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Team Mopar® Pro Stockers Allen Johnson and Richie Stevens Jr. Seek First Victory at O'Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals Stevens Jr. feels confident with a new car and a recent semifinals showing Center Line, Mich. -- Strong outings by Team...

Team Mopar® Pro Stockers Allen Johnson and Richie Stevens Jr. Seek First Victory at O'Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals

Stevens Jr. feels confident with a new car and a recent semifinals showing

Center Line, Mich. -- Strong outings by Team Mopar® NHRA POWERade Pro Stockers Richie Stevens Jr. and Allen Johnson have moved them into the top 10 of the NHRA Pro Stock standings. If Johnson and Stevens have their way, those consistent performances should culminate with a celebration by one of the two in victory lane at the O'Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals in Madison, Ill.

Stevens enters the event fresh off his best showing of the year -- a semifinals finish at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals in Atlanta last week. In Atlanta, he made a successful debut in his new car, following test sessions at the very same track where the HEMI®-powered driver will compete this week.

Although Johnson exited in the first round at Atlanta -- following a semifinals run in Las Vegas and a finals appearance at Houston earlier in April -- he can draw strength from his past track record at Gateway International Raceway. The longtime Team Mopar veteran has recorded two runner-up finishes at the track in 1999 and 2003. Johnson will be looking to get into victory lane this weekend.

Stevens Jr. feels confident with a new car and a recent semifinals showing

Race car drivers like to avoid change. But for Stevens Jr., pilot of the Don Schumacher Racing-owned and J & J Racing-tuned Team Mopar/Valspar Dodge Stratus R/T, changing to a new car was a good move at the previous event in Atlanta -- good enough to drive him to his best finish of the season.

"This car was so consistent," Stevens commented. "The old car, not saying anything bad against it, but we just had a problem with consistency. We tested [the new car in Gateway International Raceway], and the first few runs down the track it went as straight as could be. This car is also supposed to be a 'sister' car to the one that Allen has. That makes it easier on Mark [Ingersoll, crew chief for Stevens and Johnson] to tune the cars on race days and get similar set-ups on both cars."

The Atlanta event marked the third straight race in which Stevens advanced past the first round. His recent run of round wins has moved the Team Mopar driver from 14th place in the Pro Stock standings prior to the Houston event to 9th place heading into this weekend.

"Just going rounds out there makes you better in the points," remarked Stevens. "Any time you go out there and at least go to the second round or to get the semifinals, that keeps you moving in the points. We want to stay alive for the Countdown to 4. We're really only one round out of being in the fifth spot."

His test session last week may give Stevens an edge against his fellow competitors.

"Heading to the O'Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals, we have a little bit of data that we've already collected with this new car during testing last week, so hopefully we'll be one step ahead of most people," Stevens said. "We'll try to duplicate what we did in Atlanta -- qualify in the top half, go some rounds on Sunday and keep collecting points."

Allen Johnson hopes the third time is a charm

With runner-up finishes in 1999 and 2003 at Gateway International Raceway, Johnson -- driver of the Mopar/J & J Racing Dodge Stratus R/T -- is no stranger to the final round at the O'Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals. However, a visit to winner's circle would be a first for Johnson at the venue.

"We're a win waiting to happen, we just have to have the stars aligned just right," said Johnson of his J & J Racing team, led by his father and engine builder, Roy Johnson, and crew chief Ingersoll. "We're making really good runs, making good power. We just need a break or two."

Johnson's first round Atlanta defeat was caused by a red-light foul. Although disappointed at the result, Johnson is happy with his aggressiveness.

"We're pushing that tree a little. We're on the red-side of perfect," remarked Johnson. "I'm really on it. We've got to adjust the car maybe a little bit, just to slow it down a tad, but [other than that] I don't need to change a thing."

Seasons past have seen Johnson come on strong in the second half of the season after falling behind early in the points battle. With 8th place in the Pro Stock standings and a semifinals and runner-up finish already this season, a characteristic Johnson hot streak in the latter part of the year could make him a championship threat.

"I think we're poised," said Johnson. "I haven't looked at the points, but I would say I'm not far out of 5th place [Johnson is 11 points behind the fifth-place Warren Johnson]. We're grouped right there. We just need to stick to our plan."

-credit: team mopar

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Richie Stevens Jr. , Warren Johnson , Allen Johnson , Don Schumacher , Roy Johnson