New 2015 Mopar Dodge Charger Has Hagan And DSR Teammates Optimistic At Wild Horse Pass

There was plenty of optimism in the Mopar pits as teams worked to qualifying their Dodge machines at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park on Friday for the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Nationals near Phoenix, the second event on the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing series schedule, with Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) driver Matt Hagan leading the charge into this weekend’s competition from atop the Funny Car standings after driving his new 2015 Mopar Express Lane/ Rocky Boots Dodge Charger R/T to the winner’s circle in its maiden run at the season opening event in Pomona.

Hagan picked up right where he left off by posting the quickest run of the first Funny Car qualifying session of the weekend with a 4.025-second lap at 316.60 miles per hour. He followed that up with a 4.032 sec /320.13 mph on his second pass to find himself fourth in provisional qualifying with two sessions left to fine tune his Mopar for Sunday’s elimination rounds.

Mopar at SEMA 2014“We’re working with the same combo that we had in Pomona so obviously the car is running good,” Hagan said. “We made two great laps out there in the new Dodge Charger with a .02 and a .03 and you can’t ask for much more. We’ve got a good race car and we’re going cleanly down the race track and that is half the battle. The rest of it, we can go after tomorrow because we don’t have anything to lose.”

  • Mopar drivers are back in the saddle for the second event of the 2015 National Hot Rod Association season at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park
  • Hagan riding high into Phoenix with the new 2015 Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T atop the Funny Car standings after a win in its inaugural race
  • Allen Johnson looks to defend last year’s Pro Stock title win with the “Magneti Marelli Quality Auto Parts Offered by Mopar” Dodge Dart Pro Stock
  • Don Schumacher Racing teammates Capps and Beckman both working for fourth Funny Car title wins at Phoenix

Also off to a great start is DSR teammate Ron Capps who finished runner-up to Hagan in the all-Mopar final elimination in Pomona. Capps comes into this weekend second in the points and with the confidence of having won the Funny Car title at this track in 2013 and a total of three win in six final round appearances at Wild Horse Pass. He also finds himself feeling particularly optimistic each time he straps into his new ride.

Mopar at SEMA 2014“This is the most excited I’ve been about driving a racecar just for the feel of the car,” said Capps who was fifth quickest after the first session with a 4.066 sec. /311.20 mph run and ended up provisionally tenth after a smoking the tires on his second pass. “Every time we drop the Dodge Charger body down, it is just such a huge difference. The visibility is tremendous and it drives so nice.

“Going to the final (in Pomona) was great and coming to Phoenix second in points is all good, but we need to keep the momentum going and we will,” Capps added. “We’re still kind of playing around with combinations. (Crew Chief Rahn) Tobler has the six disc (clutch) in it and hasn’t even tapped the potential of the rear spoiler and let this thing run some mile per hour, which we will do soon. We’re still in the feeling out process of the season, but it’s good to be where we are right now.”

Mopar driver Allen Johnson’s Magneti Marelli Dodge Dart boastsAnother DSR driver with three Phoenix victories is Jack Beckman who would love to earn a fourth one to end a streak of 52 events without a title win. The first race of the season didn’t go well as Beckman struggled to get in a good qualifying lap in his new Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T and then failed to qualify for the Pomona elimination rounds when a fourth attempt was thwarted by rain. Friday qualifying in Phoenix was a little bit of deja-vu as Beckman wasn’t able to make a clean run down the track.

“We fixed what was ailing us with a four test runs after Pomona and then today we had two bad runs,” Beckman said. “You almost have to chuckle to yourself because it is so frustrating. We can’t work any harder so we just have to work smarter on this thing. We had a bad run and then we broke a wheelie bar on the second attempt. We’ll fix it and move forward.”

The Don Schumacher Racing 2015 Mopar Express Lane Dodge ChargerAll the DSR teams are working diligently to get to know and improve the performance of their all-new 2015 Dodge Charger R/T carbon-fiber bodies that spent the better part of a year in development before taking the track for the first time to start this season. Beckman knows it’s just a matter of getting one good run in to join his teammates in the top-ten.

