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Allen Johnson wins but no championship for Dodge

by Bill Cawthon on

Allen Johnson and the Mopar Dodge Dart powered to their second win of the 2015 Mello Yello NHRA drag racing season at the Auto Club Finals in Pomona, California.

NHRA-Johnson-Sonoma-2015-Web

Meanwhile, Jack Beckman’s hopes for another Funny Car championship came to an end with a loss to Del Worsham in the semifinals at Auto Club Raceway. Worsham went on to take the final Funny Car Wally by defeating Tommy Johnson Jr.

Allen Johnson collected the 26th win of his Pro Stock career with a hole shot win over former teammate Vincent Nobile. Johnson had a big starting line advantage, wiping out Nobile’s 0.001-second quicker time. The Mopar Dart tripped the lights 0.0211 seconds before the Mountain View Tire Camaro.

“We dug down deep and got it done to give my family, the team and Mopar the win in the final race of the year and to cap off twenty years like this is special,” Johnson said after the race. “I had to step up my game for this race day after being up and down through the entire Countdown and I wanted to finish the year on a high. We struggled to get traction in our car through qualifying and even the first three rounds. Right before the final round we found that we had a bent piece on the car and fixed it and ran straight down the track to win it. The Magneti Marelli Mopar team doesn’t ever give up. We’ve been out here for 20 years with Mopar and what a great sponsor they are. The Mopar fans are fanatics and they’ve always been here with us. It’s been an unbelievable ride with my dad (Roy Johnson) for 20 great years.”

Adding fuel to the rumors of a big change, Johnson said, “We’re not sure what next year holds for us, but we hope to be out here racing again in the Dodge Dart.”

On his way to victory, Johnson eliminated Jonathan Gray in the third matchup of the first round; Shane Gray in the quarterfinals and 2015 Pro Stock Champion Erica Enders in the semifinals.

With the win, Johnson finished the 2015 season at No. 3 in the Pro Stock standings, leapfrogging Drew Skillman and edging ahead of Chris McGaha by one point. Going into todays finals, Johnson was fifth in the points race.

In the first round of eliminations, Richie Stevens jumped the gun and turned on the red light, giving Drew Skillman a free pass to the quarterfinals and V. Gaines’ Kendall Oil Dart had problems and had to be pulled from the line, setting Erica Enders up for her match with Johnson.

In his matchup with points leader Del Worsham, Beckman got the better start but began losing traction and began to pump. The DHL Toyota cruised by the Infinite Hero Dodge Charger and took the race and the 2015 Championship. Since Beckman had reset his own national ET record and received 20 extra bonus points, there was just a 16-point gap between the two and the race with Worsham was literally a duel for all the marbles.

Beckman finishes the season in second place, 56 points behind Worsham, with seven nationals wins, more than any other Funny Car driver, as well as the newest national ET record and an assured ride in 2016. Beckman reset the national ET record four times during the season.

“We said whoever would win it earned it, but nobody is holding their head down here,” said Beckman. “We did amazing things on the racetrack and amazing things for our injured vets with Infinite Hero. We’ve had by all standards a career year for the entire team. The points just didn’t come out in our favor with the Countdown and the points being reset.”

All of the Don Schumacher drivers made it past the first round of eliminations and only Matt Hagan was shut down in the quarterfinals. The semifinals consisted of Jack Beckman, Ron Capps, Tommy Johnson Jr. and Del Worsham with Johnson and Worsham advancing to the final round.

Johnson, Capps and Hagan ranked third, fourth and fifth, respectively in the Mello Yello standings.

Hagan didn’t repeat as Funny Car champion but he did collect four wins and now holds the top five national speed records.

This is the first year since 2010 that Dodge hasn’t won either the Funny Car or Pro Stock crown. It came into the Countdown to the Championship with Beckman as the favorite. But with the point reset, Worsham racked up three back-to-back wins to take the lead, and Beckman never could seem to put it together. Tommy Johnson Jr. took the only Dodge Wally in the Countdown. Johnson also had three final-round appearances to one each for Beckman and Hagan.

This is similar to 2014, when Robert Hight was the heavy favorite but Matt Hagan turned it around in the Countdown and collected the big prize.

Despite missing the championship, Dodge had a dominant season in Funny Car. Dodge collected the most wins in the season with 15, or 63%, of the 24 trophies awarded plus Allen Johnson’s pair in Pro Stock. However, Chevy was the big winner in the two Pro classes, capturing 22, or 92% of the Pro Stock Wallys and four more in Funny Car. Toyota scored four national wins, all in the Countdown, and Ford got one.

NHRA-2015-FinalPoints-Web

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 just-auto.com, 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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