Bristol: GM Racing preview

Tommy Johnson Jr. Heading in Right Direction Toward the Countdown Funny Car Veteran Looks to Put Skoal Racing Chevy in Elite Eight BRISTOL, Tenn., July 3, 2007 - Despite an inauspicious start to the 2007 NHRA POWERade season, Tommy Johnson Jr....

Tommy Johnson Jr. Heading in Right Direction Toward the Countdown
Funny Car Veteran Looks to Put Skoal Racing Chevy in Elite Eight

BRISTOL, Tenn., July 3, 2007 - Despite an inauspicious start to the 2007 NHRA POWERade season, Tommy Johnson Jr. and his Don Prudhomme Racing team have the Skoal Racing Chevy Impala SS hitting on all cylinders as they make a final push to make the final eight for the Countdown to the Championship at this weekend's 7th annual O'Reilly NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway. Johnson has qualified in the top half of the ultra-competitive Funny Car field for the last five NHRA contests including his eighth career No. 1 qualifier at Englishtown two weeks ago. Even more impressively, the Skoal Racing team overcame a first-round fire at Englishtown and parlayed the season's first No. 1 qualifier into the team's first win of the season. Although Johnson stubbed his toe with a first-round loss at Norwalk after qualifying fourth, the Avon, Ind., resident sits ninth in points and likes the turnaround the team has made heading into the final six races that det ermine the eight qualifiers for the Countdown to the Championship.

"We're heading in the right direction," Johnson said. "At Topeka we went back in a different direction (with the car), and it took us a race or two to actually get the tune-up back to where we knew how to make a run. We had changed so many things that it took us a little awhile to get the thing back to where we knew how to run it. Now, it really responds. When (crew chief) Mike (Green) makes a change to the car, it does what he tells it. Earlier in the year, he'd make a change and it really wouldn't do anything. Once we got the problem solved and started tuning the race car, it made all the difference in the world. And the better downforce (with the new Impala SS) we have over what we had last year has allowed us to run much better half-track speeds. Even though we've struggled, we've learned along the way what makes this thing tick, and we're now reaping the rewards from that.

After a season-low points position of 15th after Atlanta, Johnson finds himself just 10 points out of the coveted elite eight and gives all the credit for the season's turnaround to the hard work and dedication of his Skoal Racing team.

"The whole time we struggled the first 10 races, or 11 races, whatever it is, there wasn't a chin down in our pit area," Johnson said. "They were determined to beat it. I think you learn a lot about a team in the bad times more so than the good. The only reason the turnaround has happened is because they've never quit working. I can honestly say we've tested more than anybody out here this year. Being a single-car team, we have to test any chance we get. During the St. Louis to Topeka break where we didn't run Bristol, we tested three times, so there's not been a lack of effort."

Johnson's win at Englishtown was the ninth of his career (7 FC/2 TF), but given the circumstances of the weekend and where it puts the team in the points chase, it might rank right up there with one of his best. And to add icing to the victory cake, he and teammate Larry Dixon were able to give team owner Don Prudhomme a double-up weekend with wins in both Funny Car and Top Fuel.

"Every time you win, you think that's the best win," Johnson said from the winner's circle at Englishtown. "As hard as the guys worked and to be here in front of the (team sponsor Skoal) corporate headquarters, to come out and run No. 1 qualifier and then go out and put together a day like today, this is probably one of the biggest (wins) there is. It's hard to rank wins, but this is at the top. I told 'Snake' (team owner Don Prudhomme), after watching the guys work so hard after that fire and get that thing back together, there's no way I could let them down."

"The cars are running good," Prudhomme added from Englishtown. "It's like a baseball team, or whatever sports team, it's strong, it's good, and you can't wait until the next game instead of the agony when you go in there when you know you don't have your act together, and we've seen plenty of that. It's really fun."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Don Prudhomme , Tommy Johnson Jr.