More Mopar at Topeka!

The Mopar brand within NHRA drag racing continued it’s rather dominating 2013 season run with Jeg Coughlin and Johnny Gray winning during NHRA’s Kansas Nationals held at Heartland Park Topeka. The event also featured a big win for Shawn Langdon in Top Fuel as well as Canadian-based cars winning both of the event’s Top Alcohol titles…

For a second time this season, two Dodge entries doubled up to take title wins in both the Pro Stock and Funny Car classes at the NHRA Kansas Nationals with drivers Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Johnny Gray taking home special-edition silver Wally trophies in honor of the event’s 25th anniversary. Each driver’s trip to the winner’s circle was notable for number of reasons.

Before the final elimination round came down to a Mopar versus Mopar face-off between Coughlin and his teammate Allen Johnson, his second round victory gave him a milestone 500 career round wins. He becomes the fifth Pro Stock driver to reach that plateau along with Greg Anderson, Bob Glidden, Kurt Johnson, and Warren Johnson.

The all Mopar brand Pro Stock final saw Jeg Coughlin edge out Allen Johnson

The all Mopar brand Pro Stock final saw Jeg Coughlin edge out Allen Johnson

Coughlin advanced to his 88th career final round appearance to earn a 53rd career win with a 6.680-second pass at 206.20 mph over Johnson’s elapsed time of 6.698 sec (206.57 mph) after both drivers recorded .013 second reaction times. It was the third time this season that Coughlin was involved in an all-Mopar final elimination. Previously, the driver of the Dodge Avenger was defeated by Vincent Nobile for the win in the season opening event at Pomona, then finished runner-up to Johnson at the Gatornationals.

“Any day you are hoisting a Wally at the end of the day is a good thing and it’s what you work for and that final round ranks up there with some of the best races I’ve ever won,” said Coughlin who maintains his second place spot in the points battle but is closing the gap on the leader Mike Edwards. “Today was extra-special for several reasons. We hadn’t won in a couple of years. To finally get a Wally on Sunday is exactly what the doctor ordered. We have been working hard and trying to work smart, and today was our day and it felt fantastic.”

“All of us at Mopar are excited to see Jeg (Coughlin Jr.) back in the winner’s circle after a strong start to the season and be part of his 500th round win milestone,” said Pietro Gorlier, President and CEO of Mopar, Chrysler Group LLC’s service, parts and customer-care brand. “We began a great partnership with Jeg last year and it’s great to see him back on top with this win at the Kansas Nationals. We look forward to seeing him contending for many more wins this year with the powerful Mopar HEMI engine under the hood of his Dodge. “

Jeg Coughlin's 53rd career win included a milestone 500th round win.

Jeg Coughlin’s 53rd career win included a milestone 500th round win.

While three Mopars made the semifinals in Pro Stock, the same transpired in Funny Car with Dodge Charger R/T contingent of Johnny Gray, Jack Beckman and Ron Capps all advancing. Matt Hagan’s ‘Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar’ wasn’t quite as lucky falling in the first round to Bob Tasca.

In the semifinals, Beckman, who was the defending event winner, fell to Gray who would meet up for a final round elimination against Robert Hight after he defeated Capps. Gray earned his first victory at the Heartland Park Topeka track in the Pitch Energy Dodge Charger with a final run of 4.067 seconds (314.90 mph) after Hight lost traction early in the run.

Gray is having a banner year for Mopar and his Don Schumacher Racing team.  With a victory at the previous event in Atlanta, not only does he have wins in back-to-back races for the first time in his career, bringing his career total to six, but he now also has sole possession of the points lead in the Funny Car championship for another career first. Highlights for Gray this season also include wins in all three of his final round appearances with his Dodge Charger R/T, a no.1 qualifier position at Phoenix and a semifinal appearance in the season opener at Pomona.

“My crew chief Rob (Wendland) gave me a great race car that ran real hard all day,” said Gray. “Sometimes you can win races on an intimidation factor and Rob had her tuned up to where she was a little intimidating today. My guys are giving me a car I can’t screw up in right now.”

“It was great to see Don Schumacher Racing’s Johnny Gray add a third win today to the strong start to the year he’s had in the Dodge Charger R/T,” Gorlier said. “Earning wins in both Pro Stock and Funny Car classes for the second time this year after first doing it at the Gatornationals, is a great way to reinforce all the hard work that Mopar HEMI-powered teams and drivers are putting in early in the season to defend both World titles.”

Johnny Gray's 3rd win of 2013 has put him into the FC points lead.  He defeated  Robert Hight in the Topeka final.

Johnny Gray’s 3rd win of 2013 has put him into the FC points lead. He defeated Robert Hight in the Topeka final.

In Top Fuel, Langdon used the quickest time of the weekend to defeat his arch-rival Tony Schumacher in the final round and take his second win of the season. Langdon covered the distance in 3.750 at 324.20 in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster, while Schumacher’s U.S. Army machine trailed with a 3.781 at 327.27. All three of Langdon’s career victories have come with seven-time world champ Schumacher as his final round opponent.

“We haven’t quite been able to finish it out on Sunday,” Langdon said. “[My crew] had the fire in their eyes today. They wanted to close it out. We didn’t want to go four races in a row feeling like we had a car that can win and not getting it done.”

Top qualifier Langdon used a string of 3.7-second runs in earlier round wins against Pat Dakin, Steve Torrence and Spencer Massey. He saved his quickest run for last against Schumacher.

“That’s [team manager/tuner] Alan Johnson, [crew chief] Brian Husen, and Al-Anabi Racing,” Langdon said. “Sheikh Khalid [bin Hamad Al Thani, owner] assembled a great team. They don’t settle for second place. They always want to have the fastest car. They really made my job easy this weekend.”

