Columbus: Tommy Johnson ready

37th annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals, June 15-17, at National Trail Raceway, Kirkersville, Ohio, near Columbus. NATIONAL TRAIL RACEWAY HISTORY: This is Johnson's second race at the track in Funny Car.  He made his debut in the category in...

37th annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals, June 15-17, at National Trail Raceway, Kirkersville, Ohio, near Columbus.

NATIONAL TRAIL RACEWAY HISTORY:

This is Johnson's second race at the track in Funny Car.  He made his debut in the category in 1999, driving for Joe Gibbs, and lost in the first round.

His best showing in six Top Fuel appearances was the semifinals in 1995.

STANDING:

Tenth place, 453 points, after 10 of 24 NHRA Winston Series events.

LOOKING AHEAD TO PONTIAC NATIONALS:

Johnson is much happier looking forward following Prudhomme Racing's hiring of Mike Green last week.  Green, who has worked with various race teams since the mid-1980s and has served as a crew chief and assistant crew chief with several different teams, will oversee the Skoal Racing Blue Camaro Johnson drives.

Green was added just a few days after Johnson failed to qualify for the Lucas Oil Nationals at Joliet, Ill.  It was the second time he didn't make the 16-car field this year.

"Our performance had been kind of up and down during the first half of the season and, basically, we're starting on the second half," even though 14 of 24 races remain, said Johnson, who has tumbled from third to 10th place since winning at Las Vegas (April 8).

"The team made the changes and definitely made a commitment to improve our performance and make it more consistent. It makes me feel a lot better going into the second half of the season knowing we have everything in place to make a charge again.  

"We're doing the right thing to solve our consistency problem by bringing Mike on board.

"There were some things we needed to do.  Maybe it was a growing pain that we had as a two-car team that we really didn't anticipate, but we experienced it.  So Snake and Ace (crew chief Ed "The Ace" McCulloch) did the right things to fix the problem.

"Now it's time for us to set new goals," Johnson continued.  "Finishing in the top five is still attainable.  We can get this thing turned around so we can still win some races.  There are a lot left.  We know what we're capable of, we just have to get back there."

First up is the Pontiac Nationals event, where the summer heat and humidity have traditionally kicked in about this time of the year. The result makes the track hot and slippery and difficult to get down.  

"I doubt if you'll see a new record bump, but who knows, the way we've been going," added Johnson. The Funny Car field set the record for the quickest 16-car field for the eighth time in 10 races June 2 at Joliet - from John Force's record 4.763 seconds to Jerry Toliver's 4.900.

"This race and the one next week (near St. Louis) aren't known for their quick elapsed times so the winners will probably be decided by lane choice on Sunday and getting down the track consistently.  Getting down the track without smoking the tires all the time, that's what it's going to take to win at Columbus and St. Louis."

A LOOK BACK AT THE LUCAS OIL NATIONALS:

Mechanical problems plagued Johnson during qualifying.  He wasn't able to make a full-throttle run and had to settle for a best of 4.910 seconds.

Unfortunately, the computer numbers showed the car was on a run that could've been good enough to qualify before something went wrong and Johnson was forced to abort the run.

-Snake Racing

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Tommy Johnson , Jerry Toliver