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Oct 29, 2012 - 05:47 PM
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2012 NHRA: Mopar Pro Stock Driver Johnson Hits Jackpot With Vegas Victory
Posted by: newsla on Oct 29, 2012 - 05:45 PM
NHRA
2012 NHRA: Mopar Pro Stock Driver Johnson Hits Jackpot With Vegas Victory, All But Clinches Title Heading To Pomona Finale


For NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Pro Stock driver Allen Johnson, the dream the Mopar Dodge Avenger driver has harbored for 17 years is so close he can almost touch the championship trophy, almost taste the champagne. The key word: Almost.

 

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Johnson emerged triumphant in a Mopar final-round duel on Sunday at the NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, knocking out teammate Vincent Nobile to earn a sweep of both 2012 NHRA Vegas events. It is his sixth victory of the season and 15th Pro Stock win of his career. Most importantly, Johnson is now 126 points ahead of the second-place Jason Line — the Team Mopar veteran needs only to qualify at the season-ending NHRA Finals in Pomona, Calif., to clinch his first title.

And as strong as the day was for Johnson, it was even better for Mopar. The brand celebrated not one, but two Pro class wins at Vegas, as Ron Capps defeated fellow Dodge Charger R/T driver Jack Beckman in an all-Mopar Funny Car final. The Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) duo are 1-2 in the points standings, with Capps now just four points behind Beckman in the chase for the Funny Car championship — giving Mopar the distinct possibility of dual championship celebrations at Pomona.

“All of us at Mopar are very proud of Allen Johnson and Ron Capps on doubling up today at the NHRA Nationals in Vegas,” said Pietro Gorlier, President and CEO of Mopar, Chrysler Group LLC’s service, parts and customer-care brand. “Mopar-powered cars have either led or been near the front of the field all year in both Pro Stock and Funny Car, which shows the strength of our Mopar HEMI engines that compete in the NHRA. We look forward to Team Mopar drivers continuing to battle for one last win, and two championships, in the final race of the season in Pomona.”

Johnson, starting No. 2, met fellow Mopar-powered racer Deric Kramer in the opening round, and used a pass of 6.630-seconds at 207.85 mph to advance to the quarterfinals. Awaiting was another Mopar Dodge, the Mopar/JEGS.com machine of four-time Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. Johnson basically replayed his first run, posting a 6.630/207.98 to Coughlin’s 7.020/166.60 to claim the round win.

Johnson has preached consistency as the key to his success all season, and such was the case in the semifinals, as the Greeneville, Tenn., native notched another 6.63 run, this time a 6.631/208.20 to defeat Ron Krisher (6.654/207.34). The win set up a HEMI vs. HEMI fight with Nobile, in a repeat of the spring final round at Vegas, which Johnson won.

Nobile, competing with Mopar engines built by Johnson’s J&J Racing team, dispatched Mopar racer Chris McGaha, Erica Enders, and, in a huge aid to his teammate Johnson’s title hopes, the second-place Line in the semifinals, who lost on a red-light foul.

In the final round, Johnson left the starting line with a 0.20 reaction time, just a tad behind the always-quick Nobile, who recorded a .013 launch, but at the finish, Johnson and his Mopar Dodge had enough to edge out Nobile, with a winning 6.637/208.17 (once again, a consistent 6.63) to Nobile’s 6.670/204.39. Nobile is fourth in points, with V. Gaines (who exited in the first round in his Dodge) seventh and Coughlin eighth.

“The Mopar Dodge Avenger has just been so consistent and that’s what we’ve preached all year long,” said Johnson, who advanced to the 35th final round of his career, and tenth of the season. “That showed today with four 63s, and in the heat of the day we made our best run. My crew is doing an awesome job and to cushion that point lead there so that we breathe a little easier going to Pomona is great. But I want to go to Ponoma and win that last race and really come down on this championship with an iron fist. We wanted to win this race, not just leave with a big points lead. We want to win the last two races and win this thing decisively.”

A Pro Stock championship would bring to fruition the dream of not just Johnson, but also his father and engine builder, Roy Johnson, himself a former championship-winning Mopar-powered sportsman racer. The father-and-son duo has worked side-by-side ever since Johnson entered the NHRA Pro Stock ranks.

“We’ve been here a long time, and to do this with my father for 17 years, by ourselves and with the help from Mopar, of course, is a tremendous feeling right now,” said Allen Johnson. “He just turned 71 years old and to be so close to accomplishing a championship with him is something special.”

In the NHRA Funny Car class it was an all-Mopar affair as well, with Mopar HEMI-powered DSR teammates Beckman and Capps meeting in the final round. Beckman eliminated a trio of John Force Racing drivers to advance to the final: 15-time Funny Car Champ John Force in the opening-stanza, Mike Neff in the quarterfinals and Courtney Force in the semis. Capps’ run to the final went through Tony Pedregon, No. 1 qualifier Cruz Pedregon and fellow Mopar Dodge DSR driver Johnny Gray (who defeated Mopar Dodge Charger R/T driver Matt Hagan in the second round).

In the Mopar vs. Mopar duel, Capps bested Beckman, taking the event title with a 4.070/315.12 over Beckman, who smoked the tires. Capps closed to within just four points of Beckman for the Funny Car championship, with both DSR Dodge Charger R/T drivers seeking their first overall title in the class. Gray is fourth in points, with Hagan 11th.

Next up for the contingent of Mopar-powered NHRA Pro Stock and Funny Car drivers is the season-ending Auto Club NHRA Finals, Nov. 8–11 at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Calif.

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