Norwalk: Team Mopar preview

JOHNSON AND STEVENS JR. OF TEAM MOPAR® PURSUE FIRST 2007 VICTORY AT INAUGURAL SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT NHRA NATIONALS Center Line, Mich. -- The NHRA POWERade Pro Stock Team Mopar® combo of Richie Stevens Jr. and Allen Johnson will compete this...

JOHNSON AND STEVENS JR. OF TEAM MOPAR® PURSUE FIRST 2007 VICTORY AT INAUGURAL SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT NHRA NATIONALS

Center Line, Mich. -- The NHRA POWERade Pro Stock Team Mopar® combo of Richie Stevens Jr. and Allen Johnson will compete this week at the Inaugural Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio. The teammates want to christen the track's maiden NHRA voyage with their first win of the season.

The HEMI®-powered pair has come close to a victory lane visit. Johnson, driver of the Mopar\J&J Racing Dodge Stratus R/T, has one finals appearance. Both he and Stevens Jr. have two semifinals appearances. Stevens Jr., driver of the Don Schumacher Racing-owned and J&J Racing tuned Team Mopar/Valspar Dodge Stratus R/T, made his most recent semis showing last week at Englishtown.

With solid performances in the first 10 events, both Johnson and Stevens Jr. are currently on pace to qualify for the new NHRA POWERade Countdown to the Championship playoff. Johnson is fifth in points and Stevens Jr. is holding the eighth position, the last spot before the playoff cutoff. The two hope their steady runs and determination will payoff this week with a Wally trophy.

STEVENS JR. SEEKS TO SUSTAIN MOMENTUM AT NORWALK

Starting a six-race stretch on a positive note was key for Stevens Jr. With a semifinals finish, a No. 2 qualifying spot and career bests in speed and ET at Englishtown, Stevens Jr. accomplished his goal. His next step is to keep that momentum rolling as he and his Team Mopar/Valspar team head to Norwalk.

"We went out there [at Englishtown] and ran a 6.59 on Friday," Stevens Jr. said. "We were one of only two cars in the 6.50s for the entire weekend. We did a good job. Not a bad start for the six-race swing. I got myself back up in the top eight in points, and that's what I wanted to do."

Although the Norwalk stop is a new one for the NHRA POWERade circuit, Stevens Jr. has had past success in IHRA events at the facility. His familiarity with the track is another reason he's optimistic that he can continue his recent surge.

"I've had good success here in the past. I won the IHRA event here in 1997," recalled Stevens Jr. "It's been a couple of years since I've competed at the track. It should be good to me, based on what I've done there in the past."

Qualifying strong in the first session was the impetus to his semifinals Englishtown outing and he feels that it is the pathway to continued success.

"Qualifying in the top half on Friday and being able to focus more during Saturday qualifying on the setup for Sunday is a priority," Stevens Jr. explained. "It makes the car more consistent and makes me a better driver. Anytime we can be in the field good and solid on Friday and sort of focus on Saturday as a tune-up for Sunday just helps out a bunch."

Stevens Jr. is happy with the set-up on the Team Mopar\Valspar Dodge Stratus R/T, so he expects minimal changes at Norwalk.

"I don't think we will change too much. We've got a good set-up on the car," Stevens Jr. said. "We've got good power. Roy [Johnson, engine builder and co-owner, along with son Allen, of J&J Racing] has been giving us that, and Mark [Ingersoll, crew chief] has been doing a great job setting the car up. I just need to go out there and parlay it into a win."

ALLEN JOHNSON IS UPBEAT AS HE VISITS NEW TRACK WITH A WELL-TESTED J&J RACING TEAM

The Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park is a new venue for the NHRA POWERade Pro Stock circuit. For some teams, visiting a new track brings trepidation. For Johnson and the J&J Racing team, years of track experience have bred confidence in handling such challenges.

"We tested there a couple of weeks ago, said Johnson. "When we were there, the track was really green and not in good shape. We expect what we learned then not to even matter when we go back. The challenges are the track conditions, and adapting to them for the very first time. We get the same deal as everybody else does, though. I think the maturity and longevity of our team will come out and shine."

Both Johnson and teammate Stevens Jr. had strong outings at the previous event in Englishtown. At the start of a six-race stretch, Johnson, like Stevens Jr., hopes to build on the early momentum the Mopar Pro Stock duo seized and add to it with solid runs at Norwalk.

"I think it's very important," said Johnson of the value of posting strong outings early on in the run of back-to-back races. "We've got consistency going, and it's very, very, very important. I just think we are on to something consistency-wise."

Based on the steady performances he and Stevens Jr. have posted, Johnson senses a win may come soon for one of the Pro Stock pair.

"I think we're all over it," Johnson said. "We just need a break."

-credit: mopar/dsr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Richie Stevens Jr. , Allen Johnson , Don Schumacher