Englishtown: Tommy Johnson Jr. ready to race

DRIVER OF DON "THE SNAKE" PRUDHOMME'S SKOAL RACING BLUE CAMARO FUNNY CAR                The Race: 32nd annual Matco Tools SuperNationals, Englishtown, N.J., May 18-20. RACEWAY PARK HISTORY: Johnson has raced here five times while ...

DRIVER OF DON "THE SNAKE" PRUDHOMME'S SKOAL RACING BLUE CAMARO FUNNY CAR                The Race:

32nd annual Matco Tools SuperNationals, Englishtown, N.J., May 18-20.

RACEWAY PARK HISTORY:

Johnson has raced here five times while driving a Top Fuel dragster. He hasn't competed at the track driving a Funny Car.

STANDING:

Seventh place, 354 points, after seven of 24 NHRA Winston Series events.

LOOKING AHEAD TO THE SUPERNATIONALS:

Johnson calls the track average for him, primarily because he didn't race there the last four years.  

It is not, however, located south of the Mason-Dixon Line, which pleases him. He didn't fare too well in the last three races, which were contested at Gainesville, Fla., Bristol, Tenn., and Commerce, Ga.

"I was ready to leave the south," Johnson said. "I definitely want to get over what was going on there."

Whatever it was, it didn't sit well with the driver of the Skoal Racing Blue Camaro.  In those three outings, Johnson didn't win a round and failed to get into the 16-car field at the Southern Nationals in Commerce, Ga., near Atlanta.

"It was very disappointing," said Johnson, whose qualifying attempts were hindered by several mechanical problems.  

"It wasn't like the tune-ups were off  because Ron's (teammate Ron Capps) car showed that it wasn't.  (Capps qualified third and was the race runner-up.) It's just that little freak things kept biting us.

"We can't seem to get the bugs worked out."

An example of the frustration felt by Johnson's  crew came in his final qualifying run.  One of the engine's two magnetos quit running less than one second into the run and the best Johnson could do was 5.016 seconds at 299 mph.  It was his quickest run of the weekend but wasn't close to No. 16's 4.957 seconds.  The Funny Car field was the quickest in history.

Johnson, the winner at Las Vegas last month, had hoped to take advantage of that and climb up the standings with good outings at the last three events. But mechanical woes began at Bristol and he only qualified 15th at 4.992 on his final try.

"Not qualifying hurt points-wise, but I don't think that's going to be a big deal because as tough as the Funny Car field is, I think there are going to be a lot of guys who don't qualify.  This is the toughest the competition has ever been," he said.

"I wanted to come out of those last three races on top in points, but that didn't work out, so now is the time we have to turn our performance around.

"We found so many little things wrong it makes you wonder how the car ran so good at first.  If that's any indication, we ought to run really good at Englishtown."

CREW CHIEF ED "THE ACE" McCULLOCH ON THE PROBLEMS:

"We were obviously disappointed the Blue car didn't qualify," McCulloch said. "We came up with reasons why the car didn't run well.  

"On it's second run (Friday night), it was going just fine when a rocker arm stud broke and put out a cylinder.  Then on the last run, the mag quit. These things happen, but not usually at the same time.

"There's no reason why the Blue car can't go to Englishtown and be the top qualifier.

***

Tommy Johnson Jr. Facts:

Birthdate: 4/6/68
Hometown: Ottumwa, Iowa

Career wins: 5 (three Funny Car, two Top Fuel).
Final rounds: 10 (5 Top Fuel, 5 Funny Car)
Last win: 4/8/01 Las Vegas
Last final round: 4/4/01 Las Vegas
Best Funny Car elapsed time: 4.838 seconds ('01 Pomona, Calif.)
Best Funny Car speed: 320.05 mph ('99 Dallas)

- Skoal Racing

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Series NHRA
Drivers Ron Capps , Tommy Johnson Jr.