Brainerd: Allen Johnson preview

Team Mopar Driver Johnson Looks for Boost in Standings at Brainerd as Countdown Playoffs Near Johnson hopes for better positioning in the Countdown with a good outing at Brainerd Center Line, Mich. -- Mopar/J&J Racing Dodge Stratus R/T Pro ...

Team Mopar Driver Johnson Looks for Boost in Standings at Brainerd as Countdown Playoffs Near Johnson hopes for better positioning in the Countdown with a good outing at Brainerd

Center Line, Mich. -- Mopar/J&J Racing Dodge Stratus R/T Pro Stock driver Allen Johnson clinched his berth in the NHRA Countdown to 1 playoffs at the previous NHRA event in Sonoma, Calif. Now, the Mopar HEMI-powered NHRA Full Throttle Pro Stock star, with his spot secure, can focus on going rounds and improving his Countdown "seeding" at each of the three events remaining prior to the playoffs. The first event is the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, scheduled for Aug. 13--16 at Brainerd International Raceway in Brainerd, Minn.

The Countdown to 1 six-race playoffs will begin in September at the NHRA Carolinas Nationals in Concord, N.C. The top 10 drivers in the Pro Stock standings qualify for the Countdown. The points will reset, with the points leader assuming a 30-point lead over the second-place driver, a 40-point lead over the third-place driver, and so on in 10-point increments for each of the remaining drivers in the top 10. Johnson is currently fifth in points, 60 markers out of the fourth spot.

"I'd like to overtake that fourth spot," said Johnson. "We almost had it done after Seattle and then we gave two rounds back at Sonoma. Now we're three rounds out of fourth. But we still have 12 rounds of racing before the Countdown begins, so I feel like we can still do it. We just have to have at least one more really good race and go to the finals or win, and then we can do it. I'd love to have the fourth spot."

Johnson and his J&J Racing crew will test at their home track of Bristol Dragway, which offers conditions similar to Brainerd, in preparation for the Minnesota race.

"The Bristol track, conditions and altitude are almost identical to Brainerd," Johnson said. "We're going to be testing there at least one day, maybe two, right before Brainerd. That will help us with our setup."

The Greeneville, Tenn., native has captured two wins thus far in 2009, including a victory in his sponsor's headline event, the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals. Johnson has now qualified for the Countdown playoffs in each of the first three years since the NHRA adopted the playoff format. As much as Johnson desires to improve his spot in the Countdown, he's also firmly working to ensure his Pro Stock partner, fellow Mopar-powered driver Johnny Gray, qualifies for the Countdown. Gray is currently 11th in the standings, only 27 points out of the final spot.

"From now until the Countdown, we have to focus on getting Johnny into the playoffs," said a determined-sounding Johnson. "We've got to perfect our setup to where we don't give any rounds away.

"We're working on a new engine combination that we incorporated into one car during the Western Swing. We're trying to get two or three more motors just like it ready, so we can make sure that we can have good backups for both Johnny and I."

-credit: mopar

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Series NHRA
Drivers Allen Johnson , Johnny Gray