Johnson begins Mile High four-peat quest with provisional pole

(Courtesy: NHRA)

Morrison, Colorado (July 24, 2015) – Allen Johnson  took a giant step toward extending his rule at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, racing his “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” Dodge Dart Pro Stock car to the provisional pole and elapsed time track record on Friday at Bandimere Speedway. Johnson will lead the pack entering the two final qualifying sessions on Saturday with a fifth career No. 1 position at “Thunder Mountain” well in reach.

Johnson entered his sponsor Mopar’s biggest event of the year holding the quickest elapsed time (ET) ever at Bandimere Speedway. That record was briefly taken away early in the first qualifying session, but Johnson quickly reclaimed bragging rights, clocking a new track-record ET of 6.883 seconds at 200.74 mph and collecting all three qualifying bonus points in a round for the first time this season.

The same exact scenario played out in the second round of qualifying. Just as in Q1, Johnson watched another driver knock him off the top spot. And just as in Q1, the Greeneville, Tennessee, native quickly repulsed the challenger to his throne. In the final pair of qualifiers, Johnson uncorked a 6.877/200.29 to seize the provisional pole, reset the ET track record, and added three more markers for a total of six bonus points.

“We knew there were at least three cars that were really fast and that we had to make perfect runs,” said Johnson, who has dominated at the Mopar brand’s home-away-from-home, with six wins in the last eight years, including a current streak of three consecutive wins. “That last run was perfect up to half-track, and we were getting ready to run a low .86 when the car got out of the groove, but we were still able to pull it off. As our competitors get close, this Mopar Magneti Marelli team just digs down and gets something out of their gut and gets it done.”

Johnson slyly added, “We didn’t run these kind of numbers in testing last week, but we knew we had this kind of performance. Larry Morgan (who was quickest in testing) at the end said to me, ‘Why didn’t you have that motor in when we were testing?’ I said, ‘We did, but we were running 30 pounds heavy so we wouldn’t show what we had.”

V. Gaines, a two-time runner-up at his home track of “Thunder Mountain,” finished Friday qualifying at No. 11, with a quickest pass of 6.934 in his Dodge Dart. Another Mopar HEMI-powered Dart driver, Deric Kramer, was listed 14th after his first two qualifying attempts.

Jack Beckman has confessed a “love affair” with Bandimere Speedway, and the 2015 Dodge Charger R/T NHRA Funny Car driver took a solid step toward expressing that passion for “Thunder Mountain” by posting a third-career trip to the winner’s circle at the mile-high strip. The Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) driver was second quickest in the first qualifying session on the strength of a 4.035/313.73 run, ending the day in the top three on the charts after he was bumped down a spot.

Tommy Johnson Jr., who earned the 10th win in 13 events for the new 2015 Mopar Dodge Charger R/T at the recent NHRA stop in Joliet, Illinois, showed he’s ready for a repeat. The DSR driver posted his machine fourth with a 4.044/310.05 effort in his second attempt. DSR Dodge driver Ron Capps, the 2009 Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals winner, smoked the tires in Q1 but rebounded nicely in Q2, recording a 4.078/314.24 to earn the No. 7 provisional berth.

Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T NHRA Funny Car driver Matt Hagan has earned two world championships and 18 event wins, but one venue that has bedeviled the defending champ is Bandimere Speedway. That continued in Hagan’s first qualifying attempt, when the current class points leader struck the tires and slowed. But like his DSR teammate Capps, Hagan improved in Q2 with a 4.093/305.22, finishing the day solidly in the eighth spot.

Final qualifying sessions for the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals will begin at 6 p.m. ET on Saturday. Two hours of qualifying coverage is scheduled to air on ESPN2 and ESPN2HD beginning at 11 p.m. EDT on Saturday, July 25. Three hours of eliminations coverage will air on Sunday starting at 9 p.m. EDT.

(Courtesy Mopar Motorsports)

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