Allen Johnson raced to his first Pro Stock victory of the season and his third win in the last four years at Bandimere Speedway to finish off a successful weekend for his team Sunday at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals.
Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event near Denver.
Johnson took his eighth career Pro Stock win from the No. 1 qualifying position when he outran Jeg Coughlin in the final round. Johnson powered his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger to a 6.974sec run at 198.26mph to finish in front of Coughlin, whose JEGS.com Chevy Cobalt slowed at mid-track and posted a 7.858 at 135.09.
“We've got an awesome setup for this track,” said Johnson who has advanced to the final at this event the last four seasons. “The engine guys do an unbelievable job on the motors for this place. I'd like to race every race here. To go up against Greg in the second round and Jeg in the final, I knew I had to be on my game. Fortunately, I was able to do it today.”
Johnson continued to solidify his claim to second place in the final regular season Pro Stock points order with his effort this weekend and is showing that he will be one of the top challengers for the Pro Stock championship in the playoffs.
“I was tickled with how I did my job today,” said Johnson, who beat Bob Yonke, Anderson and Johnny Gray to advance to his fourth final round of the season. “We've got to continue this pace and be aggressive and go toward that championship and hopefully pull it off.”
Kalitta scored his first win of the season in Top Fuel and joined uncle Connie Kalitta and late cousin Scott Kalitta as winners at the high-altitude dragstrip. Kalitta posted a 3.963 at 308.35 in his Kalitta Motorsports dragster to beat Brandon Bernstein, who trailed with a 4.003 at 297.35 in his Copart/Lucas Oil dragster.
Kalitta outran Terry McMillen, Steve Torrence and Rod Fuller in earlier rounds to claim his 32nd career victory.
“Seeing that win light come on down there was real special and a great relief,” Kalitta said of his final round match with Bernstein. “This facility gets better and better. I am so glad to finally get a win here. We've been close a bunch of times and finally got it done today.”
Hight earned his fourth victory of the season and 18th of his career in Funny Car as he outran team owner John Force in the final round. Hight's Auto Club Ford Mustang finished in 4.215 at 296.05, just ahead of Force's Castrol GTX High-Mileage Mustang, which ran 4.386 at 284.99.
“It's a great win for us and we only have one more race to go before the Countdown,” said Hight, who advanced to the final with early round wins over James Day, Ron Capps and top-qualifier Matt Hagan. “It is definitely a turnaround from last year when we went into Brainerd and weren't even qualified for the Countdown.”
Hight took his second Bandimere win and closed the gap between series leader Force, who is now 28 points ahead.
“This is the best season I've ever had,” Hight said. “I've never won four races in a season. John and I are only separated by a little over one round and I am sure he'll be ribbing me about it the next two weeks. You can see how bad John wants to win. He's definitely on a mission. I am sure he's happy for us, but you know he wanted to win.”
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hines claimed his third win of the season and 21st of his career by defeating Karen Stoffer in the final. Hines rode his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to a 7.342 at 178.02 to hold off Stoffer's GEICO Powersports Suzuki, which clocked a 7.402 at 175.94.
“My riding has really come around in the last three or four races,” said Hines, who defeated rookie LE Tonglet, Jim Underdahl and top qualifier Michael Phillips in the first three rounds. “Every round we had to scratch for it. Karen is a tough competitor and she's got her motorcycle turned around. The Suzuki's were dominant all weekend, but our V-Rod was able to beat them today all four rounds.”
Hines, a California native who spent all of his teenage years in Trinidad, Colo., says winning his second race at Bandimere is very special to him.
“I grew up three hours south of here and spent ages 10 to 20 here,” Hines said. “I know this place as my home. To come back here and get a win on the mountain says a lot about my team. We didn't have the best motorcycle all weekend, but we were able to get the job done.”
The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series continues Aug. 12-15 at Brainerd (Minn.) International Raceway with the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, the final race of the Countdown to 10, NHRA's regular season. The Countdown to 1, NHRA's six-race championship playoffs, starts Sept. 1-6 with the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis.