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Dodges 1-2-3 after Northwest Nationals

by Bill Cawthon on

Tommy Johnson Jr. won the Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways today, giving Dodge a sweep of the NHRA Western Swing.

With the win, Johnson moved into third place in the Countdown to the Championship, behind Matt Hagan and Jack Beckman.


“We’ve got the most consistent car,” said Johnson after his holeshot win over Del Worsham. “The last seven races including this one, we have been to four finals. We’ve got a really good car and team. We struggled early in the season with stupid stuff that bit us. Everybody has stepped up to the plate lately and it is showing.”

Johnson got a much better start than Worsham who did his best to catch the Make-A-Wish Charger but ran out of track. Johnson tripped the lights 0.0169 seconds, or about eight feet, ahead of Worsham.

Johnson eliminated Paul Lee, Chad Head and Beckman on the way to his second Wally of the 2015 Mello Yello NHRA drag racing season. This is the 13th win for Don Schumacher Racing and the Dodge Charger R/T.

Beckman saw his hopes of a Western Wing sweep disappear when he lost a cylinder in his semifinal matchup with Johnson. The day was a double disappointment as his best pass of the day was 0.019 seconds shy of the 3.951 ET he needed to certify his 3.912 ET from Saturday and pick up another national record. Beckman still holds the Nitro Funny Car ET record at 3.921 seconds.

“If you would’ve told me three weeks ago that we would make the two quickest runs in Funny Car history, back up the national record, win two races and close within five points of Hagan and (crew chief Dickie) Venables, I would say sign me up for that,” Beckman commented. “That being said, it’s disappointing to get that far into the Western Swing, have a chance to sweep and not get it done. I think that we’ve done some amazing things to our Infinite Hero tune-up to put our car in position to be the frontrunner.”

As a consolation, Beckman became the second Funny Car driver to clinch a berth in the Countdown to the Championship.

Matt Hagan had a disappointing day. After losing traction in both passes on Saturday, he smoked the tires in the first round today, losing to Ron Capps. The early exit also allowed Beckman to pull within five points of Hagan in the Countdown competition with just two events left in the regular season. This is the smallest lead Hagan has had since retaking the lead at the SummerNationals in Englishtown, New Jersey, in early June. As recently as the Thunder Valley Nationals, Hagan had a 197-point lead over Beckman.

“It’s been a tricky Western Swing for this Mopar/Rocky Boots team,” Hagan lamented. “It certainly wasn’t the results we were hoping for these last three races. We know what works. We’ve had a lot of success and we’ll have more. We lost some momentum and some ground in the points, but we’ll dig our way back. This thing is very cyclical out here and we’ll win more races this season.”

Ron Capps dropped in to sixth in the points race after losing to Beckman in the quarterfinals. He swapped spots in the standings with Worsham.

In Pro Stock, Allen Johnson remained fifth in the standings after reaching the Northwest Nationals semifinals where he lost to his former teammate Jeg Coughlin, who was eliminated by Chris McGaha in the final round. Johnson should be the next to clinch a Countdown berth.

Johnson did get a bit of payback when he shut down Larry Morgan in the third Pro Stock race of the day. Morgan defeated Johnson in the final round in Denver.

It looks like V. Gaines may not make the Countdown to the Championship this year. He’s running out of time to put some serious points on the board and his first-round loss to Greg Anderson didn’t help. As has happened so many times this season, Gaines’ Kendall Oil Dart developed a case of the shakes early on and he had to push in the clutch.

Deric Kramer eliminated himself in his first race, jumping the gun and turning on the red light. Kramer gave Jonathan Gray an easy pass to the quarterfinals where Allen Johnson ended his race day.

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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