Atlanta: Johnson look for win

ATLANTA DRAGWAY HISTORY: Johnson will be making his first appearance at the track since 1997. He competed in the last half of the 1999 and 2000 seasons and missed the Southern Nationals. STANDING: Fifth place, 344 points, after six of 24...

ATLANTA DRAGWAY HISTORY:

Johnson will be making his first appearance at the track since 1997. He competed in the last half of the 1999 and 2000 seasons and missed the Southern Nationals.

STANDING:

Fifth place, 344 points, after six of 24 NHRA Winston Series events.

LOOKING AHEAD TO THE SOUTHERN NATIONALS:

Johnson watched teammate Ron Capps win at Bristol, Tenn., Sunday, giving team owner Don Prudhomme his third straight win. Johnson began the streak with his victory at Las Vegas on April 8. Top Fuel driver Larry Dixon followed with a win at Gainesville, Fla., April 21.

"If the Prudhomme Racing win streak continues, it should be my turn to win again," Johnson said with a smile.

He's eager to return to Atlanta Dragway, especially after two successive first-round losses (Gainesville, April 21 and Bristol, Tenn. Sunday) dropped him from third to fifth place.

A major blower explosion during his first qualifying run at Bristol created several gremlins in the tune-up that weren't discovered until a test session Monday. And his uncustomary 15th qualifying spot - the lowest of the season - was a good indication.

"I feel a lot better than I would've if we hadn't tested," Johnson said. "Now I feel extremely good. We would've found the problem if we hadn't tested, but we might've wasted three or four runs at Atlanta. We would've qualified, but not at a competitive level.

"Now we can go into Atlanta and be the No. 1 qualifier.

"If you're going to have a bad weekend, it's best to get it over with as soon as possible. It's still early in the season.

"It took a while to find the problem, and Ace (crew chief Ed "The Ace" McCulloch) wasn't sure if the problem area contributed to the blower explosion or was damaged in the explosion."

Johnson's worst previous starting spot was ninth. He was the No. 1 qualifier at Pomona, Calif., in February.

He had climbed as high as third in points after his win at Las Vegas.

WATCHING TEAMMATE RON CAPPS WIN AT BRISTOL:

"I was still disappointed and mad about losing in the first round by the time Ron won the second round," Johnson said. "By the semifinals it was easier to take and it was great to see the team chemistry going into the final.

"I'm happy Ron won because we are a team. It's hard to do that - be happy for someone else - because I hate to lose.

"I also realized how Ron felt and how unselfish he was when I won and I wanted to support him that much more. That shows you what kind of teammate you have."

LOOKING BACK AT THE THUNDER VALLEY NATIONALS:

When the blower expired with a loud boom on Johnson's first run, his competitive edge went with it. McCulloch and the Skoal Racing Blue crew diligently checked for hidden parts damage, they didn't find the culprit until Monday's test runs.

"It really wasn't running the same, not like it was before the explosion," said Johnson. "The power wasn't the same.

"I'd say the high point of last weekend was that we qualified. The car was on a good run Friday until the blower blew."

Johnson's best run of the weekend (4.992 seconds at 288.95 mph) put him 15th and he was beaten by Frank Pedregon in the opening round.

-Snake Racing

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Series NHRA
Drivers Frank Pedregon , Ron Capps , Don Prudhomme