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Two drivers; two Dodges; two records

by Bill Cawthon on

Two new records were set Friday as “Fast Jack” Beckman made the quickest pass in Funny Car history Friday and Matt Hagan set a new all-time benchmark for speed.

Cool evening track temperatures at the Sonoma Raceway made for some hot passes. The top seven qualifiers all posted ETs of less than four seconds and speeds above 320 miles per hour. Adding Beckman’s first round ET the total comes to eight, a new record for a single day of qualifying.


With two sub-four-second ETs, Beckman was the top qualifier in both Friday rounds. In the opening session, Beckman’s Infinite Hero Charger R/T tripped the lights in 3.982 seconds at 320.05 mph. It was the only was the only car with a pass under four seconds in Round One.

Beckman was matched up with Hagan in both of Friday’s rounds.

Hagan’s time was 4.035 seconds at 317.34 mph, good enough for the No. 5 spot in the order.

In the day’s final matchup, Beckman pulled out all the stops with a 3.921-second run at 323.43 mph while Hagan and the Mopar/Rocky Boots Charger R/T advanced to the runner-up spot with a 3.967-second ET at 325.77 mph.

“We’re in a wonderful position right now,” said Beckman. “I am the luckiest guy in a fuel coupe right now. The second session tomorrow should be good, and that will be the one where we shoot for the national record. I think you will see several more threes tomorrow, definitely in the second session.”

Beckman and Hagan have the provisional track records but Beckman can officially break the 3.965-second national ET record set last year by John Force if he can make another pass that’s within 1% of his Friday best anytime this weekend.

In a sport where a ten-thousandth of a second can make the difference between winning and losing, Beckman’s time would best Force’s record by 0.044 seconds.

Another milestone was reached as Robert Hight and Alexis DeJoria had matching 3.974-second ETs, the first sub-four-second tie in NHRA history.

There are two more rounds of qualifying on Saturday with final eliminations on Sunday.

Pro Stock

In Pro Stock, Allen Johnson posted the best time of the Dodge drivers, 6.535 seconds at 211.59 mph, but it was only good enough for the No. 10 position. Deric Kramer qualified 11th while V. Gaines finished the day at the bottom of the order and failed to qualify.

Of Note

There was a familiar face running in Pro Stock at Sonoma. Jeg Coughlin, who took the world Pro Stock championship in a Dodge Avenger in 2013, qualified sixth on Friday. This time, though, he was driving a Camaro for Elite Motorsports, Erica Enders’ team. In fact, Coughlin is driving the car Enders drove the the Pro Stock World Championship in 2014.

In addition to the Sonoma Nationals, Coughlin will race at the Northwest Nationals in Seattle next weekend and the Lucas Oil Nationals in Brainerd, Minnesota August 20-23.

Those wondering what happened to Richie Stevens, who was supposed to race alongside Allen Johnson in ten events this season, the answer is one that’s becoming all-to-common in motorsports: a lack of sponsorship support.

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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