Morgan Ends Drought-One of NHRA drag racing's most popular fan entities, Larry Morgan, broke through for Mopar and for himself in early August when he won Pro Stock eliminator during the NHRA Fram-Autolite Nationals held at California's Infineon Raceway (formerly Sears Point International Raceway). The victory was Morgan's ninth career event win, but his first on the NHRA trail since 1994. Most importantly, it was his first victory driving his Hemi-powered Dodge Neon. The hard-working racer is one of a number of former GM brand racers who converted to Dodge cars over the past couple of seasons. Morgan's event victory was anything but tame-it came over the second-quickest assembly of Pro Stock cars in NHRA drag racing history. The Fram-Autolite Nationals featured an astounding 16-car bump spot of 6.836 seconds, which was just short of the 6.831 bump spot set at Reading, Pennsylvania, in October of 2001. Morgan's team delivered an impressive run through eliminations, which included four consecutive low 6.8-second elapsed times, plus a career best 6.812 e.t. in round two.
"It's been a while, for sure," Morgan said about the win. "We've worked really hard and made some major changes to the setup of the car, and it was exciting to see the hard work pay off."
Morgan was sharp behind the wheel, too-he won the final round over Greg Anderson on a holeshot, posting a 6.845 e.t. to Anderson's quicker 6.799 e.t.
Mopars March at Martin-IHRA's first-ever national event stop at recently revamped U.S. 131 Motorsports Park featured two significant wins by Mopar racers. Joe Aluise Jr., who is the current NHRA national record holder in A/SA with his '64 Plymouth Belvedere, etched himself a little bit of Mopar drag racing history by becoming the first brand racer to win within IHRA's fledging new Top Stock category. Aluise Jr powered his 426 Max Wedge car to the title after running a string of 10.30-second elapsed times throughout the event.
"I think it's impressive for the class," said Aluise Jr. "At this point it's been 100 percent Chevy-dominated. I think that other Mopar racers will quickly see what can be done."
Aluise was quick to credit his long-time racing partner Dave Fortney and his engine builder Jimmy Bowen for the win.
Also taking top honors at the event was second generation driver Craig Marshall, who wheeled his revolutionary 460 cid '65 Coronet SS/AM to a win in Super Stock eliminator-his first IHRA national event title in Super Stock. Marshall's machine, which was campaigned within IHRA's Modified eliminator as an A/EM last season, features a Bruce Mills-assembled quarter-stroke Hemi engine which displaces 460 cubic inches.
Dodge City-NHRA's Fram-Autolite Nationals in August was yet another indication that the pendulum may be swinging within the Pro Stock. The category, which over the last decade has been a Pontiac "cookie cutter" class, saw no less then six Hemi-powered Dodge Neons qualify at the Sonoma, California, event-a single event record for the brand.
"At last count from the chassis builders there are 14 Dodge Neons out there in competition," said Brett Fischer, Motorsports Program Manager for Mopar Parts. "That's a record for our brand, and reminiscent of the late '70s when we dominated the sport. We know we are still in a minority compared to other manufacturers in the class, but I think the evolution we are all seeing speaks for itself."
Runner-up at New York-Defending '02 IHRA Super Rod World Champion Bernard Weaver just missed winning his first national event title of the season when he placed runner-up in the 9.90 category at IHRA's Carquest Empire Nationals. Weaver, driving his Virginia-based 493 cid '84 Daytona, won six rounds of competition at the New York Raceway event held in July before losing by a narrow margin to Greg Slack. Weaver had qualified in the middle of the pack of 62 cars entered at the event.
Bogner Is Best Appearing-The father and son team of Marlin and David Bogner turned heads in Super Stock racing during NHRA's Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals with their innovative '99 Dodge Avenger. The team had a successful event outing, first winning their GT/FA class, then being voted recipients of the event's prestigious "Best Appearing Car" award. Driver David Bogner followed that award with a superb late-round finish in Sunday's final eliminations. The team's award-winning Avenger was acquired last season from Louisiana's Sonny Stancil, and uses a Bogner Automotive 340 cid low compression engine and a 904 automatic transmission. Bob Mazzolini provides valuable associate sponsorship.
