Mopar’s Mile-High Marvel!
Marquee NHRA Pro Stock driver Allen Johnson continued his amazing domination of Pro Stock class racing at high altitudes following yet another convincing and timely win. “AJ” prevailed again during his team’s primary sponsored annual major event – the NHRA Mopar Mile-High Nationals….
J.R. Todd (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also winners in their respective Pro categories at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event held outside of Denver at fabulous Bandimere Raceway.
In the game of thrones to decide the king of Thunder Mountain, Team Mopar driver Allen Johnson once again proved that he is the undisputed ruler at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals. The “Magneti Marelli Quality Auto Parts Offered by Mopar” Dodge Dart NHRA Pro Stock driver claimed his sixth event crown in eight years at Bandimere Speedway, located in the picturesque Rocky Mountains, and his third straight win at sponsor Mopar’s headline event, defeating J&J Racing teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. in an all-Mopar final fight. The triumph is the 24th of Johnson’s career and fourth of the season, and comes during Mopar’s marking of the 50th anniversary of the 426 HEMI engine, as well as the celebration of 100 years of the Dodge brand.
Johnson also continued another amazing streak, advancing to the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals final round for the eighth-consecutive year. Johnson’s win is the sixth of the season for Mopar HEMI-powered Pro Stock competitors, and at least one Mopar-powered Pro Stock or Funny Car driver has advanced to the final round at nine consecutive events, dating back to the NHRA Houston race in April.
“Congratulations to Allen (Johnson) and the team for driving the Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar Dodge Dart to an incredible sixth career win at Bandimere Speedway,” said Pietro Gorlier, President and CEO of Mopar, Chrysler Group’s service, parts and customer-care brand. “What a great way to add to our celebration of the 426 Race HEMI at our signature event. Four wins and five final elimination appearances this season to date show how much work and determination Allen and his Mopar team have put in to battle a tough Pro Stock class in defense of the Championship.”
With track temps over 100 degrees, Johnson started hot out of the No. 2 spot, unleashing a 6.933-second elapsed time and the track-record fastest speed ever at Bandimere Speedway, 199.23 mph, to send home Tommy Lee in the first round. Johnson took down Chris McGaha to move on to the semifinals, clocking a 6.959/198.50 winning pass in his Magneti Marelli Mopar Dodge Dart. The Greeneville, Tennessee native then ran down Dave Connolly with a 6.952/198.64 to advance to his eighth-consecutive final round appearance at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, and the 50th final of his career.
Defending 2013 NHRA Pro Stock Series world champ Jeg Coughlin Jr.’s road to the final began from the No. 4 spot with a 6.940/198.44 pass and a victory over Mopar HEMI Pro Stock driver Deric Kramer. In a heavyweight quarterfinals showdown of prior Pro Stock champs, Coughlin earned the win light over Greg Anderson, recording a 6.944/198.44 run. In the semis, with teammate Johnson cheering him on at the top end, Coughlin used a lightning-quick .002 reaction time off the starting line in his Jegs Dodge Dart and a 6.931/198.76 pass to down another Pro Stock champ, Jason Line, and advance to his fifth final-round at Bandimere, fourth of 2014 and 97th of his career.
In a matchup of Mopar Dodge Darts carrying Roy Johnson-supplied HEMI engines under the hood, Coughlin was a bit too early on the tree, fouling out on a red-light as Johnson drove to his quickest run of eliminations, a 6.930/198.61, to seize his sixth Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals crown. The showdown also marked the third straight all-Mopar Pro Stock final at Bandimere (Johnson defeated Colorado native V. Gaines in the money round in 2012 and 2013). Hometown favorite Gaines exited in round one, as did Mopar-powered pilot Matt Hartford.
“This team just continues to find a way to do it,” said Johnson, who with the victory is now second-time all-time in Pro Stock wins at the venue, located near Denver, behind only Pro Stock legend Bob Glidden. “We want to win here for Mopar and Magneti Marelli, and my guys step up and I step up. It’s a confidence thing. It’s just deep in our gut and we keep doing it.”
Johnson was also in line for his fifth straight No. 1 spot at Bandimere before losing it on the final pass of qualifying on Saturday, a challenge to his domination he didn’t take lightly.
“It’s extra motivation,” said Johnson. “It puts fire in my belly when we get hit with like something like that. He (Jason Line) took my number one spot away from me, and you’re dang tootin’ it fired me up. It fired up Jeg (Coughlin Jr.) up. When Jeg took him out in the semifinals, I was ready to jump on the hood of his car when he came around the corner. Both of us in the finals — it was a great day at that point.
“This was the first race I ever qualified at in 1996, and that is the only race that I qualified for that year. I have qualified for every single one (here) since then. It’s very important to us. It’s almost like a championship to us to excite all the Mopar executives and everyone that comes out to watch us, but it gets tougher every year.”
Also announced during the event, was a three-year extension of Mopar’s title rights sponsorship of the Mile-High Nationals, which began in 1989. The brand’s current 26-year relationship with the Bandimere’s family Thunder Mountain track and continuous support of the national event is the longest running title sponsorship in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, and among the longest in all of motorsports.
“Mopar and the mountain and me, we’re married,” said Johnson. “We’re going to take that deal and run with it the next three years and break Bob Glidden’s record and be the king of the mountain for a long time.”
“The Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals is the flagship event for our brand, our fans and our customers, and this agreement reinforces our commitment to our ‘home track,’ Bandimere Speedway, and to NHRA drag racing,” said Gorlier. “Together, we have made the annual visit to ‘Thunder Mountain’ an iconic stop on the NHRA schedule.”
