Brainerd: Tommy Johnson happy with the track

Tommy Johnson Jr. Driver Of Don "The Snake" Prudhomme'S Skoal Racing Blue Camaro Funny Car The Race: 20th annual Colonel's Nationals Aug. 17-19,  Brainerd International Raceway, Brainerd, Minn. STANDING: Seventh place, 775 points after...

Tommy Johnson Jr.

Driver Of Don "The Snake" Prudhomme'S Skoal Racing Blue Camaro Funny Car

The Race:

20th annual Colonel's Nationals Aug. 17-19,  Brainerd International Raceway, Brainerd, Minn.

STANDING:

Seventh place, 775 points after 16 of 24 NHRA Winston Series events.

It's not just the scenery - a number of Minnesota's 10,000 lakes are in the Brainerd area - that makes Johnson think good thoughts about racing at the track.

He's run well at BIR, especially when he was driving in Top Fuel.  He was runner-up twice (1991, 1995) and reached the semifinals twice in six appearances.  He made it to the semifinals in 1999, his first race in Funny Car at the track.  

"I look forward to going to Brainerd and getting the western swing out of my mind," Johnson said.  "Actually I've done pretty well there. It'll be a relief to go there after struggling for a while like we have been."

"The track has been very good in the last few years and the cars' performances have been very good.  I'm looking forward to going there and not having to tiptoe down the racetrack. Lane choice won't be such a big deal, either."

Lane choice was a factor at recent events at Sonoma, Calif. and Seattle.

"We didn't have very much success on the western swing (races at Denver, Seattle and Sonoma)," commented Johnson, who won one round in the three races.

"Right now we need a little momentum builder because after Brainerd we go to Indy (site of the U.S. Nationals, NHRA's most prestigious race).  We want to be able to do well there and be able to salvage our season.  Not that it's been a bad year, but it just hasn't been up to our expectations.

"I am getting into mid-season form," he continued, adding a chuckle. Johnson raced the last half of the 1999 and 2000 seasons in Funny Car, so this event used to be only his sixth or seventh outing.

The major difference now is he's already won once (Las Vegas), finished second once (St. Louis) and is seventh in points driving the Skoal Racing Blue Camaro

LIGHTNING DARKENS JOHNSON'S HOUSE

A severe summer storm contained a lightning bolt that hit and damaged Johnson's house in Ottumwa, Iowa last week.

"It happened early in the morning and knocked out everything electrical," said Johnson, whose parents were staying in the home.  "My TV, stereo, satellite dish, refrigerator . . . everything. It blew a hole in the air conditioner.  It hit so hard it set off all the smoke alarms."

The damage was covered by insurance, "but it's going to be a pain getting everything replaced," Johnson added.

A LOOK BACK AT FRAM AUTOLITE NATIONALS:

Johnson was consistent qualifying on a very tricky Sears Point track, running a best of 5.016 seconds, which put him sixth quickest.

On race day, however, traction problems struck early in the first round against Chuck Etchells.  Johnson pedaled the throttle several times but couldn't catch Etchells, who won with a 6.131 to a 7.739.

"I felt pretty good about our chances," Johnson said.  "The last thing on my mind was smoking the tires."  

-Skoal Racing

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Tommy Johnson , Chuck Etchells , Tommy Johnson Jr.