Bristol, Tenn. — Perhaps Team Mopar® driver Allen Johnson had some lint in his pocket. Something that slight might have meant the difference between victory and defeat for the Mopar Dodge Avenger pilot in his agonizingly close final-round loss today at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol, Tenn. Johnson’s runner-up finish to Mike Edwards was the closest Pro Stock final round in NHRA history, with Johnson losing in a virtual dead heat.
The No. 1 Qualifier at Bristol’s Thunder Valley Dragway for the third consecutive year, Johnson continued his domination through the first three rounds of eliminations. He posted a 6.656-second elapsed time (quickest of the round) at 206.99 mph with a .032 reaction time to take down first- round opponent Shane Gray, who clocked in with a 6.716/204.42 with a .040 mark off the starting line. Johnson was quickest again in the quarterfinals with a 6.657/207.24 run to knock off Ronnie Humphrey (6.694/205.44) after a brief staging duel.
The semifinals offered a showdown between the No. 3 (Johnson) and No. 2 (Jason Line) drivers in the Pro Stock point standings. The Team Mopar veteran did his job both at the starting line and finish line to advance to his 28th career final round, recording a quicker .018 reaction time to Line’s .038, and yet again tripping the timing lights with the quickest ET of the round, a 6.659 at 206.67 mph.
In the final round, Johnson matched his stellar .018 reaction time of the semifinals. The only problem: defending Bristol champ Edwards’ near perfect .005 mark. Johnson’s Mopar Dodge was quicker and faster with a 6.661/207.05 to the 6.674/206.16 of Edwards’ machine, but it wasn’t enough to give Johnson the win. In the ultimate photo finish, and in the closest Pro Stock final in NHRA history, Johnson settled for his first runner-up of the season in three final rounds.
“We were talking about it, we would rather shake the tires, hit the wall, anything than lose like that,” said Johnson, a Greeneville, Tenn., native whose J&J Racing shop is about 45 minutes from Bristol. “Hats off to my crew, the car, the engines, everything. He (Edwards) just did a better job in the final. That’s Pro Stock racing at its best. It’s close, thousandths of a second — now, we can say (it’s as close as) a dead heat.
“The biggest thing I hate, I really wanted to give that to my dad (team engine builder Roy Johnson) for Father’s Day, and to my employees and crew. I really wanted to give them the excitement of a win here at home. We’ll come back next year and keep clawing. That’s how close Pro Stock racing is this year. It just wasn’t our day.
“I’m very tickled with the way the Mopar Dodge is performing. We just have to keep doing it the rest of the year. Most of the time we’ll be on the winning side. We just have to keep our heads up.”
Mopar/JEGS.com Dodge Avenger Pro Stock driver Jeg Coughlin Jr. scored an impressive holeshot win over Greg Anderson in a first-round battle of former Pro Stock champions. Coughlin posted a quicker .027 reaction time to Anderson’s .065, overcoming a slower 6.684 ET to Anderson’s 6.671 run. Coughlin fell to Edwards in the quarterfinals on a 6.695/206.16 to Edwards’ winning 6.669/206.42.
Mountain View Dodge driver Vincent Nobile exited in the first-round on a red-light foul after leaving the starting line too soon in his opening- round battle with Kurt Johnson. V. Gaines knocked off Ron Krisher with a 6.699/205.69 to Krisher’s 6.708/206.10 before Gaines took the loss in a quarterfinals race against Line.
Johnson is now third in Pro Stock points, just 30 markers behind second- place Jason Line and less than 100 behind leader Greg Anderson. Nobile is fifth in Pro Stock, with Coughlin 12th and Gaines 16th. In Funny Car, Capps is second in the standings, Gray fourth, Beckman fifth and Hagan 11th. Next up is the Route 66 NHRA Nationals in Joliet, Ill., June 28-July 1.