Las Vegas: Tommy Johnson Jr. preview

Tommy Johnson Jr. Driver of Don "The Snake" Prudhomme's Skoal Racing Blue Camaro Funny Car THE RACE: Second annual Summitracing.com Nationals, April 6-8 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The Strip at LVMS Track History: This is...

Tommy Johnson Jr.
Driver of Don "The Snake" Prudhomme's Skoal Racing Blue Camaro Funny Car

THE RACE:
Second annual Summitracing.com Nationals, April 6-8 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The Strip at LVMS Track History:
This is Johnson's first race at the track.  He didn't compete last year until June.

STANDING:
Seventh place, 163 points, after three of 24 NHRA Winston Series races. (Gatornationals, Gainesville, Fla., was postponed by rain until April 21)

LOOKING AHEAD TO THE SUMMITRACING.COM NATIONALS:
"I'm excited about racing at Las Vegas.  Snake and I celebrate our birthdays on Friday, so there's no better present for me than to get the win and give him one, too," said Johnson, who will be 33.

"I didn't get to race at the track last year but, thankfully, Ron did and the team has good records from that race.

"It's surprising to me how many Funny Car teams are competitive this year, how quick and fast the fields are and how much the drivers have improved their performances," Johnson continued.  "Some of the drivers who were just semi-competitive last year are now frontrunners.  Right now there is no clear-cut favorite and there's nobody running away with the Winston Series lead.  The competitive level in Funny Car is as good as Pro Stock, as far as tightness of the fields.

"I think almost everybody has had career-best runs already this year. I know I have, and that shows how much the level of performance has increased.  I thought there would be several drivers who would run good, but I didn't know the whole class would step up to that level. Every driver in the class seems tougher now."

ASSESSING HIS THREE-RACE PERFORMANCE:
"I'm surprised that neither one of us, Ron or myself, hasn't been in a final round yet, and that's depressing.  I haven't been beaten in the first round yet, but I haven't been to the semifinals either.  So I have a goal of at least getting to the semis, but I'd much rather get to the final.

"I'm not very happy losing in the second round. That's not what our job is.  There's no one on this Skoal Racing crew that's happy with where we are.  We'll be all right. 

"We need to get down and dig a little harder, make our Skoal Racing blue Camaro run better and get some round wins."

LOOKING BACK AT THE O'REILLY NATIONALS:
Funny Car drivers turned in 22 elapsed times in the 4.80-second range at Houston Raceway Park, matching the number from Phoenix in February. 

Johnson's 4.881 put him in the field at No. 7 and he used a starting-line advantage to beat Al Hofmann in the opening round.  Both cars ran 4.927 seconds, but Johnson left first with .535 reaction to Hofmann's .553.

In the second round, Johnson slowed to a 4.973 and lost to Whit Bazemore.

"Those results weren't what we wanted," Johnson said.  "We were consistent, but not consistently quick enough, and we were about one-tenth (of a second) off where we needed to be. 

"We had little problems here, little problems there, but those little problems will work themselves out. 

"Fans say to me, 'This is a new crew and some things take time.'  I try to tell myself that, too, but it doesn't work.  This is a team that expects to win.  And we will get everything worked out."

<pre> Tommy Johnson Jr. Facts:

Birthdate: 4/6/68 Hometown: Ottumwa, Iowa

Career wins: 4 (two Funny Car, two Top Fuel). Final rounds: 9 (5 Top Fuel, 4 Funny Car) Last win: 10/19/99 at Memphis Last final round: 10/22/99 at Dallas Best Funny Car elapsed time: 4.838 seconds ('01 Pomona, Calif.) Best Funny Car speed: 320.05 mph ('99 Dallas)

-Joe Sherk

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Al Hofmann , Whit Bazemore , Tommy Johnson Jr.