in a little more aggressive this time. Today, the car drove flawless. He made all the right adjustments to get the car down the track in these hot conditions. He used the data [from an earlier run] to make the car go down the track all day. This is just a great way to celebrate father’s day and my dad’s birthday.”
With the win, Johnson secured his position in the special bonus race scheduled to take place during the U.S. Nationals over Labor Day Weekend, the NHRA Traxxas Shootout. Positions are awarded to the first seven drivers in a season to collect trophies, plus one fan vote. Johnson was awarded the seventh spot for his Bristol win, leaving just one of the four Mopar Dodge Charger Funny Cars having to contend for the fan vote — Jack Beckman and the Infinite Hero Dodge.
“This takes a lot of the pressure off, to lock yourself in like that,” said Johnson. “It’s in the back of your mind, and we had a shot in Epping and just barely lost to my teammate Ron Capps, who is already in. To come in here against Hagan, another teammate who’s already in the Shootout, I thought, ‘Man, we have to get this done.’ We missed our first big shot, but they made a mistake giving us a second chance. We had to go get it. I kept telling myself it would be okay if we didn’t make the Shootout because the championship is the big picture — but you really want it. It’s a big race. You want that trophy on the mantel.
“I’m a little disappointed it took this long to win this year, and we could have been better at the beginning. It’s hard to keep your team morale in times like that, but things have been turning around. I’m really happy with the guys. They kept their chins up and worked hard. It was a great team effort all around.”
Hagan began his quest for the trophy on Sunday with a big-time win over Tim Wilkerson. The Mopar Express Lane Dodge was on a tear, and Hagan ripped off low elapsed time of the entire day in the first round with a cool 3.945/309.49 to send Tim Wilkerson and his 4.614/176.12 away empty-handed. A quicker reaction time was the deciding factor in the second round, when Hagan was .051 at the line and blasted to a 4.048 at 316.82 that matched Courtney Force’s e.t. identically. The victory was by a mere 11 feet. The win light sent him ahead for a semifinals match with DSR/Mopar teammate Ron Capps, the incoming points leader. It was a battle of tire smoke in the heat of the day, but Hagan was able to take the edge and surge into the finals, 5.190/220.98 to 5.989/158.13.
The final round was the third of the season for Hagan, who won back-to-back in Atlanta and Topeka.
“Just another good race weekend for the Rocky Boots/Mopar team,” said Hagan. “We made it to the final round, and when you get that far, all you want to do is win for your team, for the folks out here, and especially for me this weekend. We had a whole pile of people out here supporting us, and I wish we could have treated them with a trip to the winner’s circle. But we’re in the top five now, and that’s important to us. We need to keep climbing, and the way this Mopar Express Lane Dodge is running right now, I feel like we can really do that here over this summer stretch of races.”
No. 1 qualifier Ron Capps had hoped to visit a third consecutive final and claim three trophies in a row, but his streak ended in the semifinals to Hagan, while Mopar-powered Beckman was ousted by Capps in the second round. Capps keeps the points lead in the hands of Team Mopar, while Beckman remains No. 2 in the standings with Hagan not far behind in fifth pace and Johnson seventh.
Team Mopar in Pro Stock
Jeg Coughlin Jr., now No. 7 in the Pro Stock standings, led the Mopar Dodge Dart Pro Stockers on Sunday in Bristol, driving his “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” JEGS.com HEMI-powered factory hot rod to the semifinals for the first time this season. Although Coughlin has picked up a round win at five of the first ten races in 2016, going more rounds on race day is far more familiar to the five-time world champ. In the Bristol first round, Coughlin and Elite Motorsports teammate Erica Enders, driver of the Mopar Performance Dodge Dart, clocked identical 6.716-second passed in their respective matches. Although Enders’ pass wasn’t enough to get the nod in her meeting with Vincent Nobile, Coughlin paired his 205.54 mph pass with a .002 reaction time for a sizable holeshot win over Bo Butner’s 6.645/207.85. Butner was a sleepy .075 at the tree.
