LAS VEGAS -- Compromise is not an option. Mopar officials, in an announcement during today’s SEMA show at the Las Vegas Convention Center, made that mantra clear by unveiling its new Hemi-powered Dodge Stratus R/T Pro Stock challenger for the 2003 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series season.
“It’s absolutely the perfect way (for a manufacturer) to design a new race vehicle,” said Brett Fischer, DaimlerChrysler drag racing program manager. “We used the latest technology housed in DaimlerChrysler’s Technology Center, along with the expertise of our engineers. Terry DeKoninck, who is the lead aero engineer on the program, has done an incredible job. It’s going to be a more competitive race car over what we have now. NHRA fans will be able to identify more with the car on track. And it will be more in line with our dealer group because we’re running a current model year car. This car looks like the Dodge Stratus R/T that our Dodge dealers are selling across the country right now. It will drive more traffic into the showrooms. More than our current Neon does.”
Two Mopar-backed Pro Stock teams fielding four drivers will be guiding the factory program for 2003. Veteran team owner and driver Allen Johnson and three-time Pro Stock World Champion Darrell Alderman will team together in the first two-car factory operation. Veteran Pro Stock campaigner and team owner Larry Morgan will expand to a two-car operation; joining forces with current NHRA Road to the Future candidate and 2001 IHRA Pro Stock World Champion Gene Wilson on the other Mopar factory team.
“The (Mopar factory) program had gotten to a point where our equipment is obviously there – looking at the national speed record we’ve held for more than a year now,” Fischer said. “But, we are looking for consistency and a higher level of performance round-to-round.
Allen Johnson talked about joining Mopar’s factory program.
“It’s exciting for us,” said Johnson, who won the NHRA national event at Atlanta Dragway earlier this season. “We hope we can take it and build something really good for Mopar and all the hard-working guys on this team. We feel like we’re in position to run for the championship right off the bat. I think that’s a little different than the position Mopar has been in with the new teams they have had the last time or two. We go way back with Mopar. Being with Mopar means a lot to my dad as well, and that’s the main reason I’m doing this.
“The Mopar engines and parts we’re getting are excellent,” Johnson continued. “One of the great things is the Mopar engineers actually listen to us. We’re just now starting to work with them and it’s really starting to show. Down through the years, my dad has had a close relationship with Mopar. Now, Mopar’s engineers are coming over and asking us what we want. That type of support is so hard to get. When you’re not part of the factory team, you can’t really be a part of that. We’re really excited about working with the Mopar engineering group as well as Larry Morgan and the other factory team. I feel strongly both teams will work together as a cohesive unit.”
Alderman racked up his 28th NHRA national event victory at Gainesville (Fla.) Raceway earlier this year, while Wilson has grabbed two, final-round appearances and a No. 1 qualifier in this, his rookie season. Morgan has taken home nine career NHRA Pro Stock victories, including this year’s tilt at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., last July. Johnson has collected two-career NHRA national event victories.
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