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Jun 21, 2014 - 05:58 AM
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2014 NHRA: Mopar Motorsports - NHRA New England Nationals Preview
Posted by: newsla on Jun 21, 2014 - 05:57 AM
NHRA
2014 NHRA: Mopar Motorsports - NHRA New England Nationals Preview


Near perfect track conditions on Friday evening provided Mopar teams and drivers the opportunity to make it a record breaking weekend in a return to New England Dragway this weekend for the 2nd Annual NHRA New England Nationals, just north of Boston, in Epping, New Hampshire,.

 

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On both Friday Pro Stock qualifying runs, Mopar’s Jeg Coughlin Jr. set the track record for speed in the JEGS.com Dodge Dart, first with a 213.94 mile per hour pass, and then raised the bar in cooler evening temperatures at 214.25 mph. His first elapsed time run of 6.519 seconds put him second on the score sheets behind competitor and points leader Erica Enders-Steven, who lowered the e.t. track record to 6.514 seconds. Coughlin dropped to fifth after the second session behind provisional pole sitter Shane Gray who bettered the track record with an e.t. of 6.485 seconds.

Coughlin, however, is on a roll with two wins, a runner-up and a semifinal in the four events leading up to the New England Nationals and a 13-2 round-win record since the Atlanta event last month. New England Dragway remains only one of just two active national event facilities (along with Norwalk) where the Mopar driver has yet to win a race. He had a semifinal finish at the inaugural event in 2013.

"I'd love to add a win there to my résumé,” said Coughlin. “Still, what you've done in the past and the various places where we've won doesn't give us any sort of advantage heading into a fresh race. We all start at zero, and we're OK with that."

The defending Pro Stock title winner, Allen Johnson, was a bit conservative in his first lap, driving his “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” Dodge Dart to a 6.538 sec (212.79 mph) pass and the fifth quickest run of the session. His second attempt however was thwarted by an electrical issue and with improved conditions and quicker times run by most entries, it dropped the HEMI-powered driver to the 11th spot on the qualifying sheets.

“We made a pretty decent pass on the first run and left a little on the table but then had a malfunction on the second run that has us scratching our head a little,” said Johnson who has combined with Coughlin to win three of the last four national event. “It’s good luck that we have the issue now instead of Sunday because we’re looking to defend our win. We love it here. The track, the air and especially the fans make this such a great event. Conditions won’t be quite as perfect for tomorrow’s qualifying but the morning session might be close and we should make up some spots. Sunday is what counts.”

Fellow HEMI-powered Dodge Dart driver V. Gaines saw his 6.551 second (211.89 mph) run put him 12th.

In Funny Car action, last week’s Thunder Valley Nationals title winner, Don Schumacher Racing’s Tommy Johnson Jr., finds himself third in points and carried the momentum from his victory into this weekend by driving his Mopar to a provisional fourth place qualifying spot with a 4.033-second e.t. at 318 mph on his second run.

Teammate Jack Beckman was sixth in his Dodge Charger R/T with a best pass of 4.061 second (313.80 mph) to put him just ahead of Mopar Express Lane driver, Matt Hagan (4.083 / 2297.61), who hazed the tires on his second attempt and sits in seventh spot.

After starting the year with runner-up finish in Pomona, Calif., Hagan has five first-round losses weighing on him. However, after advancing to a second semifinal round of the season last weekend at Bristol Dragway, he is feeling better about the progress the team is making.

"It's time to win, there's no doubt about that," said Hagan who finds himself tenth in Funny Car points standings but within striking distance of fifth place with a few more round wins. "Our performance in Bristol really got confidence back in our team which was huge. It's no secret that we've just kind of been hit or miss this year and we're going to hit our stride soon. We're 10th and we need to make up some ground. We need to go rounds and pick up a trophy here in this four-race stretch. It's definitely doable. We're all close in points so it's possible to make a big jump.”

Mopar teammate Ron Capps also saw a lack of traction cost him a chance to better his 4.102 second first run and has him ninth overall in qualifying which was led by provisional pole sitter Robert Hight with a 3.988 (321.58 mph) effort.

Qualifying continues with the final two sessions on Saturday, June 21, and complete highlights to be broadcast on ESPN2HD with a one hour broadcast at 7 p.m. (ET). Elimination rounds for the 2nd annual NHRA New England Nationals will be broadcast live on ESPN starting at 1 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, June 22.

2014 NHRA Points Standings
(Following Bristol NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals)

PRO STOCK (season wins in parentheses)
1. Erica Enders Stevens – 908 (3)
2. Jeg Coughlin Jr. – Dodge Dart – 753 (2)
3. Allen Johnson – Dodge Dart – 704 (3)
4. Jason Line – 698 (1)
5. Shane Gray – 651
6. Vincent Nobile – 617
7. Dave Connolly – 587
8. V. Gaines – Dodge Dart – 487
9. Chris McGaha – 459
10. Rodger Brogden – 390

FUNNY CAR (season wins in parentheses)
1. Robert Hight – 905 (4)
2. John Force – 640 (1)
3. Tommy Johnson Jr. – Dodge Charger R/T – 547 (1)
4. Alexis DeJoria – 619 (2)
5. Del Worsham – 593
6. Courtney Force – 581
7. Ron Capps – Dodge Charger R/T – 571
8. Cruz Pedregon – 538 (1)
9. Tim Wilkerson – 533
10. Matt Hagan – Dodge Charger R/T – 527
11. Jack Beckman – Dodge Charger R/T– 512

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