“We’ll be in good shape but we just don’t like going into Saturday not qualified because you start thinking about the what-ifs,” Beckman added. “It puts more stress on you but I’m optimistic. This is a great team but we’re struggling and we shouldn’t be. We’ll figure it out and when we do, we’ll be at the top of the heap so it’s hard to get too down about this.”

Aboard his 2015 Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger RT, DSR driver Tommy Johnson was sixth in provisional qualifying on the merit of a solid 4.034 sec. / 312.21 mph run. Two more Dodge entries will try to qualify for Funny Car eliminations with drivers Shane Westerfield and John Hale at the helm.

Talented Mopar driver, 24-year-old Texan Austin Williams, was prLast year at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, Allen Johnson took his Dodge Avenger to the Pro Stock winner’s circle before its retirement to make way for the new “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” Dodge Dart that made its debut at the following event at Gainesville in 2014. This season new tires and new fuel have changed things up for the Pro Stock teams, and along with new Crew Chief Adam Hornberger the J&J Racing team is getting the bugs worked out. Johnson and his Mopar team made gains in Friday qualifying to move from a sixth quick 6.567 sec / 210.64 mph in the first session to a provisional fourth place spot on the eliminations ladder with a 6.551 /211.36.

“We’re sneaking up on it little by little as the crew is working conservatively and that’s something we decided to do as a team from the start of the year,” said Johnson who is coming off a quarterfinal finish in Pomona and looking to defend last year’s win at this venue. “We are getting a handle on the car and on the new fuel. One more run and we might just take that number one away from them so that’s our goal.”

1508-07495t4i2nidcb52jq39mqo3thlqfa3V. Gaines has his Dodge Dart qualified 12th with a 6.620/209.95 pass while the third Dodge Dart in the field sits 14th with a 6.637/208.55 driven by Deric Kramer.

ESPN2 will provide television coverage of the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals with a two hour qualifying broadcast on Sunday, Feb. 22 at 1 a.m. ET, and again at 6 p.m. ET. The eliminations broadcast is scheduled for Sunday evening from 8 p.m. – 11 p.m. ET.

2015 NHRA Championship Points Standings (following the NHRA Winternationals in Pomona):

PRO STOCK (season wins in parentheses)
1.         Jason Line – 123 (1)
2.         Drew Skillman – 97
3.         Erica Enders Stevens – 81
4.         Rodger Brogdon – 80
5.         Chris McGaha – 55
6.         Larry Morgan – 54
7a.       Allen Johnson (Dodge Dart) – 52
7b.       Shane Gray – 52
9a.       Greg Anderson – 34
9b.       Vincent Nobile – 34
13.       V Gaines (Dodge Dart) – 31

FUNNY CAR (season wins in parentheses)
1.         Matt Hagan (2015 Dodge Charger R/T) – 107 (1)
2.         Ron Capps (2015 Dodge Charger R/T) – 94 
3.         Del Worsham – 74
4.         Robert Hight – 73
5.         Courtney Force – 61
6.         Tommy Johnson Jr. (2015 Dodge Charger R/T) – 60
7.         John Hale (2014 Dodge Charger R/T) – 51
8.         Bob Bode – 46
9.         John Force – 40
10.       Cruz Pedregon – 38

1508-12041_croppedqg6dhi43gcrnnq1qo6oblc8m36Update: 1

Don Schumacher Racing driver and reigning NHRA world champ Matt Hagan helped add a few more “firsts” to 2015 Mopar Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car’s list of achievements by taking his new ride on its first official three-second run to earn its first No.1 Qualifier honor with his final qualifying pass at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park for the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Nationals near Phoenix.

Following a full year of development, the new 2015 Mopar Express Lane/ Rocky Boots Dodge Charger R/T with Hagan at the helm earned its first victory in its inaugural race at this year’s season opener in Pomona. Now in just its second NHRA event, Hagan and his DSR crew continue to make positive gains with the new Mopar.

Hagan posted three strong qualifying laps to sit provisionally fifth, but left the best for last by laying down a track record 3.978 second / 320.28 mile per hour run to take the coveted top spot for Sunday’s eliminations ladder. It was the 12th pass under the four-second threshold by a Dodge Funny Car and the fifth quickest run in the category’s history. Earning the pole position has the Mopar Express Lane driver motivated to make another trip to the winner’s circle as soon as possible in defense of his 2014 championship.

