Pro Stock racer Allen Johnson continued his mastery of Bandimere Speedway Sunday as he raced to his fourth Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals win at the scenic track.
Antron Brown, Jack Beckman and Eddie Krawiec also scored wins in their respective categories at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event near Denver.
Johnson driving his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger defeated V. Gaines in the final round with a winning run of 6.951 seconds at 197.31 mph. Local favorite Gaines trailed with a performance of 7.144 at 160.35 in his Kendall Oil Avenger. Johnson was the No. 1 qualifier, set a new track record for elapsed time and was able to set the overall top speed and elapsed time during the event. It was his sixth consecutive career final round appearance at the track.
“My quote is going to be that ‘practice makes perfect’ as we came up here and tested and developed a combination that’s just bad to the bone,” Johnson said. “We want to do well in front of our Mopar contingent, my bosses, and the people that sign those checks at the end of the year. This year was extra special because it was the 75th anniversary for Mopar. We really, really wanted to win this race so that we could hand them the Wally (trophy).”
With the win Johnson takes over the category points lead from Greg Anderson, who had held the lead since the first race of the season.
It’s the first time I’ve won three races in a year in 17 years. You know, this is a tough, danged sport. I don’t care what anybody says. I don’t care how good your car is running. It’s tough to win.
In Top Fuel, Brown defeated Brandon Bernstein who continues his winless drought. Brown had a winning pass of 3.957 seconds at 308.21 in his Matco Tools dragster to edge Bernstein’s MAV TV dragster, which trailed at the finish line with a 3.959 at 307.58. With the victory, Brown moves into second in the points standings, 11 behind teammate Spencer Massey. Brown is the most recent driver to sweep the Western Swing, in 2009, and hopes this is the first step in repeating that feat.
“When you come out here on ‘The Mountain,’ you have to tune it up on the racetrack and keep it living,” Brown said. “We lived all four rounds today, and that’s a good start for the Western Swing. You come out here with a win, and it sets the pace and gives our boys some motivation for when we go out there in Sonoma. We go up there and dig deep because of the competition in this class. We really want to go into the Countdown in the top three, but would love to get that number one spot and get the extra 20 points. We just want to keep on rolling and rolling.”
It was Brown’s second win at Denver in three finals here. He was happy to hold off his good buddy Bernstein in the final.
“Brandon has been searching for his first win with a new team, and that car is back,” Brown said. “They struggled for a few races before, but he ran a .95 in the final. He was on his game and threw a great Tree. We just had a great, old drag race and won by one-hundredth. That’s pretty strong.”
Massey who was defeated by Bernstein in the semi-finals became the first Top Fuel driver to earn a position in the Countdown to the Championship.
In Funny Car, Beckman powered his Valvoline NextGen Dodge Charger to his second win of the year when he defeated rookie driver Courtney Force with a run of 4.277 seconds at 293.79 seconds to the losing run of 4.289 at 283.49 in Force’s Traxxas Ford Mustang. This is also his second win at Bandimere Speedway in three final round appearances.
“At the end of the day, we took the race car that qualified No. 1 and got it down the race track on every single pass,” Beckman said. “We weren’t perfect today — we dropped a hole on our semifinal run and had two people red-light against us — but I like to think that we forced some of the other cars to try to beat us, and that’s why we got the win lights. To win in nitro Funny Car in any one season is hard to do. To already have two at just past the midpoint of the season, I think we put a stamp on it that says this team is going to contend for the rest of the year.”
The path to his 14th career Funny Car victory wasn’t without stress or obstacles, but Beckman and his crew were able to focus on the task at hand.
“The script usually reads that the number one qualifier makes it to the final round, but there were a few chapters in-between that you might not know about,” Beckman said. “Trying to make it up there for the semifinals, we thought there was a chance that we might not make the call. We had to put a new throttle cable on the car, and then we had a computer wire go bad on us on the warmup.”
Krawiec rode his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to the win over his teammate Andrew Hines in the final when Hines fouled out, handing the win to Krawiec. This was the fourth win in four final round appearances for Krawiec. It also marked the seventh time a Harley-Davidson was featured in the final round and the team’s seventh consecutive win this season.
“Talk about a dream season, we never expected it to go like this,” Krawiec said. “You know, to be 100 percent honest with you, this race shouldn’t have been ours this weekend. Not that you should always count yourself out, but we were a little down on ourselves as a team, we were struggling on Friday and Saturday. It really sucks when you’re that far behind. For us, we just dug hard and went after it.”
