JOHNSON JR. RACES TO SEMIFINAL FINISH AT ST. LOUIS MADISON, Ill. (June 25, 2006) For the second straight weekend, seven-time NHRA winner Tommy Johnson Jr. drove his Skoal RacingSM Chevy Funny Car to a semifinal finish after winning two rounds...
JOHNSON JR. RACES TO SEMIFINAL FINISH AT ST. LOUIS
MADISON, Ill. (June 25, 2006) For the second straight weekend, seven-time NHRA winner Tommy Johnson Jr. drove his Skoal RacingSM Chevy Funny Car to a semifinal finish after winning two rounds Sunday at Gateway International Raceway.
After qualifying his Skoal Racing flopper in the No. 3 spot with a blistering 4.813-second elapsed time, the Iowa native defeated No. 14 qualifier Jeff Arend and rising star Eric Medlen, before falling to 13-time series champion John Force in the semifinal round of eliminations.
In the opening round of eliminations on a scorching hot Gateway Int'l Raceway quarter mile, Johnson used a conservative tune-up from crew chief Mike Green to power the Skoal Racing Monte Carlo to a run of 5.090 seconds at 301.20 mph to score the round win over Arend, whose Chevy lost traction and smoked the tires.
"There were tough conditions on race day," Johnson said. "We hadn't made it down the track in the hot conditions. We just wanted to get down the track and not beat ourselves. It was a nice run and we got the win."
Johnson then captured the 12th holeshot victory of his career when he used a stout .061 of-a-second reaction time to narrowly defeat Medlen's black Funny Car. Johnson raced to a pass of 5.070 at 309.49 to hold off Medlen's quicker-but-losing run of 5.053 at 293.03.
"It's a (John) Force car, they're tough," Johnson said. "I knew they'd be close to us. Our car hasn't been reacting as good as I'd like to see it. So, I had to step up my game. I had good lights all day long. It was nice to get a holeshot win for the guys and get my confidence back."
In his fifth semifinal appearance of the 2006 season, the veteran nitro pilot again used a great reaction time (.069 of-a-second) to race to the early lead, but the Skoal Racing Chevy overpowered the track allowing Force to drive on by and earn the trip to the final round with a run of 4.845 at 318.32. Johnson remains sixth in the NHRA Funny Car standings and only three rounds of racing from third place driver Robert Hight.
"Once again, you have to run (John) Force," Johnson said. "You know he's going to step it up. That's a multi-car team and they have good data. The conditions got better and they weren't quite as good as we needed and it just went into tire shake. We had a nice advantage, but it would have been tough to beat that 4.84.
"I'm really happy with the way the car is running. We ran our career-best at Chicago and are coming off two semifinals going into the Western Swing. We're right there. If we can make a good mid-season charge, we might be contending by Indy time."
The next NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series event is the 27th annual Mopar Mile-High Nationals, July 14-16, at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, Colo. near Denver. Johnson advanced to his first career final round at the Denver race in 1991.