By Patrick Rall
This past weekend brought about the first event of the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series at the Winternationals in Pomona California and the Mopar racing program started 2013 how it ended 2012 – by taking the top spot in the Pro Stock class. In fact, racers piloting Dodge Avenger Pro Stock cars claimed four of the top five finishing spots while five of the seven Mopar entries finished in the top ten.
The Mopar drag racing program ended the 2012 season with a pair of championships – one by Pro Stock driver Allen Johnson and the other by Jack Beckman in the Funny Car class – and Team Mopar got an amazing start to the 2013 NHRA season in the Pro Stock class with a dominating effort for their drivers. The 16 car qualifying field for the Pro Stock class at the Winternationals included 7 Dodge Avenger entries including Allen Johnson, Vincent Nobile, Jeg Coughlin Jr., V Gaines, Chris McGaha, Matt Hartford and Deric Kramer. Unfortunately the teams got off to a slow start in qualifying with just three of those drivers making it into the top half of the bracket while V Gaines was the fastest of the Mopars in qualifying.
1. Mike Edwards-Interstate/Team Second Camaro-6.528 212.39
2. V. Gaines-Kendall Oil Avenger- 6.538 212.29
3. Erica Enders-Stevens-Cagnazzi Racing Cobalt-6.539 212.23
4. Jason Line-Summit Racing Equipment Camaro -6.541 212.43
5. Vincent Nobile-Mountain View Tire Avenger-6.551 211.46
6. Jeg Coughlin-JEGS.com/Mopar Avenger -6.572 210.97
7. Rodger Brogdon-ProtectTheHarvest.com Camaro-6.577 210.31
8. Greg Anderson-Summit Racing Equipment Camaro-6.580 211.36
9. Greg Stanfield-MAVTV/Lucas Oil Camaro -6.582 210.11
10. Allen Johnson-Team Mopar/J&J Racing Avenger-6.594 211.06
11. Steve Kent- Kent Trucking GXP-6.594 208.97
12. Matt Hartford-Total Seal/Nickens Avenger-6.599 210.60
13. Shane Gray-Gray Motorsports Camaro-6.600 209.95
14. Kurt Johnson-Mark Christopher Camaro-6.602 210.08
15. Deric Kramer-American Ethanol Avenger-6.611 209.69
16. Chris McGaha-Harlow Sammons of Odessa Avenger-6.612 209.04
However, when the real racing began with the first round – Team Mopar was ready for action. The only Avenger Pro Stock cars to lose in the first round lost to other Avengers and every Mopar Pro Stock entry that faced a GM entry won in round one (no Ford Mustangs qualified). Allen Johnson defeated Rodger Brogdon, Jeg Coughlin beat Steve Kent, Chris McGaha beat Mike Edwards, V Gaines beat Deric Kramer and Vincent Nobile took down Matt Hartford. After round one, with just 8 cars left in the field, five of them were Dodge Avengers.
In round two, Chris McGaha got in trouble early against Greg Stanfield, crossing the center line thus being disqualified but that was the only time all day that a General Motors Pro Stock car beat a Mopar racer. Later in the second round, Vincent Nobile took down Shane Grey, V Gaines beat reigning champ Allen Johnson and Jeg Coughlin bested Kurt Johnson. After round 2 there were four cars left in the field and three of them were Mo-powered Avengers.
Round three saw Greg Stanfield get out to a quick lead over Vincent Nobile but the Mountain View Tire Avenger was able to run down the Lucas Oil Camaro for the win – making Nobile 8-1 against Stanfield and sending his Avenger into the final round. The other half of the final four saw Jeg Coughlin take the starting line advantage over V Gaines and Jeg never looked back – beating Gaines to claim a birth into the finals including lane choice against Nobile.
In the final round, we had what would be an exciting shootout between the Jeg’s Dodge Avenger driven, of course, by Jeg Coughlin going head to head with Vincent Nobile’s Mountain View Tire Avenger. Unfortunately, Coughlin got a little eager at the starting line and redlit- giving Vincent Nobile his first win of the season.
The 1-2-3 finish of the Dodge Avengers of Nobile, Coughlin and Gaines means that these three hold the top three spots in the early running for the season championship while reigning champ Allen Johnson sits in the fifth spot.