By reaching the second round of eliminations Hines joined Krawiec as Countdown to the Championship qualifiers.
Allen Johnson raced to a Pro Stock track record run in the final qualifying session to take his seventh No. 1 qualifying position of the season Saturday at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at scenic Bandimere Speedway.
Spencer Massey, Jack Beckman and Hector Arana Jr. also will lead their respective categories into Sunday’s 11 a.m. eliminations at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.
Johnson powered his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger to a performance of 6.951 seconds at 198.29 mph to take the 25th No. 1 qualifying effort of his career and fourth at the Denver track.
“It was really something to come here this weekend and make our best run [in the last qualifying session] while we were just trying to get ready for tomorrow,” said Johnson, who by qualifying for the race secured his spot in the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s playoffs.
“Hats off the crew, the engine guys, my dad [Roy Johnson], Mark [Ingersoll] and Jim [Yates], and everybody else on the car,” Johnson continued. “We’ve just got a bad hot rod right now.”
Johnson, who has won twice this season, will meet Paul Pittman in the first round of eliminations. Johnson will try to continue his impressive streak at Thunder Mountain, where he has advanced to the last five final rounds at this event, winning three times.
“Tomorrow’s conditions should be just about what we had today,” Johnson said. “And actually, that last run wasn’t perfect. Maybe we can pick up another hundredth. That’s what we thought we could do coming here after our testing, separate ourselves from the rest of the field by two or three hundredths or so, and I think we did that on that run. I want to give that Wally to the Mopar folks for the Mopar 75th anniversary.”
Defending world champ Jason Line, who qualified fifth, also secured his spot in the Countdown playoffs. Defending event winner Mike Edwards qualified second and was followed by local favorite V. Gaines, who will start third in his Kendall Oil Dodge Avenger.
Top Fuel points leader Massey earned his second No. 1 qualifying position of the season and fifth of his career with his Friday performance of 3.914 at 318.02 in his FRAM/Prestone dragster.
“The track was hot today, and obviously everyone was struggling,” Massey said. “I was surprised when we ran a 3.91 in the first session, and I was surprised again when it held on for number one. We’re going to stick with our philosophy that we had since last year by trying to run down the racetrack and not beat ourselves tomorrow.”
Massey will face journeyman racer Steve Chrisman in the first round as he tries to win his second consecutive title at this event and fifth race of the season. Massey could also become the first Top Fuel driver to clinch a spot in the Countdown if he can advance past Bob Vandergriff and Clay Millican in eliminations.
“Getting clinched in the Countdown would be a huge plus, but our main deal is trying to go rounds and get win lights,” Massey said. “We did very well in the heat during qualifying. We tried to see how far we could actually push it in the last run and smoked the tires. That’s good. I’m glad to know how far we can go before we get over the hump.”
Antron Brown qualified second in his Matco Tools dragster and was followed by Doug Kalitta, Terry McMillen and Brandon Bernstein in the top five.
Getting clinched in the Countdown would be a huge plus, but our main deal is trying to go rounds and get win lights.
“The fact that we ran well on Friday night is great for qualifying, and the fact that we ran well three times in the heat is great for eliminations,” Beckman said. “You can win from any position in nitro Funny Car, but qualifying at the top and getting to pick the pairing you want to run in puts you in a favorable position.
Beckman, who has one win in two career finals in Denver, will meet Todd Simpson in the first round as he continues to try and improve on his points position for the Countdown.
“We got 14 points during qualifying – six bonus points and eight for qualifying number one,” Beckman said. “Anyone who tells you they don’t count points is either lying or they aren’t good at math. All of that is awesome, but nothing replaces how it makes those nine guys that work on the car feel.”
Robert Hight qualified second and in the process became the first Funny Car driver to clinch a Countdown playoff berth. Ron Capps was third and was followed by veteran racers Cruz Pedregon and John Force, the defending event winner.
Arana Jr. rode his Lucas Oil Buell to the No. 1 qualifying position in Pro Stock Motorcycle with a run of 7.238 at 184.57 mph. It was his first top qualifying effort of the season and eighth of his career. Now, Arana Jr. hopes to break into the win column for the first time this season and end the Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson team’s stronghold on the two-wheel category.
We need to do everything we can do to try and sneak up on those Harleys. They’re a real strong team and they’re doing an excellent job. It’s all turning around and coming together at the right time before the Countdown and we’re really excited.
