CLERMONT, Ind. (Aug. 30, 2004) - For those professional drivers that compete on the NHRA circuit, the goal is to do well and win each event, but if you can win just one race on the 23-race NHRA POWERade Series schedule, overwhelmingly the race to...
CLERMONT, Ind. (Aug. 30, 2004) - For those professional drivers that compete on the NHRA circuit, the goal is to do well and win each event, but if you can win just one race on the 23-race NHRA POWERade Series schedule, overwhelmingly the race to win would be the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.
Skoal RacingSM Funny Car driver Tommy Johnson Jr. almost reached the pinnacle at the U.S. Nationals two years ago where he posted a runner-up finish. Johnson, who has qualified No. 1 at the U.S. Nationals two times, eyes another visit to the final round on Labor Day when the NHRA stages its marquee event of the season, the 50th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, Sept. 1-6, at Indianapolis Raceway Park.
"This could be the event that could turn the season around for us," Johnson said. "If we win Indy, that would turn our entire year around and make it a great season for the Skoal RacingSM guys.
"I've been the No. 1 qualifier at Indy twice. Last year, we ran our career-best during qualifying, that was a 4.78. I always seemed to qualify well at Indy. Even when I seem to be struggling a bit, I always seem to do well at I.R.P."
With the Nationals comes appearances and commitments that fill up the days leading up to the six-day race weekend in the motor sports capitol. Luckily, Johnson lives in nearby Avon, Ind. which provides the luxury of having a home life and the opportunity to sleep in his own bed, giving the five-time NHRA winner quality rest and allowing him to stay focused despite all buzz that surrounds the Nationals.
"It can be both an advantage and a disadvantage living in Indy," Johnson said. "You have a lot of family and friends around because everyone wants to come to the race, but it also helps you stay focused that you can watch TV at home and have some home cooking.
"It's very easy to get distracted because there's so much to do. Come Monday, you're worn out by race day. Having competed at this race so many times, you learn how to pace yourself. You kind of get overwhelmed with all the hoopla, especially this year with all the 50th anniversary stuff happening. My goal is to just relax and have fun and not get too wrapped up in everything going on besides racing."
Keeping focused might be the key to staying around late in the afternoon on Monday. The Nationals is undoubtedly the most stressful event of the year and if Johnson and his blue Skoal RacingSM crew can concentrate on their goal of winning rounds, there might be a new name added to the list of U.S. Nationals Funny Car champions -Tommy Johnson Jr.
"People can get too tense with the whole Indy atmosphere," Johnson said. "I've got a different way of looking at it. I just go out and have fun. It's really no different than any other race, we start with 16 cars and we end up with one. You shouldn't change your entire game plan just because it's Indy. I'm going to drive the same as I do in Englishtown (N.J.) and try to win the race."