Category Archives: Motorsports

Mopar dropping Pro Stock

After a disappointing season in NHRA Pro Stock drag racing, Mopar has chosen to drop Elite Motorsports — and will not be picking up a new Pro Stock team for 2017.

Mopar chief Pietro Gorlier said they will focus on Don Schumacher Racing in Funny Car and Top Fuel, and expand their presence in the Sportsman class.

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Last year, Mopar ended its 20-year deal with Allen Johnson, who drove a Dodge Avenger to the Pro Stock World Championship in 2012. Johnson brought in Jeg Coughlin Jr. for the 2013 season, and Coughlin took the top honors. At the end of the 2015 season, Johnson collected the last Mopar Pro Stock Wally with his win at the Auto Club finals in Pomona.

Coughlin retired after the 2014 season, but kept his foot in the door with a few events driving Camaros for Elite alongside Erica Enders, who won the championship in 2014 and 2015.

After the 2015 season, in which Johnson saw only two wins in five final-round appearances, Mopar struck a deal with Elite to put Coughlin and Enders into Dodge Darts. Johnson made his own deal with Marathon Oil.

The 2016 season was a disaster for the Elite team. Despite having had three consecutive world championships, neither Enders nor Coughlin ever made it to the final round, and they barely qualified for the Countdown to the Championship.

Long-time Dodge driver V. Gaines retired early in the season, saying it was no longer fun. Dodge’s only bright spots were when Johnson won the Mopar Mile-High Nationals and got to the finals in the New England Nationals and the U.S. Nationals.

With Mopar officially out of Pro Stock, just three Dodges are in the running for the 2017 season at this point, driven by Allen Johnson, Alan Prusiensky, and Deric Kramer.   See Dodge/Mopar racing.

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Riley replacing Dodge Viper

The number 33, as worn by the Dodge Viper GTS-R that won its final race at the Petit Le Mans in October, will be seen on a 2017 AMG GT3 in the 2017 Season. Daimler announced that it is going to partner with long-time Dodge house Riley Motorsports in the GT Daytona class of IMSA’s WeatherTech Championship Series. A second Riley car will be sponsored by WeatherTech.

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Dodge gains a historic racing title

Last night, Dodge was awarded the NHRA Manufacturers Cup in Los Angeles.   It was the first win for Dodge, and the second season-title win in history for any Chrysler brand — the other one was Plymouth’s victory in 1970.

The Manufacturers Cup goes to the automaker whose current-year models earn the most points in national, regional, and divisional events.

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Funny Car driver Ron Capps, Matt Hagan, Tommy Johnson Jr. and Jack Beckman, Pro Stock driver Allen Johnson, and sportsman racers James Caro and Kevin Helms were credited as leading the effort for Dodge. Capps was also officially crowned as the 2016 Funny Car World Champion at the ceremonies.

Accepting the award, Mopar chief Pietro Gorlier said, “On behalf of Mopar and Dodge, I extend our gratitude to the drivers and teams that contributed to this monumental victory. Their dedication to Mopar power and the tremendous effort that they put forth, both in the race shop and on the racetrack, have made this possible.”

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Who got the last Wally?

The last races in the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello drag racing season are over. Tommy Johnson Jr. and the Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T collected the year’s final Funny Car trophy.

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What what a season it was in Fuel Funny Car, capped off with a national championship for Ron Capps in the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Challenger, a track speed and ET record for Jack Beckman and one more win for Tommy Johnson Jr. bringing his total to three and the Dodge/Don Schumacher Racing total to 14 of the 24 Funny Car Wallys awarded this year.

With his holeshot victory over John Force, Johnson slipped past Matt Hagan to take the No. 2 spot. Hagan, who came to the Auto Club Finals just 27 points ahead of Johnson, made an early exit when he lost traction in the first round of eliminations and fell to third in the standings.

