BRAINERD, Minn. (Aug. 13) -- By the time the 18th Annual Colonel Truck Accessories Nationals are contested Aug. 19-22 at Brainerd International Raceway, teammates Cory McClenathan and Tommy Johnson Jr. should be focused enough to stare through ...
BRAINERD, Minn. (Aug. 13) -- By the time the 18th Annual Colonel Truck Accessories Nationals are contested Aug. 19-22 at Brainerd International Raceway, teammates Cory McClenathan and Tommy Johnson Jr. should be focused enough to stare through steel.
The duo, who drive for legendary football coach Joe Gibbs, have spent the downtime between the National Hot Rod Association's last stop in Northern California and it's next stop in Minnesota's famous vacation paradise brooding over the missed opportunities from the three-race West Coast swing. While both men had hoped to charge up their respective division's points standings during the Denver-Seattle-Sonoma stretch, they instead remained with the status quo, which ultimately leaves them three less races to make their mark on the 1999 season.
Johnson, who drives the Gumout-sponsored Interstate Batteries Funny Car, felt the sting of three consecutive first-round dismissals during the road trip. It's a trend the rookie Funny Car driver vows to end at BIR, a track that has awarded him two Top Fuel runner-up finishes in the past.
"All three races on the West Coast swing were very winnable," Johnson said. "I just came up short every time and it's certainly driven my level of frustration through the roof. I guess to a certain extent, this string of bad luck has put me in my place.
"Things really feel into place right off the bat when I took over driving this car six races ago and the first three races were like a honeymoon. Now I've been humbled. It's all part of being behind the wheel of a top running car. People are gunning for you and they go all-out to beat you. I have to find a way to rise above these attempts and win any ways. The guys have given me a great car and it's time to win one for them. I'm mad right now and I hope that sparks my performance."
McClenathan, the pilot of the Gumout-sponsored MBNA Top Fuel Dragster, is disappointed that he hasn't been able to become a bigger part of the tightest Top Fuel points race in recent memory. But he says the parity in the class has left the window open for him to move drastically upward from his current ninth place perch.
"The entire top 10 could be re-shuffled in a big way at every single race," McClenathan said. "We still have a good shot at the championship, but we're aware of the fact that we're losing grasp of that chance as the races tick by. It's time to win one again. Brainerd would be the perfect place to do it. I've had exceptionally good luck there in the past and I'd love to mount our charge at the championship at BIR. The way I feel, the sooner we get there, the better."
C-Mac, as fans know him across the country, was the No. 1 qualifier last year in Brainerd with a pass of 4.598 seconds at 311.63 mph and won the race outright in 1997. He also collected a Top Alcohol Dragster win in 1990 at the Northwest Nationals.