Johnson Hangs Tough In Ohio, Maintains Points Position and Championship Hopes NORWALK, OH 7/1/07 Steve Johnson of Irondale, Alabama rode his Snap-on Tools Suzuki to a second round finish at the inaugural Summit Racing Equipment Nationals at...
Johnson Hangs Tough In Ohio, Maintains Points Position and Championship Hopes
NORWALK, OH 7/1/07 Steve Johnson of Irondale, Alabama rode his Snap-on Tools Suzuki to a second round finish at the inaugural Summit Racing Equipment Nationals at the track that bears the Summit name (formerly Norwalk Raceway Park), and was, overall, satisfied with the outcome.
"In reality," he said, "I'm grateful. I'm grateful about where this team is in the championship chase. I'm grateful that Antron (Brown) is okay (Brown came perilously close to the retaining wall in his race against Johnson in the first round.), and I'm grateful that we got the 20 points for that first round win. And I'm also grateful that we're still hanging in there in the championship hunt by being in eighth place in the points."
Johnson felt that his Snap-on Tools Suzuki was "a pretty good motorcycle" all weekend long, but it was an engine swap after the first round that almost, but not quite, got him into the semifinal round.
"Our crew chief, Mark Peiser, discovered a problem with our engine after the first round," Johnson said, "and decided that we had to make a change if we had any hopes of defeating Andrew Hines in the second round. Our guys really pitched in and got the swap made in plenty of time, and even though we lost that round, the engine showed promise for the future, so it's not all bad, it's actually kinda good."
Johnson's second round finish kept him solidly in eighth place in the NHRA POWERade standings, which is critically important at this point in the season. Only a handful of races remain until the championship contenders will be reduced to just eight competitors in each professional category. If you're not among the top eight going in to the U.S. Nationals over Labor Day weekend, you won't be eligible for this year's championship. Right now Johnson has a 10 point margin on either side. He's 10 markers ahead of Peggy Llewellyn in ninth, and the same number of points behind Chris Rivas in seventh place.
"Ten points is a half-a-round of eliminations," he said, "so if things go our way in our next race (the Mopar Mile-High Nationals in Denver in mid-July), we could move up. But, we're also vulnerable, because Peggy's the same margin behind us. We have to perform up to our capabilities in Denver to improve our position. That's really critical."
Johnson's team had some able assistance in Norwalk in the form of recent WyoTech Technical Schools graduate Josh Walden, 25, of Mt. Vernon, Indiana. Walden joined the Snap-on Tools team for the weekend, and although he found the work harder than he'd imagined, he termed it "an excellent experience, and something I'd like to do a lot more of. When you get inside professional drag racing you quickly realize that as exciting as it can be, it's also a lot of work. Truthfully, Steve's guys wore me out!"
Johnson is also still a contender for the Ringers Gloves Pro Bike Battle, which will take place at Indy during the running of the U.S. Nationals, but as he continues to say, "As much as we want to be part of the Battle, the real 'war' for us is getting a chance to compete for the championship. Right now, right this second, those eighth place standings look pretty darn good, but fifth or sixth would look even better, to say nothing about being Number 1.
"Now, that's a dream I can really get behind!"
Next: NHRA Mopar Mile-High Nationals, Bandimere Speedway, Morrison (Denver), CO, July 13-15