GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 15, 2004) -- Two weeks ago in Phoenix, Tommy Johnson Jr. and the Skoal Racing crew took their first step towards accomplishing their goal of returning to the NHRA winner's circle. Johnson, who posted his best ...
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 15, 2004) -- Two weeks ago in Phoenix, Tommy Johnson Jr. and the Skoal Racing crew took their first step towards accomplishing their goal of returning to the NHRA winner's circle.
Johnson, who posted his best qualifying position (fourth) since last June racing to a run of 4.823 seconds, recorded his first round victory of the season at Firebird International Raceway.
"We continued making improvements at Phoenix," Johnson said. "We were confident going in there and it showed. We had our best qualifying effort in a long time and our first round win was like an event victory for the guys. We needed that win. We tested at Phoenix on Monday and it went well; the confidence is high for the Skoal Racing Funny Cars."
With just two races under their belts with the new Chevy Monte Carlo body, the Skoal Racing crews are still getting adjusted to the tuning nuances that the new body prefers compared to last season's Camaro Funny Car body.
"The new Monte Carlo is much better, but we've yet to discover the mph advantage," Johnson said. "We're still learning the top end tune-up on the car. We've posted some solid speeds so far. I can't wait to get to Gainesville and go after my career-best speed."
The Iowa native looks to continue his progress towards returning his Skoal Racing Chevy Monte Carlo to winning form March 18-21 as the NHRA returns to Gator Country for the 35th running of the Mac Tools Gatornationals, one of the most historic events on the 23-race NHRA schedule.
Following the 2004 season-opener in Pomona, Calif., where Johnson qualified his Don Prudhomme-owned Chevy Funny Car in the No. 11 spot, Johnson and crew chief Mike Green were focused on improving their qualifying position with the hopes of having lane choice for the opening round. They accomplished that goal in Phoenix and will attempt qualify near the top of the Funny Car order at the ultra-quick Gainesville Raceway quarter-mile.
"Lane choice is always a factor and who you draw is important in how the day plays out," Johnson said. "Phoenix showed us how important qualifying is. Lane choice is a big deal. Plus, earning points for the Skoal Showdown at Indy is important.
"I don't know if lane choice will be a factor at Gainesville since there is a new surface. It's always nice to pick your choice of lane and the order you want to run in for the first round. Also, the intimidation factor. If you make four good runs in qualifying, you have a mental advantage on your opponent."
Johnson made his NHRA debut at the 1984 Gatornationals, so he is well aware the significance of a victory at the historic Gainesville facility holds.
"I love the track," Johnson said. "It's one of my favorite races on the schedule. Gainesville was the first national event I raced at in 1984 (Super Gas). It's definitely one race I want to win before my career is over. There is something special about Gainesville."