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Capps made it to the quarterfinals when Force got a quicker start and a holeshot win by 0.0085 seconds. Force went on to eliminate Beckman in the semifinals when the Infinite Hero Dodge developed clutch problems.

Capps, Johnson and Hagan were 1-2-3 in the final point standings with Beckman coming in fifth, just six points behind Force.

To see Johnson’s run and interview, click here.

Leah Pritchett and her Mopar-powered FireAde dragster made it to the quarterfinals before losing to Top Fuel Champion Antron Brown. In the same round, Tony Schumacher lost his race with Doug Kalitta, who went on to take the Wally.

Pritchett and Schumacher were seventh and eighth, respectively, in the final points standings.

In Pro Stock, Erica Enders had the best day of the Dodge drivers, reaching the semifinals where season champion Jason Line turned on the win light. Both Allen Johnson and Jeg Coughlin Jr. were eliminated in the first round. The trio of Dodge Darts ended a disappointing season with three final-round appearances and one win, all courtesy of Johnson.

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Can a Neon still win rallies?

What can you do with a 15-year-old Dodge Neon? Win races, for one thing — just like people did with new Neons.

Just this month, Chris Greenhouse and Brian Johnson drove their 2001 Dodge Neon SRT4 to victory in the two-wheel-drive class in Québec’s Rally Défi.  With around twenty competitive timed stages,  spanning several towns in the Laurentians and the MRC Papineau, this internationally renowned event is part of the Canadian Rally Championship (CRC) and the North American Rally Cup (NARC).

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Chris Greenhouse began as a co-driver in 2005, and switched to primary driving in 2006. He has tallied a remarkable 28 class wins at both the national and regional levels, is a five-time Central Region Group 2 champion, and won the Group 2 Regional Cup Championship in 2009.

Greenhouse recalled, “I was watching TV years ago, I saw cars the size of shoeboxes doing 100 mph down a road the size of a driveway. I said to myself that I just had to find out more about this. I then became a co-driver at 2005 Sno*Drift.”

In 2011, he scored three podium finishes in the Rally America 2WD class, including a stunning, come-from-behind victory at STPR.

“We were in a Group 2 Neon and although we were still running regionals…we scored a third, second and a first in three different national entries.” His most frightening moment was in the Lake Superior Performance rally, when “We did a 360-degree, high-speed spin on Brockway Mountain. But we didn’t hit anything!”

Greenhouse upgraded to an ex-factory Dodge Neon SRT4 in 2012, and continues with his goal of winning the 2WD National Championship.

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A new champion for Dodge

Ron Capps clinched the 2016 NHRA Funny Car Championship today at the Auto Club Finals in Pomona, California. This is the fourth Dodge-powered championship in the last six seasons.

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When NHRA President Peter Clifford called him the champion, Capps siad, “I’ve been waiting a long time to hear those words. I can’t even tell you, man. I’ve been trying to do this for so long, and I almost gave up on that fact and said, ‘I’m just going to keep trying to win races,’ but this is for the fans.”

To watch the moment, and the pass than made it possible, click here.

This is Capps’ first championship. Since moving from Top Fuel to Funny Car in 1997, he has been in contention for the title in four previous seasons, including a heartbreaking 2-point loss to Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman in 2012.

Capps, who led in the points standings for most of the season, came into the qualifying sessions 86 points ahead of Matt Hagan, his sole remaining rival for the title. He knew he could close the deal before Sunday’s elimination if he could remain at least 81 points ahead of Hagan during qualifying.

Capps started off as top qualifier in Friday’s opening session but dropped to third, in the second round. That still put him another four points ahead of Hagan, who was in the cellar after smoking the tires in the first heat and qualified fifth in Round Two.

After today’s third round, Capps was down another spot, qualifying fourth, but Hagan was back in the No. 7 spot. In the final round, Capps ran against Hagan for the second time in the Finals and posted an ET of 3.890 seconds at 323.66 miles per hour to Hagan’s 3.906 at 329.83 mph. Even though he qualified in the No. 5 spot again, Capps’ lower ET gave him the championship with a 90-point cushion.