“It speaks volumes of why we are a championship team,” said Hagan. “It’s always tough to win from the No. 1 spot. Obviously there’s going to be some struggles along the way this year but this team just continues to grow and continues to impress me and continues to awe me.

“Our guys have just been phenomenal, Dickie Venables and (assistant crew chief) Mike Knudsen, these guys are putting one helluva car underneath me and I’m very blessed to be able to drive the wheels off of it. That thing was just really digging and posted some great numbers. This team continues to grow and we are really coming together and have great chemistry. I am very excited what this year has to hold for us and I think we are going to win a lot of races this season.”

Hagan will see Jeff Diehl as his opponent in the opening round of eliminations.

DSR teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. also had a good day in his new Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T by posting the quickest pass in the third qualifying session to earn three bonus points with a 4.003 sec /315.27 mph effort to put him fifth on the eliminations ladder. He was enthusiastic about seeing his team’s efforts rewarded with strong runs.

“In the third qualifying session it was warmer track conditions, warmer weather conditions – and to go out and run a four flat and low ET of the round, it was almost a statement run,” Johnson said. “Everyone likes to run well when the conditions are great, but I think it makes more of an impact when you run that well when the conditions are not the best. We had a strong showing there in Q3 and came back in Q4 and backed it up with another good run. We just have had a very consistent car and it is running well. We’re very happy.”
Johnson’s teammate Jack Beckman had the third quickest time of that same session to earn a bonus point in his very first clean qualifying lap of the season in his new Mopar. Beckman missed making the field in the first event of the season after the team struggled to get the Infinite Hero car sponsored by Terry Chandler to the thousand foot mark on three qualifying passes at the first event of the year. After two failed attempts in Friday qualifying at Phoenix, the relieved DSR driver was pleased to have finally gotten in a strong run.

“Getting in the first run Saturday, it wasn’t that it was do or die, it was just critical to get this car to the finish line,” Beckman said. “We know we’ve got the ability to run quick everywhere, we just had a lot of gremlins jump up and bite us. On the last qualifying run we had the luxury to push it a little bit and now we have to go into race mode.

“Unfortunately we’re not going to have lane choice and we are racing a team car that has been exceptionally quick out here,” added Beckman whose 4.047/309.63 run put him 12th overall in qualifying to pit him against Johnson in the first round. “I gotta tell you, if I’m a bettor, I’m betting on this team. Terry Chandler will have a car in the second round, guaranteed.”

Ron Capps, who drove his new Dodge Charger R/T to a runner-up finish in the season opener, could very well meet up with Hagan for a rematch of that final on Sunday as they are on opposite ends of the ladder. He’s especially energized by the improvements he feels his team has made in just a few runs with the new car.
“What’s really cool is, sometimes you have to step back and look at the big picture,” said Capps who had the third quickest time of the last session with a 4.020/316.30 to earn a bonus point and the sixth spot on the qualifying sheets. “It would have been nice to go for the 3.98, 3.99 runs. Even though we went to the final at Pomona, the engine wasn’t as happy as (Crew Chief Rahn) Tobler wanted it. Saturday morning for the first run he put a brand new fuel pump on it which is a very difficult thing for a crew chief. That’s the heart of the engine and what they do with their tune-ups. To make that big change with the fuel pump, all of the sudden the car is back to where I remember it was last year, just a lot of power, a lot of torque and running good numbers.”

Capps will see Chad Head as his first opponent of the day.

Two more Dodge Funny Car entries also made the field with John Hale qualifying 14th to face Del Worsham and Shane Westerfield in the 15th spot to meet Courtney Force in the first round.

Defending Pro Stock winner Allen Johnson is feeling confident about the work that his Johnson & Johnson team has put in this weekend through their four qualifying runs with the
“Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” Dodge Dart. AJ ran the fourth quickest time of the third qualifying session with a 6.572 second run (211.20 mph) and the fifth best pass of the final lap with a 6.577/210.18 to remain fourth on the eliminations ladder on the basis of his 6.551/211.36 run Friday in Q2. He’ll have lane choice over Jimmy Alund for the first round.

