By Patrick Rall
This past weekend brought us the second stop of the 2013 Mello Yello NHRA Drag Racing Series with the Arizona Nationals in Phoenix. After getting a great start in the first event of the season, both the Funny Car and Pro Stock Mopar entries were looking to continue their strong season. Unfortunately, things didn’t go so well for the Mopar Pro Stockers but an all-Dodge Funny Car finals guaranteed that a Mopar driver would once again be on the top of the podium.
For the Pro Stock class, things got off to a good start at the NHRA Arizona Nationals with four of the top eight qualifiers doing so in a Dodge Avenger. Add to those four three more Avengers in the lower half of the bracket and there were a total of seven Mopar Pro Stock cars in the 16 car field. The first round went well for Team Mopar with Vincent Nobile beating Greg Stanfield, Jeg Coughlin beating Rodger Brogdon, V. Gaines beating Larry Morgan and Allen Johnson beating Chris McGaha. Deric Kramer and Matt Hartford joined McGaha with first round losses but after round one – there were still four Avenger Pro Stock cars in the 8 car field. Sadly, round two saw all four of those Avengers knocked out as Gaines lost to Enders, Nobile lost to Edwards, Johnson lost to Greg Anderson and Coughlin lost to Jason Line. Fortunately, Vincent Nobile still holds onto the top spot in the early season standings with a 16 point lead over Erica Enders.
After losing in the finals to Courtney Force at the first event of the 2013 season, Ron Capps came into the NHRA Arizona Nationals in his NAPA Dodge Charger looking to change his fortune. Capps was joined by fellow Mopar drivers Johnny Gray, Matt Hagan, Jack Beckman, Todd Lesenko and Jeff Arend in the 16 car field with Gray and Hagan claiming the top two qualifying spots.
In round 1, Ron Capps took down Tony Pedregon, Matt Hagan beat Phil Burkhart and Lesenko beat Courtney Force while Gray fell to Robert Hight, Arend lost to Cruz Pedregon and Beckman lost to Bob Tasca. Capps turned the second fastest past in round one of 4.061 – trailing only John Force (4.047).
In round 2, Ron Capps made short work of Cruz Pedregon when his Snap On Tools Camry crossed the center line but Capps didn’t take that run easy – running the fastest time of the second round with a 4.059. Matt Hagan avenged Jack Beckman by beating Bob Tasca while Lesenko was the second Mopar driver knocked out by John Force when his Charger broke at the line. That sent Hagan and Capps onto the third round where a pair of Ford Mustang funny cars waited.
Round 3 pitted Ron Capps against Tim Wilkerson and while Wilkerson’s Mustang had a lead on green, a hard tire shake by the Mustang handed the easy win to Capps and his Charger. Even with the Mustang smoking the tires, Capps went all out and turned the fastest ET of eliminations with a 4.037 at 316.67 miles per hour. Only Johnny Gray’s qualifying time of 4.034 was quicker than Capps’ round 3 run. Over in the other pairing, John Force got the early jump on Matt Hagan but Hagan’s Mopar Charger drove around Force’s Mustang around the 60 foot mark and stayed there for the win.
This set up an all Mopar final round pitting Ron Capps and his Napa Charger against Matt Hagan and the Mopar Charger. Capps had been one of the faster cars all day long and things didn’t change in the finals. Even though Hagan hopped out to a narrow starting line advantage, Capps drove around him around the 330 mark and he stayed there for his first win of the season with an ET of 4.064 at 314.9 miles per hour.
With the win, Capps now holds a 45 point series lead over Courtney Force.