Category Archives: Motorsports

Mopar scores in Pomona

Mopar-sponsored Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) drivers racked up two class wins to kick off the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello drag racing season.

In the just-completed Winternationals in Pomona, California, Matt Hagan shut down Courtney Force to capture the Funny Car Wally while Leah Pritchett tripped the lights long before Doug Kalitta.

Hagan and Pritchett were also the top qualifiers in their classes. Hagan reset both ends of the Auto Club Raceway track record as he matched his career-best ET and speed.

Hagan defeated 2016 Champion and fellow DSR driver Ron Capps in a Charger-Charger semifinal race. Capps gave Hagan a free pass to the finals when he jumped the gun and turned on the red lights at the start.

The two other DSR drivers were eliminated in the quarterfinals. Tommy Johnson Jr. lost to John Force and Jack Beckman gave Hagan a real run for his money but came up 0.011 seconds behind at the end.

Dodge drivers Bob Bode, Phil Burkart and Jeff Campbell were all eliminated in the opening round.

Pritchett got a pass in the first round as there weren’t enough Top Fuel entries to make up a full field. The the second round, she was 0.001 seconds behind Steve Torrence at the start but the Mopar/Papa John’s car was in the lead by the time it passed the Christmas tree.

In the semifinals, Pritchett beat fellow DSR/Mopar-powered driver Tony Schumacher through the timing lights by 0.063 seconds on her way to victory in the final race.

It was three Darts up, three Darts down in Pro Stock as Allen Johnson, Deric Cramer and Alan Prusiensky were eliminated in the today’s first round. 2016 champion Jason Line beat Greg Anderson for the class win.

New season kicks off for Mopar and Dodge

The 2017 NHRA Mello Yello drag racing season began today with the opening of the 2017 Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California.

After a dominant Funny Car season that saw Ron Capps win his first-ever championship and Dodge taking home the Manufacturers championship for the first time in decades, all four Don Schumacher Racing Charger R/Ts are back to take a shot at another championship. Of the four DSR drivers, only Tommy Johnson Jr. hasn’t collected a championship.

Jim Campbell has replaced John Hale at the wheel of the Jim Dunn Racing Dodge, the fifth 2017 Charger in the field. Campbell competed in 11 events during the 2016 season and finished 15th in the point standings while Hale ran a full season and finished 13th.

Campbell isn’t new to Dodges; in 2016 he competed in a Charger owned by Chuck and Del Worsham (Worsham won the 2015 Championship in the DHL Toyota Camry).

There are two more Dodges in the 18-entry Funny Car field, both 2014 Chargers. Bob Bode, who competed in a Toyota last year, will be driving the Arbee Plastic Bags Charger and Phil Burkhart Jr. will be racing for Schwabfunycar.com.

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Leah Pritchett, will be back in her DSR Mopar-powered Top Fuel dragster, still sponsored by Papa John’s Pizza (the official pizza of the NHRA). Pritchett, who finished seventh in the Top Fuel points race last year, turned in an unofficial 3.677-second ET, the fourth-fastest in Top Fuel history, in testing at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Arizona.

Although Mopar and Dodge have officially withdrawn from Pro Stock, Allen Johnson is keeping the faith with another season behind the wheel of the Mopar 500-powered Marathon Oil Dart. It’s listed as a 2017 Dart, which probably makes it the only 2017 Dodge Dart in the world.

Deric Kramer and Alan Prusiensky will be back with their 2016 Darts and their 2016 sponsors.

With Erica Enders and Jeg Coughlin Jr. returning to Camaros after a disappointing season in 2016, the three Dodges will be up against an army of Chevys. Johnson did manage to pull out a win last year and finished eight in the Countdown to the Championship.

Qualifying for Sportsman class got underway at 8:15 AM local time (11:15 Eastern) and Top Alcohol racers will take their first trips down the track this afternoon. Top Fuel and Pro Stock qualifying are supposed to begin tomorrow and continue through Saturday but rain is forecast for much of Friday and Friday night so the schedule is definitely subject to change. The National Weather Service is calling for sunny and cool for Saturday’s qualifying rounds and for the eliminations scheduled for Sunday.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.