INDIANAPOLIS (Oct. 23, 2006) - This is the time of year when Tommy Johnson Jr. is usually a little low on energy. The 23-event NHRA POWERade drag racing seri! es is held in 20 major U.S. cities between February and November so there are plenty of...
INDIANAPOLIS (Oct. 23, 2006) - This is the time of year when Tommy Johnson Jr. is usually a little low on energy. The 23-event NHRA POWERade drag racing seri! es is held in 20 major U.S. cities between February and November so there are plenty of reasons why drivers and crew members start to wear down near the end.
This season, however, is different. If Johnson had his way, he would keep driving his Don Prudhomme-owned Skoal Racingsm Monte Carlo right through the offseason. He's having too much fun to let this season slip away.
"Usually at this point in the season you're looking forward to the offseason," Johnson said. "I love racing and I love being at the race track, but usually this is the time of year when you need a break. The fact is that we're running so well, I wish we could keep going. It's been a long year, especially with two rainout events that were rescheduled, but we're doing so well I don't want it to end."
Johnson has earned two wins and two No. 1 qualifying awards this season. What's even better is the next stop on the tour. The ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals takes place this weekend at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Johnson has one win in two runner-up appearances there and in general, loves the city.
"It's one of my favorite tracks on the tour and favorite races of the year," he said. "We've had success there in the past and I'm more confident going into this race that I ever have been. So I'm looking forward to being in Las Vegas even more than usual.
"Knowing you have won a race before takes the pressure off. You've been to winner's circle, so you know you can do it. Our performance is better going into this event, so that just adds to the pre-race excitement."
While Johnson has yet to win a fall event at The Strip, he knows the possibility is there. Johnson drove his Skoal Racingsm Monte Carlo to a semifinal finish in Las Vegas earlier this season.
"I would like to think there isn't anything different between the spring and the fall races," Johnson said. "The spring race has been better to me but the weather conditions are about the same. I think one of the big differences is that in the spring, everyone is still searching to refine their tune-ups. By the fall, everyone should have a good baseline and technically should do better the second time around. I think our guys are much better prepared now than we were in the spring."
In 2005 Johnson finished sixth in the final point standings with one win in two final round appearances. With two races left this season Johnson has two wins and is in sixth place. He's won more races, but he still has one more goal to accomplish.
"We've improved over last season by winning another race," Johnson said. "If we have a good Vegas showing, we can help our major goal, which is to finish in the top five. So we're aiming for round and race wins in hopes of ending the season on a really high note and accomplishing that top five goal."
Who will help Johnson fulfill the final goal of the season? The guys working on the car, of course.
"We have such a close-knit group of guys working on the car and that pays off when it comes time to race," Johnson said. "One of the keys to keeping up a good performance, especially at the end of the long season, is having the least amount of obstacles to overcome. Our guys are goal-oriented and they are getting along just as good now as they did at the beginning of the season.
"Chemistry between the driver, crew chief and crew guys takes a lot of time to build and we're lucky. You can't buy that, you have to build that and we finally have the right group. That starts with Mike (Green, crew chief) and it trickles down to every single guy working on the car. Their performance on the car and their character all around gives me confidence as a driver. That's why, even after eight months of racing, we're still so excited to get to the track for these last two events."