Team MoparÂ® Pro Stockers Johnson and Stevens Jr. Seek to Build Momentum as Crucial Six-Race Stretch Kicks Off at ProCare Rx NHRA SuperNationals Center Line, Mich. -- The NHRA Pro Stock championship push begins in earnest this weekend for the...
Team Mopar® Pro Stockers Johnson and Stevens Jr. Seek to Build Momentum as Crucial Six-Race Stretch Kicks Off at ProCare Rx NHRA SuperNationals
Center Line, Mich. -- The NHRA Pro Stock championship push begins in earnest this weekend for the Team Mopar® Pro Stock duo of Allen Johnson and Richie Stevens Jr. at the ProCare Rx NHRA SuperNationals in Englishtown, N.J. Johnson and Stevens are focused on emerging from the first event in a six-race stretch on a path to making the final cut in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship.
The pair is well aware an all-important gamut begins at Old Bridge Township Raceway. Only eight events remain before the NHRA Countdown to the Championship reduces the Pro Stock field to the top eight drivers in the points standings. With so many events packed into such a short time frame, the drama and tension levels in the Pro Stock ranks will be high--a good thing for NHRA fans, but not so good for the Pro Stock drivers.
Johnson is currently fifth in points, with only a 41-point lead between him and the eighth and final Countdown spot. Stevens is 10th in the Pro Stock standings, with only 36 points separating him from the final berth in the Countdown. With Mopar HEMI® power and past successes at the Englishtown venue on their side, Johnson and Stevens are well positioned to shift their Countdown aspirations into overdrive this weekend.
Steady and consistent is Allen Johnson's mantra If Allen Johnson has said it once, he's said it a thousand times: The key to making the NHRA Countdown to the Championship is consistency. With a six-race stretch approaching, consistent performances are more important than ever.
"Consistency is very, very important in these next six races," Johnson stated emphatically. "We just need to be solid, with no breakages to the cars. We need to qualify in the top half to get lane choice and win the first round, and then just take the rest of it as it comes."
Johnson, driver of the Mopar\J&J Racing Dodge Stratus R/T, took the No. 1 qualifier spot and posted a semifinals finish at last year's event. He'll look to find another successful set up on his Dodge Stratus R/T this weekend.
"This track has just been very fast, it's close to sea level, and we've just been able to put together a good combination there," Johnson said of his Englishtown track record. "We'll try to do the same thing this year."
If the NHRA Countdown to the Championship ended today, Johnson would earn a berth in the new play-off system. Yet the Team Mopar veteran understands that there is a lot of racing yet to take place before the Countdown cut.
"We are tight from fifth to 12th," Johnson said of the current Countdown standings. "I'm not satisfied by any means at where I am at now. I'm not where I want to be. I want some more distance between me and the final Countdown spot. And, of course, we need to get Richie in there, too, even though he's only a few round [wins] behind me. We just need to stick to our game plan of being consistent. I think it's going to be very exciting. The fans are really going to be into the race for the top eight."
Richie Stevens Jr. plans to draw on prior success at Englishtown Although two spots out of the NHRA Countdown to the Championship entering Englishtown, Richie Stevens Jr. has good reason to feel confident. Two of his six career NHRA Pro Stock wins have come at the East Coast venue.
"I've had a lot of good luck at this track," said Stevens, driver of the Don Schumacher Racing-owned Team Mopar\Valspar Dodge Stratus R/T. His Pro Stock car is also tuned by the J&J Racing team, led by Roy Johnson. "We've always qualified well. I won in 1999 and 2001, and had a semifinals appearance not too long ago."
Far from being apprehensive at the beginning of a crucial six-race swing, Stevens relishes the chance to do what he loves most--go racing.
"I think it's going to be good for us. I'm looking forward to it," Stevens remarked of the back-to-back races. "We've been running really well, we tested really well the last few times out and I'm finally getting a handle on my car to get it on the same page as Allen's. We showed that pretty well at Chicago, where both cars qualified in the top half, and that's a big plus when you can do that. When you've got races back-to-back and no break in between, you can definitely get on a roll."
As with most Pro Stockers, Stevens will have one eye on the points standings until the Countdown to the Championship field is set following the Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals in August.
"We've got to make the cut off by Indy," observed Stevens. "I don't see any reason why we shouldn't be able to do that. We're only a couple of rounds out of eighth. It's going to be tough. You have to take out a lot of good running cars. Right around me [in the points standings] you've got Greg Stanfield, Mike Edwards, Jim Yates, and Warren Johnson. A bunch of us are piled up together and just fighting for it.
"If we can go out there and get some consistency built up, and go a couple of rounds at each of these races, it shouldn't be a problem to get back in it. We've got our deal together in the power department and got the car working right. It's just up to me and Allen to go out there and go some rounds. I need to go out there and get these first and second round blues out of the way. We're just looking for a final round finish. We're just looking to go out there, go rounds, and pick up some trophies."