THE RACE: Inaugural Mac Tools Thunder Valley Nationals, April 27-29 at Bristol Dragway, Bristol, Tenn. BRISTOL DRAGWAY HISTORY: Johnson, driving Helen Hofmann's Funny Car last year, was eliminated in the first round of the special Winston ...
Inaugural Mac Tools Thunder Valley Nationals, April 27-29 at Bristol Dragway, Bristol, Tenn.
BRISTOL DRAGWAY HISTORY:
Johnson, driving Helen Hofmann's Funny Car last year, was eliminated in the first round of the special Winston Showdown, which featured a Top Fuel vs. Funny Car format.
Third place, 313 points, after five of 24 NHRA Winston Series events.
LOOKING AHEAD TO THE THUNDER VALLEY NATIONALS:
"I am excited that this year the race is Funny Car vs. Funny Car and that we get to go to Bristol for a real race," said Johnson, who remained third in points despite being upset in the first round of the rain-delayed Gatornationals, completed Saturday at Gainesville, Fla. "It was fun doing Top Fuel vs. Funny Car, but this is an event, and, because we're in the top three in points, I'm excited about it.
"Last year I had a guaranteed spot to race and that was probably a good thing because I never would've qualified. Going to Bristol now, I expect to be the No. 1 qualifier. Being with the quality of team I am now is a tremendous advantage for me. It's like waking up and being a different person.
"The fun part this year is being able to show people that with the right equipment and right people surrounding you, you can get the job done. That's hard to prove unless you have the opportunity.
"Bristol Dragway is one of the nicest tracks we race on and one of the smoothest. It's very similar to Las Vegas' track in the way it's designed. I guess that's no coincidence since both tracks are owned by Bruton Smith. Maybe that will bring some more confidence to the team because we won at Las Vegas.
"I'm glad we don't have a week off between races. I'm ready to go again (after his short work day at Gainesville).
"If all goes right, we will continue to get better and better. What's really important is that Bristol is the second race in a part of the season where we have six races in seven weeks. You need to perform well and get momentum going.
"Seven weeks from now there will probably be a clear-cut (championship) favorite. I'd just as soon get a couple wins early in this stretch of races and be the favorite."
LOOKING BACK AT THE GATORNATIONALS:
Weather conditions were almost opposite of what they were March 16-17 when the 16-car Funny Car field was the quickest and fastest - all cars exceed 300 mph.
It was sunny and warm instead of cool and track conditions went from good to slippery. Tire-smoking runs were prevalent, not only in the first round, but throughout the day.
Johnson's Skoal Racing Blue Camaro didn't smoke or shake the tires. In fact, his 4.969-second time was fifth best of the round. The only problem was the quickest run of the day came in the other lane from Jim Epler - a 4.912.
"That was very, very frustrating," Johnson said. "It was a nice, smooth run; we didn't figure he'd run low e.t. of eliminations against us. That's what happens when you win a race; everyone you race tries harder to beat you.
We wanted to get down the track and not smoke the tires. Epler's team took a shot. That proves you can't take anyone lightly on race day."