July 23, 2017, Morrison, Colo. – It was a nearly picture-perfect weekend at the NHRA Mopar® Mile-High Nationals in Denver, where a high-energy crowd celebrated the 80th anniversary of the Mopar brand. On track, four-time Stock Eliminator champion Kevin Helms carried the Mopar and Dodge banners to the winner’s circle. (add a link to the sportsman roundup story here)
“Sportsman racing is the backbone of the NHRA, so it’s very special when a Mopar-powered driver takes home a trophy,” said Pietro Gorlier, Head of Parts and Service (Mopar) FCA – Global, during post-race ceremonies. “Congratulations to Kevin Helms on the Stock Eliminator win in his 2013 Dodge Challenger during this weekend’s Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals.”
Mopar-powered professional drivers Leah Pritchett and Tommy Johnson Jr. each went to the final round of their respective categories during the three-day race at Bandimere Speedway this weekend, but each came up just short.
The runner-up finishes for Pritchett and Johnson snapped a streak of 14 consecutive event wins for Mopar HEMI® power in both Nitro categories dating back to the end of last season, and a run of 10 consecutive victories in the Funny Car class.
In the final round of Top Fuel, Pritchett turned in a pass of 3.816 seconds at 324.90 mph from the left lane after a .059-second reaction time in her Papa John’s Pizza/Mopar Pennzoil dragster from Don Schumacher Racing (DSR). Yet, she was just bested by Antron Brown’s 3.792 at 319.82, paired with a .047 reaction time. The final-round appearance was Pritchett’s fifth of the season (plus a final quad appearance in the Four-Wide Nationals), which has included three victories.
Pritchett started her day by taking down Troy Coughlin Jr. on a clean run. She next chased down Clay Millican in round two to advance to the semis when Millican’s car lost power, then eliminated her Mopar teammate Tony Schumacher on a holeshot to reach the final round.
Pritchett’s Mopar and DSR teammate, Tommy Johnson Jr., and the Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car team appeared in their second consecutive final round this weekend, but came up short once again. Johnson made a lap of 4.099 at 297.16 from the right lane after a reaction time of .055, but Robert Hight pulled away on the strength of a 3.995 at 317.57 with a .046 reaction time off the starting line.
Johnson first drove past Mopar teammate Ron Capps in a re-match of the final round from two weeks ago at Route 66 Raceway, with Johnson winning this battle on a holeshot. Johnson next bested Jonnie Lindberg on a clean pass as the Swedish driver struggled to find traction. The Make-A-Wish team then knocked out fellow Dodge driver Jim Campbell on their quickest pass of the weekend in the semis as Campbell got out of the groove, allowing Johnson to reach the final.
None of the other DSR Mopar Funny Cars were able to advance past the second round. After a tough qualifying effort that led to the squad starting the day in the No. 15 position, Matt Hagan and the Mopar 80th/Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T team bested John Force in round one despite Hagan suffering an explosion as he crossed the finish line. Hagan’s team thrashed to make the second round but their day came to an end at the hands of Cruz Pedregon. Still, Hagan qualified for the year-end Countdown to the Championship with his efforts at Bandimere.
Jack Beckman and the Infinite Hero team put their Mopar Dodge Funny Car past Alexis DeJoria on a side-by-side run in the first round, but were bested by Hight in round two after Beckman was forced to pedal around the 200-foot mark.
Also in Top Fuel, Tony Schumacher and the Mopar-powered U.S. Army team were forced to bring out a brand-new car after hurting the chassis on an unplanned wheelstand during Saturday qualifying. Schumacher first defeated Steve Chrisman and then took down Terry Haddock on a clean pass as Haddock had mechanical issues at the starting line. Schumacher made another clean run in the semis but still fell to Pritchett.
In Pro Stock, Mopar-powered Allen Johnson was looking for his eighth win at Bandimere in his Marathon Petroleum Dodge Dart. However, Johnson’s day ended early after a close first-round loss to Bo Butner. Johnson had advanced to an amazing ten consecutive final rounds at Bandimere.
The 38th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals featured cool and overcast conditions on Friday, including several rain delays, while Saturday and Sunday were contested under hot and sunny skies. The ever-changing conditions at Bandimere Speedway, combined with the high elevation, are known to wreak havoc with race teams as they kick off the three-race Western Swing.
For details of Kevin Helms Stock Eliminator win, check out our Sportsman Summary.