Memphis: Steven Johnson race report

Adventures In Drag Racing With Steve Johnson IRONDALE, AL. 9/17/07 It's the day following the NHRA O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals in Memphis, and Snap-on Tools Suzuki Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Steve Johnson is finally coming down from the...

Adventures In Drag Racing With Steve Johnson

IRONDALE, AL. 9/17/07 It's the day following the NHRA O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals in Memphis, and Snap-on Tools Suzuki Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Steve Johnson is finally coming down from the high of his best outing of the season. His runner-up finish in the race, as well as tying his career-best elapsed time of 6.982 seconds in the second round, and setting new personal bests in Reaction Times had Johnson pretty excited on Sunday -- but that wasn't half the story.

On Friday afternoon Johnson had one of the scariest moments of his 21-year career when his Suzuki ran over some debris on the track at a high rate of speed, severely damaging the racing slick on the back of his motorcycle.

"It was amazing," Johnson said from the comfort of his office. "I may look relaxed now, but man, I would have loved to have seen the expression on my face when this happened.

"When you're running at better than 170 miles an hour on two wheels, and one of them suddenly goes wildly out of balance because a huge chunk of the riding surface has disappeared, the motorcycle begins acting like one of those bulls you see on the Pro Bull Riders telecasts -- only worse, 'cause the motorcycle is going a heck of a lot faster than those bulls!

"Years and years ago I read a story in one of the magazines about 'Big Daddy' Don Garlits, and he was describing a run he'd just made to his mechanic, T.C. Lemons. Garlits says, 'Saw a big ole bolt layin' out there,' and Lemons says, 'Yeah?" 'Yup. Fine thread,' Garlits replies.

"Well, I didn't see anything, but something was definitely out there. When we got back to the pits, and I stopped shaking, we went over every inch of that Mickey Thompson tire, and you can plainly see where we ran over something and put a big cut in it.

"We have never had a tire failure or even the slightest problem with the M/T Tires. In fact, I wouldn't race on anything else. They've proven to be incredibly reliable and safe. In a way this incident actually helped prove how safe the M/T Tires are, because regardless of how badly the tire appears, it never lost an ounce of air. If it had deflated completely, well, I don't even want to think about that.

"The M/T guys went over the tire with our team, and they agree that we hit something on the track. You can really see where something from the outside cut into the tire.

"Ya know, I might as well admit it, I didn't see whatever it was we hit because I usually have my eyes squeezed closed the whole time. I don't like admitting that, but that's my excuse. Maybe if I was looking I would have been able to avoid whatever it was we hit."

Johnson's Snap-on Tools team is already gearing up for this coming weekend's NHRA O'Reilly Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex in Ennis, just south of Dallas. "We had a great weekend in Memphis," Johnson said. "Now we're looking forward to more fun in the Lone Star State."

-credit: sjr

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Steven Johnson , Don Garlits , Steve Johnson