Todd, driver of the Optima Batteries dragster owned by Connie Kalitta, trailed Brittany Force at the start of the run but was able to defeat the driver of the Castrol Edge dragster with a run of 3.878 seconds at 317.87 mph to the losing pass of Force at 3.968 at 297.35. This is the second win at Bandimere Speedway for Todd who claimed his first career NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series win at the facility in 2006.
Todd defeated Terry McMillan, Steve Torrence, and Larry Dixon en route to the final round.
“These things are hard to come by whether you are full time or part time,” said Todd, who returned to racing full time this season at the event in Gainesville. “I knew at the time I got the opportunity to drive for the Kalitta group it was probably the best opportunity I was ever going to have to win one of these things.”
With the victory, Todd moves from 10th in points to the eighth with only four races left until the Countdown to the Championship, which begins in Charlotte in September.
“I’m pretty solid now but I want a cushion,” he continued. “I want to make the Countdown because after that, anything can happen. We were fortunate enough to put a little distance on the guys behind us and gain on the ones in front of us.”
In Funny Car, Hight’s Auto Club Ford Mustang able to defeat team owner John Force for his fifth win of the season and 34th of his career. In the championship round, Hight won with a 4.166 at 306.05 to the losing effort of 5.953 at 121.42. Hight raced to six consecutive final round appearances early in the season but hadn’t raced to the finals in the past six events.
“We were doing well and then we had some bad luck but even when we were winning we were getting some luck,” said Hight, the 2012 Funny Car world champ. “In 2012 I won four races to start the season then it took another year to get another win. Stuff like that was crossing my mind because it isn’t easy to win out here.”
Hight and his team also have reason to celebrate, as they became the first of the Funny Car competitors to secure a position in the Top 10 for the Countdown to the Championship.
“I’m looking forward to the Countdown; we’re solidified in there now,” he said. “This car and this whole team is perfection. That’s what we’re all about and we want to show it. We came out with a brand new car this weekend. Usually new cars drive me crazy because everything in them is different. But, my guys are so good, if they hadn’t told me, I wouldn’t have known it was a new car.”
Hines rode his Screamin’ Eagle/Vance &Hines Harley-Davidson to his fourth race win of the season in Pro Stock Motorcycle when he defeated Michael Ray in the finals. Hines recorded a pass of 7.426 at 184.35 to the trailing run of 9.033 at 103.64.
“Up here, every little move is compounded because you don’t have enough power to overcome mistakes like short shifts or body movements,” Hines said. “This place also throws your mental timing off. You have to be focused, and thankfully, I had a V-Rod that went straight down the track. I lived here [in Colorado] for 10 years, and this place is very special to me. I made my first laps here, and I love this facility. I love the fans and the scenery. We might have had an advantage when we lived here, but lately, the Arana’s have dominated. They’ve been No. 1 in qualifying for the last three years.”
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series returns to action at the NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway, July 25-27.
Event Essentials: 35th Mopar Mile High Nationals (July 18-20th) Morrison, CO.
|Low ET:||Tony Schumacher||3.828|
|Top Speed:||Steve Torrence||322.96|
|Low ET:||John Force||4.049|
|Top Speed:||John Force||318.39|
|Low ET:||Jason Line||6.924|
|Top Speed:||Allen Johnson||199.23|
|Pro Stock Motorcycle|
|Low ET:||Hector Arana Jr.||7.178|
|Top Speed:||Hector Arana Jr.||186.72|
The Lucas Oil Lowdown – Mile-High Edition!
Four drivers scored their first ever NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series national event wins this past weekend for the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway. Brenda Grubbs, Jeremy Demers, Branden Rhodes and Ryan Julius all celebrated in the winner’s circle as they took home their first national event Wally trophies.
Grubbs, Magnolia, Texas, advanced to her second national event final round and closed the deal on local racer Scott Burton, Golden, Colo., for the Stock title as did Demers, Carroll, Iowa, to Mitch Mustard, Arvada, Colo., in the Super Comp final. Burton left early with a red-light foul start as Grubbs ran it out to an 11.113 second pass at 119.57 mph while Demers took the starting line advantage and held on with a lap of 9.524, 160.29 to Mustard’s quicker 9.515, 166.60.
18 year old Branden Rhodes, Sterling, Colo., had to run down George Slatten, Santa Fe., N.M., who took the early lead in the Top Dragster final round and Ryan Julius, Brighton, Colo., posted a .022 package against George’s brother Dave Slatten, Ft. Collins, Colo., in Top Sportsman for his first win. Rhodes covered the quarter mile in 6.747 seconds at 204.60 mph to run down George’s 7.055, 193.05. Julius, in his first national event final round, got the holeshot and forced Dave to breakout by .001 seconds as Julius clocked in at 7.885, 173.96.
2011 NHRA Lucas Oil Super Stock National Champion and 2011 Denver event champion Jackie Alley joined in on the fun beating Tyler Wudarczyk, Wakarusa, Kan., in a double break out Super Stock Final round. Alley, out of Eagle, Idaho, went 10.175 on her 10.18 dial to Wudarczyk’s 11.186, 11.20.
Rounding out the event winners were James Kunkel, Wichita, Kan., and Brian Percival, Lakewood, Colo., in Super Gas and Super Street respectively. Kunkel bagged his sixth win beating Bradley Johnson, Morrison, Colo., in a close final round, 10.487 to 10.482. Percival used a .010 second package to end Chris Bombard’s day as both were near identical off the line with Percival running 11.504 in his Dodge Dart.
Posted with files from: Pat Caporali, Chris Lawyer, Eric Lotz & Bruce Biegler
All Photos by: Bruce Biegler
To view DragRaceCanada’s extensive Mopar Mile-High Nationals Photo Gallery click : HERE