It’s been 17 long years in the making, but now Mopar Dodge Avenger driver Allen Johnson is just a day away from putting himself and his J&J Racing team in the record books as NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Pro Stock champions. Johnson ended the single Friday qualifying session at the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals in Pomona, Calif., in the No. 2 spot, with only two final qualifying rounds tomorrow standing between him and the 2012 NHRA Pro Stock title.
“We really want to make a statement here, and qualify No. 1 and close this race out with a win, with a big ‘ole iron fist,” said Johnson, who is attempting to earn his first career win at Pomona, and a class-best seventh of the season. “Tomorrow morning will bring conditions for the best run, so hopefully we can get back the top spot. The consistency of this team is unequaled. Every run, we’re first, second, or third down the track, and you can’t ask for any better than that.”
“It’s everybody’s goal to run as fast as we can for Mopar,” added Johnson’s longtime crew chief, Mark Ingersoll. “We’re just really trying to concentrate on winning this race.”
Johnson has at least allowed the notion of his impending Pro Stock championship, the first for the Mopar brand in the class since 1994, to sink in as a possible reality.
“It’ll definitely be the biggest night of our racing lives tomorrow, if we can hold this and ride down with the championship trophy,” said Johnson, who began in Pro Stock back in 1996 with his father and engine builder, Roy Johnson, who still tunes the HEMI engines in his Dodge. “It’ll be a big day in racing history for the J&J Racing team. It’s a little bit of a relief to know that run today makes it close to 100 percent that we’re going to stay in the show.”
With Johnson a virtual lock for the title, his fellow Mopar-powered Pro Stock drivers are jockeying to finish as the close to the top spot as possible. V. Gaines (6.544) held on to the No. 4 spot he secured on Thursday in his Dodge, while Vincent Nobile (6.567), Johnson’s teammate, moved his Mountain View Dodge to sixth. Chris McGaha (6.602) clocked in at 14th, Mopar/JEGS.com Dodge Avenger driver Jeg Coughlin (6.603) was 15th, and Deric Kramer (6.635) rounded out the Mopar Dodge contingent in the 18th position.
Mopar HEMI-powered Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car driver and current points leader Jack Beckman gained valuable bonus points and rocketed to the preliminary pole with a 4.025 run on Friday. Fellow DSR Mopar Dodge teammate Ron Capps, second in points, had a more difficult day, ending in the 16th slot with a 4.700 pass.
Mopar-powered DSR racer Johnny Gray (4.060) ended Friday fifth, with Paul Lee (4.082) making a big move in his Dodge up to seventh spot. DSR Mopar Dodge Charger R/T driver Matt Hagan (4.100) was ninth, with Dodge driver Grant Downing (4.108) tenth. Tommy Johnson (4.374) was 15th, and Josh Crawford (4.840) was listed at 17th.