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Dart scores in Denver

by Bill Cawthon on

Allen Johnson picked up the first Pro Stock win for the Dodge Dart in the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello drag racing season.

Johnson’s Marathon Oil Dodge Dart was first to trip the lights, beating former teammate Vincent Nobile’s Camaro.

Racing-Wrap-Graphic-2016-Web

Click here to watch the winning run.

Not only is this the first Dart victory, it is also the first time this season that neither Greg Anderson nor Jason Line has made it to the finals. Johnson took out Anderson in the semifinals while Line jumped the gun and gave Nobile a free pass.

Johnson also won the last Pro Stock Wally for Dodge at the NHRA Finals in Pomona last year. It was also the last Wally for a car with a carbureted engine.

This is the tenth consecutive Pro Stock final round appearance for Johnson at the Mopar Mile High Nationals. That’s a national record. Johnson now has collected his seventh Denver Wally.

Erica Enders and the Mopar/Elite Dart had their best showing of the season. Enders was the top qualifier in the first three rounds, giving up the top spot by 0.007 seconds to Alex Laughlin in the final round of qualifying. Enders made it past the opening round of eliminations before losing to Johnson in the quarterfinals.

Jeg Coughlin Jr. fell to Nobile in the first race of the day. Other first round Dart casualties were Alan Prusiensky, who lost to Enders, Enders’ husband, Richie Stevens, who was driving one of two American Ethanol/Novozyme Darts, and Deric Kramer, who was driving a second American Ethanol Dart. Stevens lost to Bo Butner and Kramer was eliminated by Jason Line after Kramer led the race for the first 1,000 feet.

Johnson remains in fourth place in the standings but trimmed Bo Butner’s lead to just 70 points. Coughlin is still holding on to ninth. Erica Enders now need to make up just eight points on Alex Laughlin to get into the Countdown to the Championship and she still has four events to make it happen.

It was a good thing that Johnson won in Pro Stock; breaking a string of seven consecutive Funny Car victories, not a single Charger made it to even the semifinal round. That’s just the third time in 2016 that a Dodge was in the semifinals.

Jack Beckman was the first out, losing to Ron Capps in the first round. John Hale and the Huberto’s Lemonade Charger beat Alexis DeJoria in a glide-fest after the engines in both cars went silent at the halfway mark.

The quarterfinals were where the Dodges met their Waterloo. It was four up, four down as John Force ended Matt Hagan’s race day in the opening matchup. Next, Courtney Force eliminated Tommy Johnson Jr. on her way to the final round. Robert Hight crossed the finish line 85 feet ahead of Hale and Capps hazed the tires in a losing effort against Del Worsham.

In the end, it was Force vs. Force with the 67-year-old patriarch of the clan claiming his 144th Wally. Force hadn’t won a national event since June of 2015.

Ron Capps still has the lead in the points but Forces’ runner-up jumped her into second place with Beckman dropping to third, trailing by 22 points. Matt Hagan’s lead in fourth place is now just four points ahead of Robert Hight and Del Worsham who are tied for fifth. Tommy Johnson Jr. fell to seventh in the standings.

In Top Fuel Dragster, Eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher finally broke a losing streak that went back to the Route 66 Nationals in July last year. Schumacher’s HEMI-powered U.S. Army dragster outran Antron Brown’s Matco car, bringing home his 82nd Wally. Schumacher remained fifth in the points.

Leah Pritchett’s first outing under the Mopar banner didn’t go quite as well. She hazed the tires in her opening-round race with Shawn Langdon and remains tenth in the driver rankings.

In yesterday’s Northeast Gran Prix at Lime Rock, Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and the No. 33 Dodge Viper GT-R finished third behind two Audi R8 LMS cars. They remain fourth in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship driver standings.

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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