Charlotte: Steve Johnson preview

The Countdown Begins -- And Steve Johnson's Ready! IRONDALE, AL 9/9/08 "Last weekend's NHRA U.S. Nationals was everything I could have asked for," admits Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Steve Johnson of Irondale, Ala. Aboard his colorful Snap-on...

The Countdown Begins -- And Steve Johnson's Ready!

IRONDALE, AL 9/9/08 "Last weekend's NHRA U.S. Nationals was everything I could have asked for," admits Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Steve Johnson of Irondale, Ala. Aboard his colorful Snap-on Tools/WyoTech Technical Schools Suzuki Johnson was the dominant competitor during Labor Day Monday's eliminations, capturing his second U.S. Nationals crown in four years. The U.S. Nationals is widely recognized as the most prestigious event in drag racing.

But, that popular victory -- which prompted Johnson to scale a finish line fence like an Indy 500 winner -- told only part of the story. An impressive series of runs during qualifying (with a best of 6.984 seconds) also guaranteed him a starting spot in the NHRA Countdown to 1 championship program that begins this coming weekend at the brand new, state-of the-art facility known as zMax Dragway in Charlotte, North Carolina. His elapsed time was good enough for the 5th starting spot in the U.S. Nationals eliminations field, and locked him into the 9th spot in the Top 10 standings. Winning the race moved him up to 8th, leaving him in an excellent position to seriously challenge for this year's NHRA POWERade Championship.

With the points standings now closed up to just 10 markers between positions (the points leader receives a 10 point bonus), Johnson is just 90 points out of first place, but he's determined not to get ahead of himself. "That 90 points doesn't look like much on paper," he says, "but in reality, it's huge.

"No matter how well we do with our Snap-on Tools/WyoTech Suzuki it's not as if the people in front of us on that list are going to be standing still. Every rider in the Countdown program is a solid professional, so we're not only going to have to be at the top of our game in the remaining five races, we're going to need a few breaks going our way, too.

"Drag racing is all about challenges, and how you meet and overcome them. In the last few races our team has really come together under the leadership of our crew chief, Mark Peiser. We're working together better than we have all year, and there's no doubt that our Suzuki's performances reflect that. But, we have to keep the pressure on, because we're not going to be able to sneak up on anyone. All of us -- everyone in the Countdown -- know each other pretty well. We know that they're capable of, just like they know what we can do. We can't afford a single mistake, a single slip-up.

"Kinda makes me nervous just thinking about these next five races, but we're going to approach this just like any sports team -- we're going to take it one qualifying run at a time, one round of eliminations at a time, and one race at a time. Each time we take our Suzuki to the starting line we're going to be thinking about one thing, and one thing only: How we attack the track for that next run.

"I won't kid anyone, winning the NHRA Carolinas Nationals at zMax Dragway would be something special. People never forget who wins the first race a brand new track, and we're hoping that when the dust settles next Sunday afternoon it's our names they'll remember!"

-credit: sjr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Steve Johnson