This year marks the 25th anniversary of Mopar’s sponsorship of major-league drag racing at Bandimere, which sits at 5,200 feet above sea level and challenges teams to find power and downforce. So it’s fitting that a pair of Mopar legends take prime roles at the event.
Driver Gary Scelzi, known as the “Wild Thing” during his 12-year NHRA career that ended after the 2008 season, serves as the Grand Marshal for this year’s Mopar Mile-High Nationals. During a career that included 37 NHRA wins, Scelzi captured the 2005 Funny Car championship in a Mopar/Oakley Dodge campaigned by Don Schumacher Racing.
Scelzi will be back with Don Schumacher this weekend as the former racer and now top-flight team owner will be the Honorary Starter for the Mopar Mile-High Nationals. “The Shoe” notched his first win in 1970 in a Plymouth ‘Cuda Funny Car and continues his Mopar success today with Don Schumacher Racing, where 2011 champion Matt Hagan leads the Funny Car standings in his Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar Dodge Charter R/T.
In his fifth year of NHRA racing, Hagan has already collected eight trophies and 20 final round appearances in Funny Car, including three wins this season. In his championship 2011 season, Hagan became the first Funny Car driver to break the 3-second mark with a run of 3.995 seconds.
Hagan’s Funny Car teammates at Don Schumacher Racing – Ron Capps, Jack Beckman and Johnny Gray – all drive Dodge Charger R/Ts.
Johnson has driven Mopar-powered cars throughout his entire 18-year pro career, racking up 19 wins and 42 final round appearances. And Bandimere has been one of his best tracks – he’s been in the final round the past six years and collected four wins, including the 2012 Mopar Mile-High Nationals. Johnson has three wins so far this year and stands second in points in Pro Stock.
Coughlin is just behind Johnson in the points standings, having collected two event wins so far this season. This is Coughlin’s second year back running Pro Stock full time after taking a year off from racing. A member of a well-known racing family, Coughlin is a five-time NHRA champion with four Pro Stock titles.
Pro Stock drivers Vincent Nobile, V. Gaines and Matt Hartford also compete with Mopar power.
The Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals will be televised on the ESPN2 network. You plan on catching the race?