Winternationals Story

Johnson, Jr. Outsmarts 'Em at IHRA Wint'ls By Gus Levy March 27-29, IHRA Prolong Winternationals, DeSoto Memorial Dragway, Bradenton, Fla.--Posting a slew of 4.9 elapsed times, Tommy Johnson, Jr. ran a conservative race and took the...

Johnson, Jr. Outsmarts 'Em at IHRA Wint'ls

By Gus Levy

March 27-29, IHRA Prolong Winternationals, DeSoto Memorial Dragway, Bradenton, Fla.--Posting a slew of 4.9 elapsed times, Tommy Johnson, Jr. ran a conservative race and took the honors in the Top Fuel Dragster category in front of a capacity crowd, defeating Steve Smith in the final round. "We raced the track today," Johnson said after the win, "we'd always like to go quicker, but we played it smart." The Ottumwa, Iowa-based Johnson hadn't raced on the IHRA tour since last year, when he won the Summer Nationals at Cordova, Ill.

Having raced sporadically for the last few years due to insufficient funds, Johnson is campaigning without financial backing, though he plans to race the next two races on the IHRA trail in hopes of attracting OPM (Other People's Money).

IHRA Top Fuel heavies Paul Romine and Doug Herbert both fell in the first round, their cars overpowering the race track. Despite his unexpected early departure, Romine was #1 qualifier and held Low E.T. of the meet, uncorking a 4.86 e.t. at 278 mph Saturday night.

In the debut of the new Screamin' Eagles Top Fuel Harley-Davidson motorcycle category, Johnny Mancuso scored a decisive victory with a 6.811 second run against Jamie Emery. A Harley-Davidson dealer from Houston, Texas, Mancuso had last won a national event in 1970, and said "It's been a long time between wins, but that just makes it that much sweeter." #1 qualifier Ray Price took a spill at over 190 mph Friday night, incurring some sore hips, but was otherwise okay.

5-time world champion Scotty Cannon ended the drought that parched his '97 season when he returned to the Pro Modified winners circle, running 6.51 seconds to defeat Tommy Mauney in the final round. "Last year was something that I only look back on to tell myself just how much fate can override skill in this sport," explained Cannon before the race began. "We are approaching this season as a fresh start. After the first pass at Bradenton, last season will be forgotten." The effective utilization of a high-helix supercharger (recently okayed by the IHRA braintrust for use in the Pro Mod class) helped Cannon to forget about his backmarker status (punctuated by his inability to qualify at two IHRA Snap-On Tools events) while trying a nitrous-injected combination last year.

It was the first win for Cannon in his '53 Studebaker, a car built late last year by Murray Anderson in Australia and just shipped back to the USA.

Pro Modified stalwart Wally Stroupe suffered a "signifigant" fire in his "63 Vette during Friday night qualifying and was airlifted to Tampa Burn Center where he received treatment for burns to his hands and face. Fate was not kind to Johnny Rocca either, as he bongoed his beautiful "Ironhorse" '49 Mercury, crossing the centerline and impacting the right side guardrail about 800' downtrack.

Pro Stock saw a new face in the Winners Circle, as PS sophomore Kenny Lee beat Jerry Yeoman in the final round. Lee was IHRA's Rookie of the Year last year.

In Alcohol Funny Car, Matt Goss won in his first trip ever to the finals, driving Carl Ruth's knockout, shoebox-type '56 Ford Crown Victoria to a win over Monty Todd. Goss clocked a 6.44 at 220 mph as Todd's mount expired just past halftrack and coasted to a losing 8.29.

The event, the first of ten national events on the IHRA schedule for 1998, was the first conducted under the tutelage of new owner, Bill Bader.

Ed Sykes, Iggy Reilly and Jones contributed to this feature.

Gus Levy - http://www.nitronic.com

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About this article
Series Drag
Drivers Paul Romine , Doug Herbert , Johnny Rocca , Steve Smith , Tommy Johnson , Scotty Cannon , Ray Price , Johnny Mancuso