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Apr 27, 2014 - 08:59 AM
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2014 NHRA: Johnson Is No1 Qualifier At NHRA Springnationals In Houston
Posted by: newsla on Apr 27, 2014 - 08:56 AM
2014 NHRA: Johnson Is No1 Qualifier At NHRA Springnationals In Houston

It was a happy "HEMI Day" for Pro Stock driver Allen Johnson who kept his "Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar" Dodge Dart atop the leaderboard at Royal Purple Raceway to secure the No.1 qualifier position for Sunday’s elimination rounds at 27th annual NHRA SpringNationals near Baytown, Texas. In tribute to the Gen II 426 Race HEMI, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this season, Mopar and aficionados of the iconic engine have designated April 26 (4-26) as "HEMI Day".


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Johnson secured his first pole position of the 2014 season, the 32nd of his career, with his second qualifying pass in the cool Friday evening air by posting a 6.555-second elapsed time run at 211.63 mph. The Mopar driver also earned a total of nine qualifying bonus point by posting the second quickest passes in three other sessions. His closest qualifying rival in the hotly contested Pro Stock category was second seeded Erica Enders Stevens.

"Our Magneti Marelli Dodge Dart and Erica’s car, we both made good runs today, and we’re pretty nip and tuck," said Johnson who is chasing his first win at the Houston track and a third this season. "We’re No. 1 and 2, and hopefully we can make it to the final. Right now, we both separated ourselves a little bit from the field, which is pretty uncommon. The top ten cars that last few races have been just tied together."

Johnson will see Greg Stanfield as his first round opponent.

With more humid conditions for the final two qualifying laps on Saturday, it was difficult to improve on times posted the previous evening. As a result, Mopar teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. will start from the sixth position on the eliminations ladder based on the 6.592 e.t. (210.47 mph) he posted on his second pass. Coughlin will line up against Greg Anderson in the opening round of the SpringNationals.

V. Gaines premiered his new Dodge Dart with four good qualifying runs, improving steadily to put it ninth on the score sheets with a 6.597 sec / 210.31 mph effort for a first round match-up against Jonathan Gray.

Leading the charge for the Don Schumacher Racing Mopars in Funny Car competition was Jack Beckman, earning the No. 2 seed for eliminations behind polesitter Del Worsham, based on his Friday night elapsed time effort of 4.063-seconds. Beckman also earned five qualifying bonus point behind the wheel of his Dodge Charger R/T and will face off against Terry Haddock in the opening round of eliminations.

"We got points both of the first two sessions and more important we got good data and it gives you the luxury to try some things," said Beckman who is chasing his first win at the Houston track and hoping to end a victory drought that goes back to St. Louis in 2012. "We got to put a different clutch disc in for Saturday which will eventually become part of our tune-up and we need to find out what it wants for tune-up, so I'm very happy. I'm real confident right now."

Tommy Johnson Jr. had another strong qualifying performance in his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T, earning the No.3 spot for a third consecutive national event with an elapsed time run of 4.068 seconds (312.21 mph), to set up a battle against Jeff Arend.

It will be a tough first round match-up for HEMI-powered teammates Ron Capps (4.079 / 310.34) and Matt Hagan (4.190 / 288.64) who qualified in sixth and 11th place respectively.

"We definitely never want to race our teammate in the first round on Sunday but it happens," said Hagan who would like to return to the winner’s circle after posting his first career win here in 2010. "There's no doubt that it's going to be a good race. It's been a packed house here and hopefully everybody comes back out tomorrow for a great show and we're racing late into the day." Mopar fans can tune in to the 27th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals, the sixth of 24 events on the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season schedule, on ESPN2 (HD) for three hours of eliminations coverage on Sunday, April 27, beginning at 7 p.m. (ET).

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