Third Consecutive All-Mopar Funny Car Final Sends Capps to Epping Winner’s Circle, Johnson Powers Dodge Dart to Pro Stock Final

  • 1 qualifier Ron Capps earns second victory of season with NHRA New England Nationals title in Mopar Dodge Charger R/T
  • New England Nationals title moves Capps up to No. 3 in series standings
  • Mopar-powered Dodge Dart driver Allen Johnson reaches first NHRA Pro Stock final of season, 57th of career

Auburn Hills, Michigan (June 6, 2016) – The ninth race of 24 in the 2016 season of NHRA Drag Racing saw a trio of Mopar-powered Dodge entries in final-round competition. In Funny Car, Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) driver Ron Capps squared off with teammate and fellow Mopar Dodge Charger R/T pilot Tommy Johnson Jr., with Capps hoisting the trophy at the end of the racetrack. In Pro Stock, Allen Johnson became the first factory hot rod campaigner of the season to command a Mopar Dodge Dart to the final round of eliminations in a rain-delayed Monday finish to the Fourth Annual NHRA New England Nationals.

Qualifying went off without a hitch for Capps, who was situated neatly on the pole for the second time this season and 19th time overall in his steadily charging Dodge following four 3-second passes – including the second-quickest run in the history of the category (3.865).

Capps was on a roll, but Mother Nature threw the NHRA teams a curveball as rain descended upon New England Dragway on Sunday and put a day-long hold on the action. Teams rallied and regrouped on Monday under sunny skies and with quite different track conditions.

Maintaining his stranglehold on the power of his Mopar beast, Capps drove to four consecutive 3.9-second passes en route to the 47th Funny Car win of a career which spans two decades. It was the second win of the year for Capps, who kicked off the season with a Winternationals victory, and a repeat performance of his 2014 triumph at New England Dragway. With the win, he pulled to within 22 marks of the Funny Car points lead.

In round one, Capps went head-to-head with Funny Car newcomer Dave Richards, and he handily disposed of his opponent with a strong 3.921-second pass at 322.19 mph in his Mopar-powered Dodge Charger R/T to overpower a 4.135/306.12. On the other side of the ladder, Johnson Jr. sent part-time competitor Jeff Diehl away empty handed with a 3.960/322.81 to 4.092/306.40, while Mopar-power gave the upper hand to DSR teammates Matt Hagan (4.081/311.13 over John Hale’s 4.046/309.06) and Jack Beckman (3.935/325.14 over Cruz Pedregon’s 4.007/312.06).

Beckman’s Dodge Charger made the quickest pass in the second round with a cool 3.937/325.30, but the impressive run simply wasn’t enough after Johnson Jr. took the lead in his Make-A-Wish branded Mopar at the starting line. Johnson Jr. got the win light by a mere .002-second as he tripped the final timer on the drag strip with a 3.956/320.51. Capps matched his eventual final-round opponent’s elapsed time precisely as he clocked a 3.956/323.12 to send Courtney Force home on a 3.999/323.04. A third consecutive trophy was not meant to be for back-to-back victor Hagan, who ran into trouble on the strip and fell to Del Worsham in round two, 3.969/324.75 to 4.930/158.69.

Capps and Johnson Jr. again matched one another in terms of elapsed time in their respective semifinal rounds, but his opponent earned lane choice for the final lap of the day with a faster speed – Capps advanced with a 3.926/318.69 over John Force’s 3.966/319.14 and Johnson Jr. got ahead of Worsham, 3.926/323.89 to 3.965/324.44. Epping marked the second event in which the two would compete against one another for the title; they last met in the final round at the 1999 NHRA event at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading.

Although Johnson Jr., in his 34th final, left the starting line first in a meeting of powerful Mopar Dodge Funny Cars at New England Dragway, Capps edged ahead at half-track and held on to take the win, 3.923/325.61 to 3.947/322.11.

In Pro Stock, Mopar-powered Allen Johnson took another big chunk out of the performance gap between his Marathon Petroleum/J&J Racing Dodge Dart and the teams who have led the field all season. Johnson, the No. 6 seed and 2013 New England Nationals winner, rocketed into eliminations with a 6.639/208.20 victory over Chris McGaha’s 6.653/208.71, and the hits kept coming as he put together a strong package against Vincent Nobile in round two that included a near-psychic .014-second reaction time and a 6.662/208.65 to his challenger’s 6.683/209.49.

The semifinals saw Johnson overcome tire shake to knock out Shane Gray, 6.726/207.72 to 6.737/208.88 and advance to the 57th final round of his career. The 2012 Pro Stock champion and Greg Anderson had previously met in the final round on seven occasions, and this time Johnson made a very quick move to take an early advantage, slapping a .018-second reaction time on his opponent, who was .041 at the tree. At the top end, though, the win light flashed in Anderson’s lane, 6.598/210.44 to 6.673/208.71.

Monday was an early day for defending and two-time Pro Stock world champion Erica Enders and the Mopar Performance Dodge Dart team. The father/son crew chief duo of Rick and Rickie Jones made monumental changes to their racecar in pursuit of success; however, a first-round meeting with Alex Laughlin did not end in their favor. Enders left the starting line first but it was Laughlin who would move on, 6.622/209.14 to 6.684/207.15.

The Elite Motorsports group, including Enders and Jeg Coughlin Jr., continue to work on finding the right combination with the newly mandated electronic fuel injection (EFI) and 10,500 rpm rev limiter.

Five-time Pro Stock champion Coughlin Jr. also exited in the first round in Epping, but the performance of his “Magneti Marelli offered by Mopar” JEGS.com Dodge Dart showed the team that they are on the right path, particularly during qualifying when the bright yellow and red Mopar machine dipped into the 6.5-second zone for the first time this season.

The Mopar teams will next compete at the NHRA Summernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J., June 9-12. It will be the 10th of 24 races on the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

2016 NHRA Championship Points Standings
(Following the NHRA Epping Event)

PRO STOCK (season wins in parentheses)

  1. Jason Line – 1,026 (5)
  2. Greg Anderson – 937 (4)
  3. Bo Butner – 680
  4. Allen Johnson – (Dodge Dart) – 559
  5. Drew Skillman – 497
  6. Chris McGaha – 459
  7. Vincent Nobile – 405
  8. Alex Laughlin – 381
  9. Erica Enders – (Dodge Dart) – 373
  10. Jeg Coughlin Jr. – (Dodge Dart) – 372
  11. Shane Gray – 371
  12. V. Gaines – (Dodge Dart) – 280

FUNNY CAR (season wins in parentheses)

  1. Courtney Force 654 (1)
  2. Jack Beckman – (Dodge Charger R/T) – 639
  3. Ron Capps – (Dodge Charger R/T) – 632 (2)
  4. Tim Wilkerson – 608 (2)
  5. Del Worsham – 558
  6. Matt Hagan – (Dodge Charger R/T) – 556 (2)
  7. Robert Hight – 545 (1)
  8. John Force – 527
  9. Tommy Johnson Jr. – (Dodge Charger R/T) – 503
  10. Alexis DeJoria – 483 (1)