From Cardiac Arrest to the Countdown to 1: Allen Johnson Is On A Wild Ride to NHRA POWERade Pro Stock Title Contention at the Las Vegas ACDelco NHRA Nationals Center Line, Mich. -- After only two events into the 2007 NHRA POWERade Pro Stock ...
From Cardiac Arrest to the Countdown to 1: Allen Johnson Is On A Wild Ride to NHRA POWERade Pro Stock Title Contention at the Las Vegas ACDelco NHRA Nationals
Center Line, Mich. -- After only two events into the 2007 NHRA POWERade Pro Stock season, Team Mopar® driver Allen Johnson's thoughts were far away from the drag strip. His energies were centered on whether his father and engine builder, Roy Johnson, would live to see another day.
"I thought he was going to die there in that hospital room. I really did," said [Allen] Johnson, after his father suffered a massive heart attack in February at the Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals in Phoenix. "I really did. When all the monitors went flat and he fell over, I thought he was dead. All I could think about was how was I going to call my mom and tell her. That was the low point."
Doctors soon informed Johnson that his father was going to pull through after all. In fact, [Roy] Johnson was right back at the track less than three weeks later, wrenching the engine on his son's Mopar/J&J Racing Dodge Stratus R/T.
So began a season of peaks and valleys that currently has Johnson near the summit and eyeing his first NHRA Pro Stock title. The Greeneville, Tenn. native is fourth in the points standings and is one of just four drivers alive in the NHRA Countdown to 1, a two-race shootout for the Pro Stock title which blasts off at the ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals scheduled for Oct. 26-28.
After his father's quick recuperation, the hard work began. Johnson had to claw his way up from the 16th spot in the standings to capture a berth in the Countdown. The ups and downs inherent in a racing season continued, but were perhaps easier to bear in contrast to his father's health crisis.
"This racing deal, it's like one round you're number one, and the next round you break a motor and you're down," Johnson said. "The highs and lows aren't just one or two a year--there are thousands. When dad had his problem at Phoenix, man, that was a close deal. I'm as glad to be in [the Countdown] for dad as I am myself."
At the most recent NHRA event in Richmond, Johnson's roller coaster ride of a season continued in the usual tense fashion. He entered the event third in the points and tentatively qualified for the Countdown to 1, with a match up against Kurt Johnson, one of the few remaining drivers with a chance to bump him out of the Countdown, set for the first round.
"We qualified well and I thought I had Kurt covered real good, and I drove good, and he still beat me," said [Allen] Johnson. "I was so fearful that we had screwed it up when I lost. I guess I was feeling pretty negative there."
But fate intervened. Johnson's teammate, Richie Stevens Jr., knocked out Kurt Johnson in the very next round, guaranteeing a Countdown berth and a shot at the title for Johnson.
"It was 'wow, we did do it,' when Richie took Kurt out," said Johnson. "Coming down to that last round, when he [Richie] left the starting line, I was jumping up and down during his run because I knew we were making a good run. I was real excited, as you could tell by the TV deal if you watched. It was a dream come true."
Throughout the season, Johnson has maintained a steadfast strategy of qualifying high in the field and advancing a few rounds at each event in order to qualify for the Countdown. The tune-ups on his HEMI®-powered Dodge Stratus R/T were on the conservative side to promote consistency over the long haul. But with two events remaining, Johnson has decided to pull another play from the playbook.
"I think our strategy is totally different," Johnson remarked. "Sort of like in football, we're changing from defense and going to offense. We're going to go for the jugular, and hopefully qualify in one of the top three spots and go to the finals in both races.
"We're just going to go out there with a guarded confidence, and try to qualify both cars in the top five. Hopefully, some of my Countdown competition will be in spots to where we match up with them. And dad looks like he has found some more power. You know, he's wanted to do this his whole life. I was able to put together an opportunity for him and I always knew he would excel. He's just now getting his feet on the ground the last two or three years with the motor program, and he's doing awesome.