It was Mopar versus Mopar in round two, as Coughlin and hometown Mopar competitor Allen Johnson, No. 4 in the points, lined up. Both drivers were great at the starting line, Johnson with a .014 reaction and Coughlin clocking a .017, but Coughlin was first to the final marker on the racetrack for a 6.746/204.63 win over a 6.971/167.32. The day came to an end for Coughlin, however, when he ran into a nasty bout of tire shake on the tricky 130 degrees Fahrenheit racing surface, allowing Greg Anderson to win on a 6.690/207.56.
For reigning and back-to-back Pro Stock champion Enders, the early exit wasn’t as disheartening as one would expect.
“As I went through the lights, my crew chief called out the numbers over the radio, and I radioed back, ‘We went a .71?’ He was like, ‘Yeah!’ That was a good run for us,” said Enders. “They’ve been working so incredibly hard, and I’ve said before that we’re making strides in the right direction, but that boosted the morale for our team. Jeg being able to get to the semifinals for Team Mopar is pretty exciting for all of us. I’m especially excited to get to the next race. We’ll continue to chip away at it.”
The fourth Mopar in the Pro Stock field at Bristol this weekend was veteran competitor V. Gaines in the Kendall Oil Dart. Gaines battled tire shake in the less-preferred lane and was sent home in the first round by Drew Skillman, 6.689/207.37 to 9.479/96.16.
NHRA’s Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Continues
Competition continues for the Mopar campaigners in just one week with the 12th race of 24 in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio, June 23-26.
2016 NHRA Championship Points Standings
(Following the NHRA Bristol Event)
PRO STOCK (season wins in parentheses)
- Jason Line (6) — 1,263
- Greg Anderson (5) — 1,170
- Bo Butner — 758
- Allen Johnson (Dodge Dart) — 668
- Drew Skillman — 625
- Vincent Nobile — 535
- Chris McGaha — 524
- Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Dodge Dart) — 496
- Shane Gray — 458
- Alex Laughlin — 445
- Erica Enders (Dodge Dart) — 438
- V. Gaines (Dodge Dart) — 343
FUNNY CAR (season wins in parentheses)
- Ron Capps (Dodge Charger R/T) (3) — 841
- Jack Beckman (Dodge Charger R/T) — 786
- Courtney Force (1) — 741
- Matt Hagan (Dodge Charger R/T) (2) — 710
- Del Worsham — 701
- Tim Wilkerson (2) — 691
- Tommy Johnson Jr. (Dodge Charger R/T) (1) — 675
- Robert Hight (1) — 643
- John Force — 615
- Alexis DeJoria (1) — 588
About Mopar Motorsports
The Mopar brand’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 2016, Mopar will look to once again vie for a NHRA World Championship title in both Pro Stock and Funny Car categories. While Mopar remains involved in a various professional motorsports series, it continues to honor its roots by being a proud supporter of Sportsman racing within the NHRA with its sponsorship of the HEMI Challenge and Mopar’s Tom Hoover Sportsman Challenge.
About Mopar Brand
Mopar (a simple contraction of the words MOtor and PARts) was trademarked in 1937 with the launch of an antifreeze product, but it truly made its mark in the 1960s during the muscle-car era. From Mopar Performance Parts to enhance speed and handling for both road and racing use, the brand soon expanded to include technical service and customer support.
Today, Mopar is the service, parts and customer-care brand of FCA US LLC and distributes more than 500,000 parts and accessories in over 150 markets around the world. With more than 50 parts distribution centers and 25 customer contact centers globally, Mopar integrates service, parts and customer-care operations in order to enhance dealer and customer support worldwide. Mopar is the source for genuine parts and accessories for FCA brands.
Mopar parts are engineered together with the same teams that create factory-authorized specifications for FCA vehicles. This offers a direct connection that no other aftermarket parts company can provide. A complete list of Mopar accessories and performance parts is available at www.mopar.com.