With the win, Langdon moves to second in the series standings, 34 behind leader Schumacher.

Event Essentials – NHRA Kansas Nationals (May 17-19th, 2013) Topeka, KS

TOP FUEL Name ET MPH Career Win
Winner: Shawn Langdon 3.750 324.20 3rd
R/UP: Tony Schumacher 3.781 327.27
Low ET: Shawn Langdon 3.750
Top Speed: Tony Schumacher 327.27
Bump Spot: 3.918
FUNNY CAR Name ET MPH Career Win
Winner: Johnny Gray 4.067 314.90 6th
R/UP: Robert Hight 5.085 149.40
Low ET: John Force 4.043
Top Speed: Courtney Force 315.56
Bump Spot: 4.628
PRO STOCK Name ET MPH Career Win
Winner: Jeg Coughlin 6.680 206.20 53rd
R/UP: Allen Johnson 6.698 206.57
Low ET: Mike Edwards 6.618
Top Speed: Allen Johnson 208.62
Bump Spot: 6.742
Sportsman Class Winners: Name ET MPH
Top Alcohol Dragster Alan Bradshaw 5.494 248.93
Top Alcohol FC Jirka Kaplan 5.644 252.95
Top Dragster Larry Piper 7.145 173.27
Super Stock Tim Nicholson 10.31 120.84
Stock Austin Williams 11.44 109.22
Super Comp Tommy Phillips 8.909 155.47
Super Gas Steve Williams 9.940 152.61
Super Street John Dasher  10.87  130.90 


It was certainly “Oh Canada” at Topeka as Canadian teams swept the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Top Alcohol Divisions when Alan Bradshaw picked up his first win in 10 years in Top Alcohol Dragster and Jirka Kaplan earned his first ever in Top Alcohol Funny Car.

Bradshaw (who is from Texas) drove to victory in TAD behind the wheel of the Winnipeg-based Doucette Racing dragster which is owned by Doug Doucette.  Bradshaw got a big break in the final round when his opponent  Chris Demke’s engine went silent at the 2-3 shift, allowing Bradshaw, who last scored in 2003, when he won the national championship driving for Randy Meyer’s team, to race by for a 5.49 win. Demke’s blower snout broke, which shed the belt, slowed him to a 5.86, and left him with three runner-ups in three national event finals this year and four in four career finals in Topeka.

Alan Bradshaw drove Doug Doucette's Winnipeg-based dragster to the TAD title.

Alan Bradshaw drove Doug Doucette’s Winnipeg-based dragster to the TAD title.

Bradshaw, also earned round wins over Brandon Pierce (who was disqualified for a fuel violation) Rich McPhillips and #1 qualifier James Thompson,

Kaplan, who is from Calgary, got progressively quicker in every round , wheeling his Bearspaw Petroleum Mustang to a 5.689 against Charles McLaws, a 5.687 against Mark Billington, and a semifinal 5.651 against Sean Bellemeur’s Mastercam Camaro. His best run of eliminations, a 5.644, took out No. 1 qualifier and defending event champ Tony Bartone in the final on a slight holeshot against Bartone’s 5.640. Bartone was on time with a .052 light, but Kaplan was even quicker with a .038 that actually was his second-worst of the race.

For Kaplan, his first Alcohol Funny Car title came in just his fourth national event start in the TAFC class. He last won at the 2011 U.S. Nationals in Comp in a AA/AM ’23-T altered. Both cars were tuned by Calgary’s Les Davenport.

With the final-round appearance, his third in a row in national competition, Bartone moved into a first-place tie in the Top Alcohol Funny Car standings with Dan Pomponio, who has been to just four races this year but has won all four. Bartone established low e.t. of the meet with a 5.60 in qualifying, beat Wayne Butler with a 5.67 in round one, singled in round two, and edged Shane Westerfield on a slight holeshot in the semifinals, 5.64 to 5.63, in a rematch of last year’s final.

Jirka Kaplan and crew chief Les Davenport won in TAFC in just their 4th national event start in that category.

Jirka Kaplan and crew chief Les Davenport won in TAFC in just their 4th national event start in that category.

Tommy Phillips grabbed his 28th national event win as he defeated Jeremy Demers in Super Comp and a pair of local racers took home the honors in Top Dragster and Super Street.  Phillips went six rounds for the trophy in his ’10 dragster covering the quarter mile in 8.909 seconds at 155 mph to Demers who ran too quick on the 8.90 index.  Larry Piper, Wamgo, Kan., and John Dasher, Silver Lake, Kan., each took wins for the local fans.  Piper beat fellow Kansas racer Jackie Gerhardt, Topeka, Kan., in Top Dragster with a pass of 173 mph in 7.145 seconds for his first national event win and Dasher won on a double breakout with Ray Todd in the Super Street final.

Steve Williams put his K&N Filters ’63 Corvette in the winner’s circle for his 5th national event win and second in Super Gas while Austin Williams (no relation) went the distance in Stock Eliminator.  S. Williams, Beaumont, Calif., knocked out Shawn Carter, Park Hill, Okla., and A. Williams, ran down Russ Speer in his ’72 duster.

Tim Nicholson returned to the Heartland Park Topeka winners circle with a win over Harvey Emmons in Super Stock.  The Concordia, Kan., racer, won here back in 2010, held off Emmons with a 10.314 second pass at 120 mph in Super Stock.

Posted with files from Pat Caporali, Eric Lotz, NHRA Communications and Bruce Biegler