Future Vision-Mopar factory team officials revealed during the NHRA Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals event plans to field Hemi-powered '03 Dodge Stratus R/T Pro Stock cars beginning next season. The choice of the Stratus R/T is designed to more closely align the consumer with the showroom on a current basis. Presently, NHRA Mopar Pro Stock teams run what is technically a '99 body style with their Neon R/Ts. That was the last year DaimlerChrysler produced the Neon as a two-door, and to stay within NHRA's rulebook, the cars are designated as such. DaimlerChrysler engineers are already at work designing the car, which is anticipated to have a slightly longer wheelbase than the current Neon. The cars are also expected to spend a lot of time in the wind tunnel. Look for Mopar team owners David Nickens and Larry Morgan to be the first kids on the block with the new toys beginning at Pomona in February.
Legend Mancini to IHRA Top Stock-Ron Mancini, one of the most famous names in Mopar's drag racing annuls, returned to competition this summer on the IHRA Hooters Drag Racing Series trail. With his oldest son Jeff, the legendary racer was a surprise name on the entry list for Top Stock eliminator during the IHRA's Carquest Northern Nationals held in Michigan during August. Ron Mancini was behind the wheel of a classic-looking '68 Dodge Dart, which was painted to resemble his first Hemi-powered Super Stock car.
"The whole idea was my son's," said Ron. "He wanted to clone my original car. We had planned on putting a Hemi in it, but then we got wind of what IHRA was doing with their Top Stock eliminator, so we thought we would go there instead. We like the heads-up/no breakout aspect of the Top Stock class."
The Mancini's debut at the event was the first time the car had seen competition. Despite that, they were awarded the event's "Best Appearing Sportsman Car," thanks largely to a terrific scheme applied by Greg Mancini (Auto Crafters; Oxford, Mississippi). Power comes from a 360 Dodge crate engine which is rated at 380 hp. The team uses factory aluminum Magnum heads and an M-1 manifold. The car weighs in at 2,925 pounds with Mancini in the cockpit, and is manually shifted using a McLeod clutch and Jerico four-speed transmission.
Mancini, who had four national event wins to his credit while racing his famous machines during the '70s, retired from drag racing after a serious incident in 1976 when he crashed his Modified eliminator car at Indianapolis. That incident proved to be instrumental in helping NHRA develop the now-mandatory window safety nets. Mancini was coaxed out of retirement in the early '90s, and has since been actively participating on the popular North American Nostalgia drag racing circuit. He was the Pro Nostalgia National Champion in 1998, racing a B-1-powered car.
Mopar EventsBristol Bash Caravan: Mopar Muscle will again join in the caravan to the Bristol Bash, hosted by Year One at the Bristol Motor Sports complex in Bristol, Tennessee. A caravan will leave Shafer's Classic Reproductions in Tampa, Florida, on Thursday, October 17, at 8 a.m. and drive to the Year One facilities in Tucker, Georgia, for an overnight stay. The caravan will resume in the morning from Year One. The event will involve an Autocross event, drag racing, and car show. The highlight will be the awarding of the "Year One Cup," where one car is chosen as the "Best of Show" and will receive a $5,000 gift certificate from Year One. All information on this event can be found at yearone.com; 800/430-9840; You can also mail your registration to Year One Bristol Bash, P.O. Box 129, Tucker, GA 30085.
October 19-Memphis, TN: 14th Annual Mopars in Memphis to benefit Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation at Wolfchase Chrysler Jeep, 3020 N. Germantown Parkway. Contact Les Moore, 901/853-1600, LMOORE2@midsouth.rr.com; David Whittaker, 901/861-2785 email@example.com
October 20 - Los Angeles, CA: Fall Fling VI Show and Shine at Woodley Park. No judging, "Mopars Of Merit" ribbons. Contact: www.cpwclub.com
November 2-3-Ocala, FL: 15th Annual Mopars With Big Daddy Car show and swap meet. Contact: Tina 321/729-6236, firstname.lastname@example.org; http://clubs.hemmings.com/floridamopars/