By Patrick Rall
Johnny Gray took home his second Funny Car win of the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season this past weekend – taking down fast qualifier and fellow Mopar racer Matt Hagan with the fastest pass of the entire event.
Matt Hagan was super fast all weekend, qualifying in the top spot with a track record setting run of 4.067 at 312.86 miles per hour. Hagan was able to let off in the first round when Tony Pedregon ran into issues shortly into the run but in the second and third rounds, Hagan was one of the quickest cars down the track in terms of both ET and trap speed. After letting off to beat Pedregon in round 1, Hagan’s Magneti Marelli/Mopar Dodge Charger beat NHRA legend John Force in round 2 and Tim Wilkerson in round 3 to advance to the finals.
The only guy anywhere near to Hagan’s times in those middle rounds was Johnny Gray. Even though he turned in a lackluster qualifying effort that had him starting in the 10th spot, Gray’s Pitch Energy Charger turned in the second fastest pass in rounds 1 (trailing only Ron Capps) and round 2 (trailing Matt Hagan) before turning in the fastest run of the event at that point in the third round. In his third run of the event, Gray turned out an amazing 4.088 at 311.34 miles per hour, turning away Cruz Pedregon in a very close race to the line.
After both having strong runs in the third round, Matt Hagan and Johnny Gray went into the final round for an all-Mopar shootout and the two did not disappoint. Hagan jumped out to a short starting line advantage but by the 330 foot mark, Gray had caught up and blew past him with a winning ET of 4.077 at 314 to Hagan’s 4.160 at 309. The only quicker ETs of the event came in qualifying where Ron Capps and Matt Hagan both ran quicker than 4.077 but Gray’s time was comfortably the best of the elimination rounds.
Other Mopar drivers in the field included Jeff Arend, Ron Capps, Blake Alexander and Jack Beckman. Arend lost in round 1 to Cruz Pedregon when he ran into traction issues. Capps qualified second, beating Alexander in round 1 before losing to Gray in round 2. Beckman beat Bob Tasca in round 1 before losing to Tim Wilkerson in round 2.
This successful weekend for Team Mopar has landed three Charger drivers in the top four in the run for the championship with Hagan trailing class leader Cruz Pedregon by just 13 points while Gray sits in 3rd (73 points out of first) and Capps sits in 4th place (107 points out).