Jack Beckman was the top qualifier, having set both ends of the track record with a career low ET and the second quickest pass in Funny Car history.

Eliminations get underway in the last event of the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello season on Sunday.

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Down to the wire for Funny Car championship

Ron Capps and Matt Hagan made it all the way to the semifinals before losing to the Force family. Hagan went up in smoke in his race with John Force and Capps was eliminated by Courtney Force who shut down Jack Beckman in the quarterfinals.

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Papa Force shut down his daughter in the final round but since neither of them has a chance at the season championship the major change in the championship race will be Hagan’s move to second place, 86 points behind Capps.

Hagan is now Capps’ only credible remaining competitor for the big prize.

Tommy Johnson Jr., who was second in the standings coming into today’s race, saw his hopes of a series championship fade after losing his first-round race with Del Worsham. He dropped to third and realistically out of contention, 113 points out of the lead.

Leah Pritchett won her first two Top Fuel races but couldn’t keep up with Steve Torrence in the semifinals. Pritchett had been the top qualifier in three of the four rounds and qualified second in the order. She left Vegas seventh in the point standings. Antron Brown clinched the Top Fuel season championship.

In Pro Stock, it was four up, four down in the first round. Erica Enders had a very short race day, falling to Chris McGaha in the first match of the day. Two heats later, Allen Johnson lost his race with Jason Line. In the next two races, Deric Kramer was eliminated by Shane Gray and Jeg Coughlin Jr. lost to Alex Laughlin. Johnson, Coughlin and Enders are now eighth, ninth and tenth in the points race.

The fifth Dodge, Alan Prusiensky’s Arcraceengnes.con Dart, didn’t qualify.

Deric Kramer, who isn’t in the Countdown, actually delivered the strongest performance. With a near perfect light, Kramer held the lead until just before the timing lights when Gray managed to overtake and win with a margin of 0.0031 seconds, about 11 inches.

While there’s no chance for a Dodge win, the Pro Stock title is still in contention. Greg Anderson is just 13 points behind Jason Line and Shane Gray has a theoretical chance.

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From worst to first in Vegas

Jack Beckman was at the bottom of the Funny Car order after Friday’s first round of qualifying at the NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas. At the end of qualifying on Saturday, he qualified at the top of the order with a new track ET record.

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In that first run, Beckman smoked the tires right out of the gate, in the #22 spot of a 22-car field. In Round Two, the Infinite Hero Dodge Charger’s engine quit about 300 feet from the start, leaving Beckman in the #22 spot again (this time, in a 23-car field).

On Saturday, the field had grown to 24 entries, the largest number this season, running in front of a sellout crowd. Beckman was finally able to get a decent pass in the third round, which bumped him up to #11, but it wasn’t until the final round that Beckman got it all together and showed the crowd why he’s called “Fast Jack.”

The Charger ran the quarter-mile in 3.871 seconds, a new track record, beating records previously set by Matt Hagan and John Force. Beckman was 0.001 seconds faster than Hagan’s 3.872 seconds, which had been good enough to keep Hagan in the top spot during all three prior rounds. Hagan goes into today’s eliminations in the #2 spot.

Beckman and Hagan will start the day in a pair of Dodge-Dodge matchups. Beckman will race against Jeff Arends in the Russo Racing Charger while Hagan pits against John Hale.

Current points leader Ron Capps qualified in the #4 position and starts his day running against Paul Lee in a Camry. Tommy Johnson Jr., currently the runner-up in the Countdown to the Championship, took the #10 spot and will take on Del Worsham’s Camry.

A total of eight Dodge Chargers were entered in this next-to-last event of the 2016 Mello Yello drag racing season. Six made the cut and two, driven by Jim Campbell and Anthony Begley, did not qualify.

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