“I feel like we were really consistent through qualifying this weekend,” Johnson said. “We have been making some good runs with our Dodge Dart and even if we may have been a bit conservative in our approach, that’s what it is going to take tomorrow. We just need to stay in the top four or five runs like we have and we have a good shot at defending our title here at Phoenix.”

V. Gaines put his Dodge Dart 12th on the ladder with Friday’s 6.620/209.95 pass and will see Chris McGaha as his first round opponent, while the Deric Kramer (6.643/208.65) sits15th and will line up his Dodge Dart against Rodger Brogdon for the opening round.

ESPN2 will provide television coverage of the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals, the second event on the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing series schedule, with a two hour qualifying broadcast on Sunday, Feb. 22 at 1 a.m. ET, and again at 6 p.m. ET. The eliminations broadcast is scheduled for Sunday evening from 8 p.m. – 11 p.m. ET.

2015 NHRA Championship Points Standings (following the NHRA Winternationals in Pomona):

PRO STOCK (season wins in parentheses)
1.         Jason Line – 158 (1)
2.         Drew Skillman – 137
3.         Rodger Brogdon – 125
4.         Erica Enders Stevens – 124
5.         Chris McGaha – 90
6.         Larry Morgan – 89
7.         Shane Gray – 88
8.         Allen Johnson (Dodge Dart) – 87
9t.        Greg Anderson – 66
9t.        Vincent Nobile – 66
12.       V Gaines (Dodge Dart) – 63

FUNNY CAR (season wins in parentheses)
1.         Matt Hagan (2015 Dodge Charger R/T) – 151 (1)
2.         Ron Capps (2015 Dodge Charger R/T) – 129 
3.         Del Worsham – 113
4.         Robert Hight – 105
5.         Courtney Force – 103
6.         Tommy Johnson Jr. (2015 Dodge Charger R/T) – 98
7.         John Hale (2014 Dodge Charger R/T) – 82
8t.        John Force – 73
8t.        Cruz Pedregon – 73
10.       Alexis DeJoria – 70

Update: 2

Hagan and New 2015 Mopar Dodge Charger Undefeated in 2015 NHRA Season

No.1 Qualifier Dominates with another Three-Second Run to Earn Phoenix Title
  • Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) driver Hagan and new 2015 Mopar Dodge Charger Funny Car remain undefeated in 2015 by earning second win of the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) season
  • No.1 Qualifier Hagan adds another three-second pass, runs second fastest speed in Funny Car history at 324.83 mile per hour run to win Phoenix title
  • Hagan’s elimination round win streak extends to 12 dating back to final race of the 2014 NHRA season in Pomona when he won Funny Car World Championship title
  • Johnson sees his Phoenix Pro Stock title defense come to an end in the quarterfinals
The combination of Don Schumacher Racing driver Matt Hagan, the Mopar Express Lane /Rocky Boots crew and the brand new 2015 Mopar Dodge Charger R/T continues to prove to be a winning one after a dominant performance at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park earned the team a second Funny Car National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) title in as many events since the new vehicle’s debut this 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.
The No.1 Qualifier posted another sub four-second run in as many days to once again lower the track record with a blistering 3.975-second pass, the fifth quickest elapsed time ever posted in competition, and the second fastest speed in Funny Car history at 324.83 miles per hour. That performance came in the final elimination battle against DelWorsham (4.010 second / 318.17 mph) run to earn his second consecutive title win this season.“Everyone at Mopar is thrilled to see Matt Hagan take the new 2015 Dodge Charger R/T to the winner’s circle at consecutive events to start the year,” said Pietro Gorlier, President and CEO – Mopar Brand Service, Parts and Customer Care. “It reinforces all the hard work and investment that Mopar, Dodge and Don Schumacher Racing put into producing a fantastic new 2015 Mopar Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car and to see it be so competitive and dominant right off the bat makes us all very proud.”

“That shows why we are champions,” said Hagan who is the defending 2014 NHRA Funny Car World Champion. “(Crew Chief) Dickie Venables has done a helluva of a job with this Rocky Boots/Mopar Funny Car and he just continues to prove why he is one of the baddest crew chiefs out there. The guy has a great hot rod underneath me and I’m just trying not to mess it up.”

