It's Make It Or Break It Time For Steve Johnson: Last Chance To Make The Countdown To The Championship Is This Weekend! IRONDALE, AL. 8/14/07 It's a fine Tuesday morning in Alabama when Snap-on Tools Suzuki Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Steve ...
It's Make It Or Break It Time For Steve Johnson: Last Chance To Make The Countdown To The Championship Is This Weekend!
IRONDALE, AL. 8/14/07 It's a fine Tuesday morning in Alabama when Snap-on Tools Suzuki Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Steve Johnson rolls up in front of his Irondale race shop. The parking lot's empty, as Johnson is the first to arrive, but this will be another busy day in the life of his race team, because three days from now the most important race of the 2007 NHRA POWERade Series season begins at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, PA. The Toyo Tires Nationals will be Johnson's last opportunity to qualify for the Countdown to the Championship, NHRA's new and very innovative points system. After this coming weekend's event only the top eight points earners in each professional category will remain eligible for the POWERade championship -- and Johnson is currently ninth, 25 big points out of the eighth and final spot.
"It's only Tuesday, and I'm already nervous," Johnson admitted. "I don't think I've ever felt this much pressure as a competitor. This is absolutely a make it or break it weekend for our team. Even though we'll keep racing no matter what happens at Maple Grove, and there will still be opportunities to win, our goal continues to be the POWERade championship, but we've got to make the Countdown in order to be eligible for that."
Sitting those 25 points ahead of Johnson is Eddie Krawiec, who defeated Johnson in the first round last weekend at the Lucas Oil Nationals. As formidable a challenge as it's going to be to overtake Krawiec, Johnson knows it can be done.
"The first thing we've got to do is out-qualify him," Johnson says. "The NHRA awards 8 points for the Number 1 qualifier, 7 for Number 2 and so-on down through Number 4. After that it changes a bit, but the point is that if we can go into eliminations from, let's say, the Number 3 position, we'd get six points for that. If Eddie were to be near the back of the pack he might earn just one point, meaning that when eliminations begins we'd've already made up five points.
"There's one 'problem' with this, and that's the fact that we haven't qualified as high as third all year, so we're going to have to do this the hard way, by winning more rounds of eliminations than he does.
"Our points system 'pays' 20 points for first round loser, 40 for second round, 60 for semifinal round, 80 to the runner-up and 100 to the winner. In order to get into eighth place that means we'll have to go two rounds further than Krawiec, and that won't be easy. In other words, if he goes out in the first round and we make it to the semifinals we'll have picked up 40 points on him, and that could be enough.
"There's another 'problem' with all of this, and that's that we can't 'control' what happens to everyone else. Chris Rivas is behind us in 10th place right now, but he could have one of those dream weekends and move right around us.
"Since we can only control what we do our game plan is pretty simple: Qualify as high up on the list as we possibly can, and then I've got to put together my best race of the year. I've got to be first off the starting line in every round, crew chief Mark Peiser and the guys have to prepare the best possible 'package' for the track conditions, and we've got to have a bit of luck as well."
Yes, it's going to be an uphill battle for Steve Johnson's Snap-on Tools Suzuki team, but isn't that what racing's all about? Overcoming obstacles? Defeating the odds?
"Man, please stop. My hands are shaking," said Johnson as he added another scoop to the coffee maker. "At this rate I might not even make it 'til Friday!"