Topeka: Team Mopar preview

LONG LAYOFF LEAVES ALLEN JOHNSON AND RICHIE STEVENS JR. READY TO ROLL AT O'REILLY NHRA SUMMER NATIONALS Center Line, Mich. -- Three consecutive weekends off have provided Team Mopar® NHRA POWERade Pro Stock drivers Richie Stevens Jr. and ...

LONG LAYOFF LEAVES ALLEN JOHNSON AND RICHIE STEVENS JR. READY TO ROLL AT O'REILLY NHRA SUMMER NATIONALS

Center Line, Mich. -- Three consecutive weekends off have provided Team Mopar® NHRA POWERade Pro Stock drivers Richie Stevens Jr. and Allen Johnson time to recharge their batteries for the long 2007 campaign. All the testing and tweaking that can be done has been done, and now Stevens and Johnson are chomping at the bit to do what they do best--get out on the drag strip and go racing.

That's exactly what the Team Mopar Pro Stock duo will do this weekend at the O'Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals, at Heartland Park Topeka (Kansas). Johnson is seventh in the NHRA Pro Stock points standings while Stevens is 10th. Both drivers will be looking to move up the points ladder this weekend.

Stevens is pumped to get back on track, make run at qualifying for King Demon Crown

The old saying goes, "Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it."

No doubt most drivers on the NHRA POWERade circuit daydream about an extra weekend off during the grueling 23-event schedule. But give a race car driver like Stevens a little bit of down time, and it's not too long before he's itching to get back to his home--the quarter-mile drag strip.

"I like this time off, but as soon as you've been home for a couple of days you want to get back out there. You're so used to racing all the time," said Stevens, driver of the Don Schumacher Racing-owned and J & J Racing-tuned Team Mopar/Valspar Dodge Stratus R/T. "We've done some testing. We tested in Chicago last week and did some runs out there, and we went out to Denver earlier this week to do some testing at the track before we come back out for the race in July. I'm anxious to get back out there [at Topeka]."

The Topeka event is Stevens' last chance to qualify for the NHRA King Demon Crown bonus race, scheduled to be run during the Route 66 NHRA Nationals in Chicago next weekend. Drivers earn points throughout the year based on their qualifying position, with the top eight drivers making the bonus race for a chance to win $50,000. Stevens' teammate Johnson, currently third in the King Demon standings, is sure to make the top eight, but Stevens remains on the bubble.

"It kind of hurt me a little bit [with the decision by the NHRA to postpone the Bristol event due to issues with the track], because now I only have one race before the King Demon shootout," said Stevens. "We're going to have to tough it out and hopefully at Topeka we can pull one out. I think we need to qualify fifth or better and have the person ahead of us DNQ to get that last spot. We'll try to do what we can."

With the postponement of the Bristol event, Stevens and his J & J Racing teammate Johnson will now race eight out of the next nine weekends. According to Stevens, the consecutive races have both pros and cons.

"It's a struggle on the team to get the cars to the races. They only have a few days to get there and they need to pack everything up," observed Stevens. "But it keeps me in sync with driving. It keeps you in a competitive mode when you go back-to-back like that. I'd say the only tough part about it is if you go to all these races and you hurt a motor, you've got to struggle to fix it between races. Hopefully we won't run into that problem, and we will rack up a few wins."

VETERAN EXPERIENCE HAS ALLEN JOHNSON CONFIDENT HEADING INTO TOPEKA

As an 11-year NHRA Pro Stock veteran, Allen Johnson, driver of the Team Mopar\J & J Racing Dodge Stratus R/T, has seen quite a bit of drag racing. There isn't a lot that can faze him, least of all a few back-to-back events.

"We've got a professional, long-term relationship team that has done it forever," said Johnson. "It's going to be a little bit of a mess, [racing] eight out of the next nine weeks. But we can do whatever it takes."

The Topeka venue is one Johnson has had success with in the past, giving him much-needed confidence entering the event.

"I've always done well there, to be honest," remarked Johnson about the Topeka stop on the NHRA circuit. "I've made a few semis in the past. I've always liked the track. It sets up real good. I feel confident for both Richie and I heading into Topeka."

-credit: mopar/dsr

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