UNDERDOG ROLE PERFECTLY FINE WITH JOHNSON JR. MILLINGTON, Tenn. (Aug. 15, 2005) & ...
UNDERDOG ROLE PERFECTLY FINE WITH JOHNSON JR.
MILLINGTON, Tenn. (Aug. 15, 2005) Tommy Johnson Jr. has yet to rack up numerous NHRA championships or double-digit race wins, but the Iowa native has been competing professionally in the nitromethane ranks since 1989 and been one of the more consistent competitors on the NHRA circuit the past decade posting multiple top 10 finishes. And, T.J.'s done it by flying under the radar and just racing.
Johnson, a six-time NHRA winner and one of 13 drivers to have scored wins in both the Top Fuel and Funny Car classes, enters the 18th annual O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals, Aug. 19-21, at Memphis Motorsports Park sixth in the POWERade Funny Car standings. His sixth place ranking places him just 142 points behind top-ranked driver Robert Hight. The 37-year-old veteran flopper pilot has collected one victory (Pomona 1) in two final-round visits, along with four trips to the semifinals this season, and with seven races remaining on the 2005 NHRA schedule, Johnson and his Skoal RacingSM team continue to endure the chase for the championship, going unnoticed by most drag racing experts. However, Johnson enjoys the sleeper role in the vicious Funny Car division.
"I like being the guy that nobody is paying attention to," Johnson said. "We're not a front-runner and no one is gunning for us. That lets us do our own thing and sneak up on people like we have been this year.
"We've had a lot of good races this season and we're having a pretty decent season, but week-to-week, people don't consider us a contender. I think that we can be a legitimate contender this year. We closed the point gap last weekend in Brainerd (Minn.), we have a good race car right now and now is the time to make a run."
Johnson is a two-time winner (1994, 1999) of the Memphis race, having scored wins in both Top Fuel and Funny Car at M.M.P., and while T.J. and the Skoal Racing crew won't be considered a favorite to visit the winner's circle come Sunday night, they are content with being overlooked as they continue to represent racing's underdog contingent.
T.J. 'TALKS' MEMPHI
What do you like most about Memphis Motorsports Park?
It's a tough track, but at the same time, it's been a good race track for me.
What is your favorite memory from Memphis Motorsports Park?
I would have to say my win in Top Fuel in 1994. We ran really well that day and had some strong speeds.
What is your favorite Memphis-area restaurant?
What do you like most about the Memphis area?
I think that Beale St. is kind of neat.
When you hear "Memphis Motorsports Park," the first thing that comes to mind is?
Humidity and rain.