"The Gremlins Are Back!" Johnson Suffers First Round Loss In Minnesota BRAINERD, MN 8/11/07 Steve Johnson's hopes for the NHRA POWERade Series Pro Stock Motorcycle championship took a severe hit at the Lucas Oil Nationals in Brainerd, Minn....
"The Gremlins Are Back!" Johnson Suffers First Round Loss In Minnesota
BRAINERD, MN 8/11/07 Steve Johnson's hopes for the NHRA POWERade Series Pro Stock Motorcycle championship took a severe hit at the Lucas Oil Nationals in Brainerd, Minn. when he lost a close first round race against Eddie Krawiec. That loss enabled Krawiec to leapfrog ahead of Johnson in the standings to take over the eighth and final qualifying position in NHRA's new "Countdown to the Championship" points system.
"Our backs are against the wall," a disappointed Johnson admitted after the race. "We have only one more chance to qualify for the Countdown, and that's next weekend at the Toyo Tires Nationals in Reading, (PA), but in order for us to make it we're going to have to be very lucky, and the people ahead of us in the standings are going to have to have the kind of weekend we had here in Brainerd.
"After the first qualifying session I thought our Snap-on Tools Suzuki was one of the best motorcycles on the grounds," Johnson continued. "After the fourth session, when we ended up 12th among the qualifiers, I could tell that the gremlins that have been 'infecting' our operation for the last few races were back."
Johnson and crew chief Mark Peiser had planned on installing a brand new engine for the final qualifying session, but when their machine slowed on successive qualifying efforts they decided to wait until next week.
"We may not run the engine even then," Peiser said. "We can't afford to make a single mistake next week, or at any time for the rest of the year, if we're going to have any hope of being a serious contender. Our aim is to make this motorcycle 'right' for Reading, and if that means sticking with our proven powerplant, that's what we're going to do."
Three straight runs in the 7.18 second range were enough to convince Johnson that wholesale changes may be called for in an all-out attempt to make the Countdown.
"That was kind of depressing," Johnson said of the three runs. "No matter what we did, the motorcycle didn't improve. We have got to get this thing figured out, and we've only got two or three days to do it before we have to be ready for next weekend. I've go faith in our guys, and faith in Mark, so whatever we collectively decide is the right way to go, that's what we'll do.
"The bright spot of our weekend was the fact that on Saturday morning we hosted the largest group of WyoTech Technical School students and their parents that I think we've seen all year. Believe me, our pit area was jammed, but that's the kind of crowd I really enjoy."
In addition to his WyoTech hosting Johnson also participated in the Snap-on Tools "Day at the Races" promotion during which he interacted with and signed autographs for Snap-on Tools dealers and customers.
"Everybody knows I love doing that stuff," Johnson said, "but what I really like doing is getting the Snap-on folks to our pit area where they can see the products actually in use. Ya know, it's one thing to talk about the tools, but quite another when you see the guys actually working with them on the race bike. There's no substitute for the 'action' stuff!"
Will Steve Johnson and the Snap-on Tools Suzuki be among the eight Countdown qualifiers? One week from today we'll all have the answer.
"Man, I'm already nervous and it's still Sunday," Johnson joked as his team loaded the transporter in preparation for the trip east. "I feel like I've got a target painted right in the center of my back, but I don't care about who's behind me in the standings. I'm looking ahead, and my target is the guy in eighth pace, 'cause that's where I need to be a week from today."