Saturday afternoon, the first NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series world championship title of his 17-year drag racing career finally secure, Allen Johnson sat in the Shav Glick Media Center at historic Auto Club Raceway at Pomona and talked about “a dream come true.”
The NHRA Pro Stock team he and father Roy had started and nurtured through some discouraging years had clinched the title by qualifying its Team Mopar Dodge Avenger for Sunday’s elimination rounds of the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals.
It was the sixth time in as many seasons that Johnson had qualified for the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship and his best finish in the standings had been fourth, in 2007 and last year.
The difference this time, Johnson said, was consistency, and the team developed that the way it had everything else. By working hard as a family.
“That is the part that is the most satisfying,” said Johnson, 52, who lives in Greeneville, Tenn. “We did the engines on our own, my dad built them, and we climbed the mountain and learned how to run the cars and developed a crew.
“It’s been 17 long years, a lot of work and a lot of money. This is unexplainable.”
Greg Anderson, a four-time Pro Stock world champion, didn’t have a hard time explaining it because he witnessed the lean years, when Johnson went to every race on the schedule but seldom qualified.
“He’s the champion and it’s well deserved,” Anderson said. “It’s not an easy chore.
“Most people don’t understand what he went through to get where he’s at. I absolutely remember like it was yesterday him going to every race the entire season long and not qualifying for three or four years straight and he would stay after every Monday and test and test and test.
“He had more stick-to-it-iveness or whatever you want to call it than anybody I’ve ever met and here he is. I feel good for him.”
In Johnson’s first year, 1996, he qualified for just one of 18 races. The next year he made 7 of 22 and the year after that only 2 of 22. His first three victories came three years apart. This year there have been six wins and four runner-up efforts, 10 No. 1 qualifying runs and a 51-16 record.
“He’s done the best job this year and he deserves to win it,” said Jason Line, the top qualifier here.
“We learned how to win,” Johnson said. “We started this thing as a family and we built it from there. To finally reach the pinnacle has taken a long time, but it’s well worth it.”
Krawiec, 36, of Englishtown, N.J., secured the Pro Stock Motorcycle title by qualifying second to Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson teammate Andrew Hines. Now he has one more goal. He has nine wins this season. The only rider to win 10 races in a season is his crew chief, Matt Hines.
“I’d love to have the opportunity to tie him,” said Krawiec. “This is like a dream season. It’s tough to win one race out here, let alone win nine. I’m very grateful for the position I’m in. I’ve got an awesome team with awesome people behind me.”