Prior to eliminations, Hagan earned the pole position on Saturday with his first official three-second run (3.978 / 320.28) in the new Mopar that spent more than a year in development. However, with the trip to the Phoenix winner’s circle, Hagan’s elimination round win streak actually extends to 12, dating back to final race of the 2014 season in Pomona in which he earned his second career championship.

“We continue to turn win lights on,” said Hagan who extends his lead in the points standings. “It’s two wins in a row this year but if you go back to Pomona it’s really three wins in a row. We are world champions because we have such a great team. It has been really good lately. The biggest thing that we can do is just to continue to do what we’ve been doing. We don’t change a lot.”

Starting from the fifth spot on the ladder, DSR’s Tommy Johnson Jr. Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T came from behind in a pedal fest to beat his teammate Jack Beckman in the Infinite Hero Mopar in a first round match-up that ended with a 4.192/ 273.50 to 4.314/226.96 battle. Johnson’s hope of advancing to the semi-finals fell as one of his engine’s cylinders put him at a disadvantage against Alexis DeJoria who took the round win with a 4.082 to 4.202 run.

Ron Capps, who drove his new Dodge Charger R/T to a runner-up finish in the season opener, didn’t fare quite as well this weekend bowing out in the first round after a mechanical issue put him out of contention early against Chad Head.

“It’s disappointing because we really wanted to stay up in the points,” said Capps, who dropped from second to fourth in points. “But it’s the big picture stuff and what we learned, unfortunately by losing in the first round, with what the car was telling us. We’ll test tomorrow (Monday) and cure it before we get down to Gainesville.

“I’m still so excited about the new setup on this car,” Capps added. “It’s got so much potential. A good test session will help. We just have to take what we learned here and go forward.”

In Pro Stock competition, Mopar’s Allen Johnson posted a 6.588/210.05 run in the first round to beat Jimmy Alund’s 6.615/210.14 before seeing his Phoenix title defense come to an end in the quarterfinals against Chris McGaha. Johnson’s “Magneti Marelli Quality Auto Parts Offered by Mopar” Dodge Dart had the starting line advantage with a .024 reaction time to his opponent’s .067, but then saw severe tire shake ruin his run.

“We were way conservative with our set up on the Dodge Dart for being the first pair out and the tire got square,” said Johnson. “The good news is that this team is really talking and listening to one another and examining the problem when there is one. We had a really good meeting and we all decided to go one way with the set up for first out and next time we’ll go the other way. This team is really gelling and learning from our mistakes and it’s great to have a team communicate this way. We sure did have a car that could have won the race today. We’ll take it as a positive going forward.

Tire shake also claimed the Dodge Dart of V. Gaines in the first round against Chris McGaha, while the Deric Kramer’s HEMI-powered ride turned on the red light against Rodger Brogdon who went on to win his final elimination match-up against Erica Enders-Stevens for his third career Pro Stock victory.

Mopar teams and drivers now prepare to head to the east coast for the third of 24 events on the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule, the NHRA Gatornationals at Auto Plus Raceway at Gainesville, Florida, scheduled for March 12-15.

2015 NHRA Championship Points Standings (following the NHRA Nationals in Phoenix):

PRO STOCK (season wins in parentheses)
1.         Rodger Brogdon – 205 (1)
2.         Erica Enders Stevens – 184
3.         Jason Line – 178 (1)
4.         Drew Skillman – 177
5.         Chris McGaha – 130
6.         Shane Gray – 108
7.         Allen Johnson (Dodge Dart) – 107
8.         Larry Morgan – 89
9.         Greg Anderson – 86
10.       Vincent Nobile – 66
12.       V Gaines (Dodge Dart) – 63

FUNNY CAR (season wins in parentheses)
1.         Matt Hagan (2015 Dodge Charger R/T) – 231 (2)
2.         Del Worsham – 173
3.         Robert Hight – 145
4.         Ron Capps (2015 Dodge Charger R/T) – 129 
5.         Courtney Force – 123
6.         Tommy Johnson Jr. (2015 Dodge Charger R/T) – 118
7.         Alexis DeJoria – 110
8.         Cruz Pedregon – 93
9t.        John Hale (2014 Dodge Charger R/T) – 82
9t.        Chad Head – 82
15.       Jack Beckman (2015 Dodge Charger R/T) – 38

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