Joliet, Illinois (Sunday, July 12, 2015) – Chicago is Mopar’s kind of town after earning a pair of national title wins at the 18th annual Lucas Oil Route 66 National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Nationals at Route 66 Raceway thanks to victories by Allen Johnson in the Pro Stock class and Tommy Johnson Jr. in the Funny Car category.
“All of us at Mopar are very proud of Allen Johnson and Tommy Johnson Jr. for doubling up today with their wins at Chicago,” said Pietro Gorlier, President and CEO – Mopar Brand Service, Parts and Customer Care, FCA. “We’re very pleased to see both the Dodge Dart and the new 2015 Mopar Dodge Charger R/T in the winner’s circle yet again. A lot of time, investment and hard work went into designing and building these two vehicles and we’ve very pleased at the success they have shown in such competitive fields.”
For both drivers (who are not related) it was their first trip to the winner’s circle this season and their first national titles earned at the Chicagoland facility.
Allen Johnson’s well-earned Pro Stock win was the 25th of his career, and came as a relief after flirting with two recent runner-up finishes, a difficult first-half of the season, and finally brought an end to the nearly year-long drought since his last victory at the 2014 Mopar Mile High Nationals.
“I had confidence coming into Chicago but this will give us even more confidence for the western swing and namely the Mopar Mile High Nationals,” said Johnson who has sixth wins in eight years at the upcoming nationals in Denver, Colorado, and is working towards a fourth consecutive win for Mopar’s signature event at Bandimere Speedway.
“There were lots of positives today,” Johnson added. “25 wins is just unbelievable and to be put in the record books with some of the top racers in this class forever is an honor. It’s also my first win here and one of the few tracks I’d never won at so that’s another little notch in our Mopar belt. Hopefully we can build on this and turn up the heat on it for the rest of this year.”
The driver of the “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” Dodge Dart was seeded seventh on Sunday’s eliminations ladder and used a quick .017-second reaction time to get things started against his first round opponent Bo Butner and then beat him with an elapsed time run of 6.602 seconds at 209.82 mph to a 6.634/209.56 pass.
The next two round wins showed just how hungry the Mopar driver was to get back to winning form as he used a holeshots to defeat both Chris McGaha and Pro Stock points leader Greg Anderson. Johnson had a .028-second reaction time and ran a 6.606/209.62 to cross the finish line just five-thousandths of a second ahead of McGaha’s (.043-second reaction time) 6.596/210.280 pass. He then had an identical start in the semifinals with a 6.605/209.88 pass against Anderson’s 0.53-second light and quicker 6.588/210.08 for a margin of victory of 0.0088-seconds.
In Johnson’s third final round appearance of the year, he once again had the starting line advantage against Larry Morgan and then led all the way to the finish with a 6.624/209.99 run over his competitor’s 6.667/210.18 pass.
“The Mopar team has really been digging the last three or four races and we pretty much have a handle on the issues that plagued us to start the year,” said Johnson who jumps from seventh to fifth in the Pro Stock standings with today’s efforts. “We’ve struggled more at the start of this season than I think we have at any time in the last ten years but we’re finally back where we should be. I think we had a better car than we’ve shown because of some bad luck so today we really dug in, made some consistent runs and even when the heat came out in the final I was able to hold the track a little bit better than our opponent to pull off the win. Denver is a really important race for us and for Mopar, and this is just what we needed to go there firing on all HEMI cylinders.”
Tommy Johnson Jr. was the victor in his all-Mopar Funny Car category final elimination battle against Don Schumacher Racing teammate Matt Hagan who was looking to defend his consecutive title wins at Route 66 Raceway. Johnson drove his Make-A-Wish 2015 Dodge Charger R/T from a No.4 qualifier position through the ladder by beating Brian Stewart, DSR teammate Jack Beckman, and then Cruz Pedregon to advance to the his second final elimination round of the year.
In what was the fourth All-Mopar Funny Car final of the season, Johnson Jr. felt his DSR machine start to lose traction just before the finish without realizing Hagan had a similar issue off the start and wasn’t close enough to take advantage, giving the Make-A-Wish car its first win in since Bristol in 2014. Johnson Jr. now joins his three DSR teammates in having taken the new 2015 Mopar Dodge Charger R/T to the winner’s circle this year and adds a tenth win to the new body’s tally since it made its debut 13 events ago.
“When you get to a final, you gotta take advantage of it,” said Johnson Jr. who moves into fifth place in the standings with the result. “I had no idea where he (Hagan) was and my heart dropped when I spun the tires down there. I kept looking and I didn’t see him, and I actually didn’t see the win light. To win races like this, they still mean something. They’re very special to me and you never know how long you’ll be doing this. You just try as hard as you can while you’re here and enjoy every moment.”
While the defending NHRA Funny Car world champion, Hagan, was disappointed that he didn’t raise a fifth Wally trophy in his fifth final round appearance of the year with the Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T, his runner-up finish helped extend his lead in the standings to 178 points over his teammate Ron Capps in second place with just five events left before the start of the “Countdown to the Championship” playoff series begins. Hagan beat Capps in the opening round of eliminations.
Mopar teams and drivers will have a weekend away from the track to prepare for the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing series’ annual three consecutive race “Western Swing” that begins with the Mopar Mile High Nationals, the 14th of 24 events in 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, at Bandimere Speedway near Denver, Colorado, from July 24-26 before stops in Sonoma, California, and Seattle, Washington.
2015 NHRA Championship Points Standings
(following Route 66 NHRA Nationals Race)
PRO STOCK (season wins in parentheses)
1. Greg Anderson – 1148 (4)
- Erica Enders-Stevens – 1082 (4)
3. Jason Line – 934 (2)
4. Chris McGaha – 891
- Allen Johnson – Dodge Dart – 736 (1)
- Drew Skillman– 727
- Larry Morgan – 723 (1)
8. Vincent Nobile – 649
- Shane Gray – 648
- Rodger Brogdon – 632 (1)
- V. Gaines – Dodge Dart – 510
FUNNY CAR (season wins in parentheses)
1. Matt Hagan – (2015 Dodge Charger R/T) – 1024 (4)
- Ron Capps – (2015 Dodge Charger R/T) – 846 (2)
3t. Jack Beckman – (2015 Dodge Charger R/T) – 835 (3)
3t. Del Worsham – 835
- John Force – 801 (2)
- Tommy Johnson Jr. – (2015 Dodge Charger R/T) – 798 (1)
7. Cruz Pedregon – 728
- Tim Wilkerson – 722 (1)
- Robert Hight – 667
- Alexis DeJoria – 658