Mopar drivers and teams rolled out solid qualifying performances for the Arizona Nationals at Firebird International Raceway, the second event on the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule. Don Schumacher Racing’s Johnny Gray drove his Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car to the top of the scoring sheets in a dominant manner with the two best runs of qualifying, posting a pass of 4.034 seconds at 313.80 mph to earn the top qualifier honors. It is the second consecutive year Gray has earned the pole position at Phoenix and the fourth time of his career.
DSR teammate Matt Hagan put his Mopar into the No. 2 spot with a best run in Friday qualifying of 4.062 sec / 311.20 mph. Fellow DSR driver Ron Capps, currently second in the Funny Car standings on the basis of his runner-up finish in the season opener last weekend, posted the fifth quickest pass, while another Mopar teammate, Jack Beckman, has qualified tenth. Jeff Arend (13th) and Todd Lesenko (14th) bring the total to six Dodge Charger R/T entries in the sixteen qualified positions for the elimination rounds.
In Pro Stock qualifying, all four full-time Mopar entries earned spots in top half of 16-car field for final eliminations with a total of seven Dodge Avengers moving on to compete on Sunday.
V. Gaines led the HEMI®-powered contingency in both Friday qualifying sessions by posting the second quickest elapsed time run of 6.529 sec / 212.63 mph which was good enough to keep him in the No. 2 qualifier position. The No.1 qualifier moniker went to Mike Edwards who set a track record low e.t and top speed of 6.498 sec /213.13 mph.
Mopar’s Allen Johnson posted the best run of the third qualifying session with a 6.542 second, 212.03 mph pass to earn a three point bonus and secure a fifth place spot. Jeg Coughlin Jr., runner-up in the season opener, qualified right behind his teammate in sixth spot.
“We’re steadily making ground with both Mopar cars and the things we tried on mine in the third round, we put on Jeggy’s (Coughlin) car in the fourth round so he picked up a little there,” says Johnson. “We have very raceable cars for tomorrow. We’re not quite as fast as we want to be but we’re close and still leaving a little on the table. Having lane choice is going to be really critical for tomorrow’s racing as the right lane is much better than the left, so we want to maintain lane choice at all costs.”
Last week’s winner at Pomona and Pro Stock points leader Vincent Nobile claimed the eighth quickest qualifying run of the weekend, which means all four Mopar drivers will be given the all-important lane choice for first round of final eliminations. Nobile, Coughlin and Gaines currently hold the top three positions in the points standing while Johnson is in sixth place.
Three additional Dodge Avengers have made the field with Chris McGaha, Matt Hartford and Deric Kramer securing the 12th, 13th and 14th spots respectively.
The Arizona Nationals will be broadcast on ESPN2 and ESPN2HD with 90 minutes of qualifying coverage airing on Sunday, Feb. 24 at 1 a.m. (ET) and again at 8 a.m. (ET). Three hours and 30 minutes of final elimination coverage will be presented Sunday evening starting at 8 p.m. (ET).
Funny Car 1st Round Match-Ups:
1. Johnny Gray (Dodge Charger R/T) vs. 16. Robert Hight
2. Matt Hagan (Dodge Charger R/T) vs. 15. Phil Burkart
3. Courtney Force vs. 14. Todd Lesenko (Dodge Charger R/T)
4. Cruz Pedregon vs. 13. Jeff Arend (Dodge Charger R/T)
5. Ron Capps(Dodge Charger R/T) vs. 12. Tony Pedregon
6. John Force vs. 11. Alexis DeJoria
7. Bob Tasca III vs. 10. Jack Beckman (Dodge Charger R/T)
8. Tim Wilkerson vs. 9. Del Worsham
Pro Stock 1st Round Match-Ups:
1. Mike Edwards vs. 16. Steve Kent
2. V. Gaines (Dodge Avenger) vs. 15. Larry Morgan
3. Jason Line vs. 14. Deric Kramer (Dodge Avenger)
4. Greg Anderson vs. 13. Matt Hartford (Dodge Avenger)
5. Allen Johnson (Dodge Avenger) vs. 12. Chris McGaha (Dodge Avenger)
6. Jeg Coughlin (Dodge Avenger) vs. 11. Rodger Brogdon
7. Erica Enders-Stevens vs. 10. Shane Gray
8. Vincent Nobile (Dodge Avenger) vs. 9. Greg Stanfield