February 14, 2013 , Pomona, Calif. – This weekend’s Winternationals at the historic Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif., marks the start of the 2013 National Hot Rod Association Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season and Mopar is ready to pick things up right where it left off in 2012. Defending the two championships earned last season in both Pro Stock and Funny Car classes is at the top of that list.
“After earning two NHRA Championship titles, our Mopar drivers have set the bar high for this new season,” said Pietro Gorlier, President and CEO of Mopar, Chrysler Group’s service, parts and customer-care brand. “We are looking forward to an exciting and competitive year watching our Mopar drivers and teams highlight the strength of our HEMI®-powered Dodge entries in both Pro Stock and Funny Car, and ultimately battle for win titles at every race event in defense of both championships.“
There will be a total of eight full-time HEMI-powered Dodge entries competing in the NHRA pro classes in 2013.
In Pro Stock, Allen Johnson and Jeg Coughlin Jr. will fly the Mopar banner on their Avengers with Vincent Nobile completing the trio of teammates, and Vieri Gaines rounding out the HEMI-powered entries.
In Funny Car, all four Don Schumacher Racing entries will run the Dodge Charger R/T and iconic HEMI engine, with Matt Hagan sporting the special Mopar scheme at seven events throughout the year. Hagan, winner of the 2011 world title, along with current champ Jack Beckman and fellow teammates Ron Capps and Johnny Gray will attempt to defend Mopar’s World Championship for a third consecutive year.
Pro Stock Rewind and Fast Forward
In the last season’s NHRA finale, Allen Johnson not only earned his first NHRA Pro Stock World Championship, Mopar’s first since 1994, but he did it in commanding fashion with a title win, his first at Pomona, to cap off a career season. Johnson won seven race titles in 2012, led all pro-category drivers in round wins, battled his way to 11 final round appearances including five of six in the Countdown to the Championship, and posted a class-best 10 No. 1 Qualifier positions. Now his Johnson & Johnson Racing team’s goal is to carry that consistency and momentum into the new season starting this weekend at Pomona.
“We just need to maintain the same consistency we had last year, continue to make good decisions, and maintain strong engine and drivetrain reliability,” says Johnson who will sport the No. 1 decal on his Mopar Dodge Avenger this season as defending champion. “The addition of Jeg (Coughlin Jr.), along with Vincent Nobile, will certainly be an extra challenge for me, since all of us will be getting good horsepower from my dad (Roy Johnson). Our goal is to have all three Dodges in the top-five, maybe even in the first three positions, at every event. It will be up to the drivers to determine in which order. I will just have to do the best I can behind the wheel and work hard on earning another championship for Mopar.”
Joining Johnson in that quest is four-time Pro Stock World Champion Jeg Coughlin Jr., who has 52 career victories. Coughlin is looking to improve on a disappointing ninth-place finish in the last year’s standings without a win the JEGS Mail Order team driver knows that is about to change.
“The stage is set and the time has come to perform and I can tell you that I have not been this excited for a season opener in years,” says Coughlin who partnered with Johnson starting this off-season, sharing data and HEMI engines built by Roy Johnson. “Our JEGS.com Mopar Dodge Avenger has been making great laps in testing and we are stoked to showcase this J&J Racing/Roy Johnson HEMI horsepower.”
Finishing third in the standings with two wins in 2012, Mountain View Racing’s Vincent Nobile is also part of the contingency running under HEMI power supplied by Johnson’s team, adding to expectations that the trio will be both formidable teammates and competitors in the battle for another championship.
V. Gaines rounds out the number of full time HEMI-powered Dodge Avengers after finishing a career best seventh in 2012 with a win in Reading, Pa., where he also recorded the ninth quickest pass in Pro Stock history with a 6.489 second run.
Mopar’s Funny Car Battle No Laughing Matter
The battle for the Funny Car World Championship came right down to final eliminations in the 2012 season finale with Jack Beckman taking the honors over Ron Capps by just two points after an extremely competitive battle between the DSR teammates, including Johnny Gray, in the NHRA Countdown. This season, the competition is expected to be just as fierce throughout the field, making the defense of a championship, especially two in a row for Mopar with Beckman in 2012 and Matt Hagan in 2011, more challenging. But after missing out on the Countdown and winner’s circle, Hagan is approaching the task at hand with renewed confidence after reaching the semi-finals or finals at seven of the final 10 events in 2012 and posting some good results in off-season testing.
“Our season has great potential and that showed at testing last month in Florida when we ran a 4.03,” says Hagan who is in his fourth season flying the Mopar colors on his Dodge Charger R/T. “As long as we stay focused and work hard we have a lot we can accomplish this year. We still have a lot to prove to ourselves but we have all the great tools that Don Schumacher Racing provides.”
“We plan to run up front for Mopar and get back to where we were in 2011 when we won the Funny Car world championship,” adds Hagan. “We know how to do it, we’ve done it before. There’s no reason why we can’t get back to that.”
Tuning It In
This weekend’s season-opener at drag racing’s birthplace at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona is the first of 24 events on the schedule for the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 10 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, Feb. 16 and on Sunday, Feb. 17, ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage at 8 p.m. (ET).
Will you be my Valentine?
While the Mopar team will be in Pomona this Valentine’s Day, plans are already underway to mark a milestone in a love affair with the Mile-High city. This July, Mopar will celebrate its 25th anniversary as title sponsor of the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway, near Denver, Colo. Mopar will return to the venue as defending title winners after Allen Johnson posted his fourth win at the scenic track in 2012.