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Dodge triumphs in NHRA

by Bill Cawthon on

It was the “Year of the Hemi” in pro drag racing as Dodge drivers brought home ten wins each in Funny Car and Pro Stock, two national championships (for the second consecutive year in Funny Car) and four of the six top spots in their classes. It was also a perfect 75th anniversary celebration for Mopar.

Pro Stock: Allen Johnson, who came into today’s Auto Club of Southern California NHRA finals with the Full Throttle NHRA Pro Stock national championship already in hand, added to his trophy collection with his career-best seventh Wally for the 2012 season.

Johnson beat fellow Dodge Avenger driver Vincent Nobile to the finish line by 0.0078 seconds, or about two feet.

Nobile still got something of a consolation prize: he eliminated Erica Enders in the semifinals and passed her in the standings. Nobile will finish the season in third place, behind Johnson and Jason Line.

“Our team is so awesome, and the Mopar Dodge Avenger has just performed flawlessly,” said Johnson, who on Saturday gave Dodge its first Pro Stock championship since 1994 and fifth overall. “Determination and my father is what got us to this point. He wanted to do this all his life, and my whole focus was winning this with him. A lot of hard work and determination went into winning this. We had a dominating performance in this Countdown, won a championship, and ended with a win. What more can we do? That has added just a little more emotion to it.”

After qualifying second on Saturday, Johnson started his day by shutting down Greg Stanfield with a run of 6.513 seconds at 212.76 mph to Stanfield’s 6.564 seconds at 210.77. In the quarterfinals Johnson turned in an ET of 6.520 seconds at 212.63 mph, eliminating Ron Krisher, who posted a time of 6.537 seconds at 211.79 mph. Johnson next met Mike Edwards. Johnson took the round with a time of 6.526 seconds at 211.16 mph, ending the race day for Edwards, who had tire shake after the launch.

Vincent Nobile’s road to the finals was extraordinary: In the first round, he recorded a perfect .000 reaction time and defeated Jeg Coughlin Jr. In the quarterfinals, a near-perfect reaction time of 0.002 seconds gave him a hole shot upset win over top qualifier Jason Line. That worked again in the semifinals, even though he was a bit slower at 0.015 seconds. Erica Enders, whose ET was 0.001 seconds faster, was 0.008 seconds slower off the line and 0.0072 seconds and two feet behind Nobile at the finish.

V. Gaines lost to Enders when he pulled a red-light foul in the quarterfinals. Chris McGaha lost to MIke Edwards in the first round of eliminations.

Funny Car: Whereas Johnson locked up the 2012 NHRA Pro Stock championship during qualifying on Saturday, the NHRA Funny Car crown came down to a final-day slugfest between a pair of Mopar HEMI-powered heavyweights, lasting until the second-to-last round of the season. The Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) duo of Jack Beckman and Ron Capps treated the NHRA Finals audience to an entertaining back-and-forth battle that saw the lead change hands five times.

Jack Beckman is a veteran, cancer survivor, former drag racing school instructor and a major historian of the sport. He can now add national Funny Car champion to his 2003 Super Comp championship.

“You think about this, and you dream about this,” Beckman said. “It’s going to take me a while to wrap my head around this. We would have loved to have won it head to head [against Capps] in the final, but the trophy is going to shine just as well no matter what. We really wanted to win.”

Combined with fellow Don Schumacher Racing driver Antron Brown’s Top Fuel championship, Beckman’s victory gave team owner Don Schumacher both nitro championships and more than a million dollars in earnings for the weekend.

Beckman began the day just two points ahead of Ron Capps and with John Force Mustang driver Mike Neff clinging to a slim chance at the championship. Beckman had to last at least as long as Capps to win. Capps knocked off Tony Pedregon in the opening round and held the points lead until Beckman eliminated Alexis DeJoria and reclaimed his two-point lead.

In the quarterfinals, Neff was eliminated from the championship picture and from the race by Cruz Pedregon, leaving the field to Capps and Beckman. Capps shut down Robert Hight, who had been the points leader for much of the 2012 season. Beckman came back with a win over Jeff Arend remained in the lead by those same two points.

Like a lucky penny or a rabbit’s foot, Beckman’s two points came through in the semifinals. Capps lost to Courtney Force, giving the title to Beckman, who was shut down by Cruz Pedregon in their match. By the time Beckman staged for his last trip down the track, his crew had let him know he had the championship.

After Capps and Beckman were eliminated in the semifinals, Cruz Pedregon took home the Funny Car Wally by besting Courtney Force in the finals. Force got off the line first, but the engine immediately developed problems and she had to shut down.

Johnny Gray and Matt Hagan were eliminated in Sunday’s first round.

Commenting on the victories, Mopar CEO Pietro Gorlier said, “All of us are very proud of Allen Johnson and Jack Beckman on bringing home two NHRA World Championships for Mopar. Allen’s impressive win at Pomona solidified his mark on his Championship and all the hard work behind it. It was also amazing to watch Jack and Ron Capps battle each other in their Dodge Charger R/Ts for the crown.”

“Mopar-powered cars have either led or been near the front of the field all year in both Pro Stock and Funny Car, which shows the strength of our Mopar HEMI engines that compete in the NHRA,” added Gorlier. “It was tremendous to watch our Team Mopar drivers battle for wins all season long and be rewarded with two championships.”

Rank Driver Points Behind Rank Driver Points Behind
1 Jack Beckman 2610 Champion 1 Allen Johnson* 2756 Champion
2 Ron Capps 2608 -2 2 Jason Line 2571 -185
3 Mike Neff 2497 -113 3 Vincent Nobile 2512 -244
4 Cruz Pedregon 2429 -181 4 Erica Enders 2507 -249
5 Courtney Force 2383 -227 5 Greg Anderson 2365 -391
6 Johnny Gray 2357 -253 6 Mike Edwards 2347 -409
7 Robert Hight 2302 -308 7 V. Gaines 2324 -432
8 Tim Wilkerson 2293 -317 8 Ron Krisher 2290 -466
9 John Force 2281 -329 9 Jeg Coughlin Jr. 2271 -485
10 Jeff Arend 2267 -343 10 Larry Morgan 2198 -558
Dodge Drivers Not in the Championship Series
11 Matt Hagan 1216 -1394 18 Chris McGaha 336 -2420
16 Todd Lesenko 465 -2145 25 Deric Kramer 73 -2683
18 Gary Densham 249 -2361 *Event winner
23 Paul Lee 84 -2526
24 Jon Capps 68 -2542
26 Grant Downing 62 -2548
29 Josh Crawford 35 -2575
30 (tie) Tommy Johnson Jr. 20 -2590

The 2013 NHRA Mello Yellow Drag Racing Series will kick off with the 53rd Annual NHRA Winter Nationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California, scheduled for Feb. 14–17, 2013.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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