Current Pro Stock Motorcycle points leader Eddie Krawiec secured his berth into the Countdown by qualifying fourth. His teammate, Andrew Hines, qualified third and Hector Arana Sr. qualified second on his Lucas Oil Buell.
Sunday’s first-round pairings for eliminations for the 33rd annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway, the 13th of 23 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings.
Top Fuel — 1. Spencer Massey, 3.914 seconds, 318.02 mph vs. 16. Steven Chrisman, 6.006, 137.62; 2. Antron Brown, 3.923, 305.98 vs. 15. Rob Passey, 5.804, 127.94; 3. Doug Kalitta, 3.925,
308.14 vs. 14. Clay Millican, 5.447, 179.76; 4. Terry McMillen, 3.930, 314.75 vs. 13. Scott Palmer, 4.184, 276.52; 5. Brandon Bernstein, 3.947, 285.83 vs. 12. David Grubnic, 4.101, 275.34; 6. Shawn Langdon, 3.957, 303.03 vs. 11. Steve Torrence, 4.091, 294.24; 7. Morgan Lucas, 4.002,
279.27 vs. 10. Bob Vandergriff, 4.035, 296.96; 8. Tony Schumacher, 4.013, 297.42 vs. 9. Khalid alBalooshi, 4.021, 303.57.
Funny Car — 1. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.131, 304.05 vs. 16. Todd Simpson, Chevy Camaro, 4.951, 229.27; 2. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.135, 304.53 vs. 15. Jeff Diehl, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.905, 276.69; 3. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.137, 301.54 vs. 14. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 4.631, 220.76; 4. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.165, 297.02 vs. 13. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.386, 275.28; 5. John Force, Mustang, 4.188, 302.82 vs. 12. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.381, 264.34; 6. Mike Neff, Mustang, 4.208, 301.20 vs. 11. Johnny Gray, Charger, 4.313, 283.97; 7. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.212, 297.94 vs. 10. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.237, 280.54; 8. Jeff Arend, Camry, 4.218, 298.40 vs. 9. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.224, 288.15.
Did Not Qualify: 17. Todd Lesenko, 5.088, 176.53.
Pro Stock — 1. Allen Johnson, Dodge Avenger, 6.951, 198.29 vs. 16. Paul Pittman, Chevy Cobalt, 13.844, 81.21; 2. Mike Edwards, Pontiac GXP, 6.966, 197.80 vs. 15. Steve Kalkowski, Pontiac GTO, 7.130, 192.93; 3. V. Gaines, Avenger, 6.968, 197.88 vs. 14. Kurt Johnson, GXP, 7.067, 195.19; 4. Ron Krisher, GXP, 6.973, 197.77 vs. 13. Shane Gray, Chevy Camaro, 7.065, 194.69; 5.
Jason Line, Camaro, 6.988, 197.10 vs. 12. Deric Kramer, Avenger, 7.060, 194.80; 6. Erica Enders, Cobalt, 6.989, 196.39 vs. 11. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 7.046, 196.07; 7. Vincent Nobile, Avenger, 6.998, 197.42 vs. 10. Warren Johnson, GXP, 7.037, 195.22; 8. Jeg Coughlin, Avenger, 7.010, 196.90 vs. 9. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 7.011, 196.44.
Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 7.238, 184.57 vs. 16. Angie Smith, Buell, 7.434, 178.38; 2. Hector Arana, Buell, 7.243, 184.04 vs. 15. Matt Guidera, Buell, 7.429, 178.50; 3. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 7.283, 183.52 vs. 14. Michael Phillips, Suzuki, 7.388, 182.30; 4. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 7.298, 183.42 vs. 13. Shawn Gann, Buell, 7.375, 181.15; 5. Jerry Savoie, Buell, 7.300, 180.69 vs. 12. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 7.361, 182.18; 6. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.313, 181.76 vs. 11. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 7.359, 180.00; 7. Matt Smith, Buell, 7.321, 182.21 vs. 10. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.351, 180.96; 8. Mike Berry, Buell, 7.321, 181.40 vs. 9. Michael Ray, Buell, 7.347, 180.74.
Did Not Qualify: 17. John Hall, 7.450, 177.84; 18. James Surber, 7.451, 176.24; 19. Katie Sullivan, 7.478, 177.09; 20. Charles Sullivan, 7.701, 170.92.