Commerce: Johnson, Capps preview

Johnson hopes to end Atlanta Dragway jinx; Capps wants a little racing luck. COMMERCE, Ga., May 1, 2003 - When the subject is favorite racetracks, Tommy Johnson Jr. can wax poetic about The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Memphis Motorsports...

Johnson hopes to end Atlanta Dragway jinx; Capps wants a little racing luck.

COMMERCE, Ga., May 1, 2003 - When the subject is favorite racetracks, Tommy Johnson Jr. can wax poetic about The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Memphis Motorsports Park and others.

Shift the topic to his least favorite and the answer comes with his next breath.

"Atlanta Dragway, without a doubt," he said. "I've never done well there. Heck, I haven't even qualified at the last two races there. I rolled my super gas car there in 1985 and blew a tire at the starting line in 1994 when I was driving my Top Fuel dragster. It tore the rear end out of the car."

Can you guess which track is awaiting Johnson and his Blue Skoal Racing crew this weekend? Yes, it's Atlanta Dragway, site of the Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals, Friday through Sunday.

Johnson, however, remains up beat about his chances this time around.

"I like to be optimistic, but you never know," he said. "I don't believe in curses, but you do begin to wonder. Fortunately the car's performance is one of things that keeps me that way. I have confidence in this crew. We may walk in and go all the way to winner's circle. That would be one way to get me to like coming to the track."

The Blue crew, led by crew chief Mike Green and his assistant, Tommy DeLago, has given Johnson a good car to drive. He's coming off his best qualifying position and his quickest run thus far in 2003 NHRA POWERade Series outings, No. 4 at 4.805 seconds, at Bristol, Tenn.

"We are determined to conquer the Atlanta Dragway problem this year," added Johnson, who is seventh in points with 317, 36 six behind fifth-place teammate Ron Capps' 353. "We'll be happy to qualify and go from there."

Johnson was a quarterfinalist Sunday at Bristol, losing when his Chevy smoked the tires, forcing him to pedal the throttle. Whit Bazemore was the beneficiary when the car lost traction.

Johnson opened with a win over Dale Creasy Jr. even though the Blue Skoal Racing entry broke an engine before the finish line.

Ron Capps, Green Skoal Racing Camaro

Neither Capps nor crew chief Ed "Ace" McCulloch nor assistant crew chief Todd Okuhara can remember a clutch pilot bearing breaking on a run. It's something that doesn't happen often, but it did to Capps in the first round of Sunday's Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol, Tenn.

"When that happened, it shook the tires," Capps recalled, and there was nothing for him to do but watch Del Worsham's car pull away, winning with a 4.928 to a 5.984. Worsham was the eventual race winner.

"The computer's incremental times indicated it would've run a 4.85 or 4.86," said Okuhara. "We need to find some luck."

Capps agreed.

"That was unfortunate, but things happen and there's nothing that can be done about it," he remarked. "We are looking forward to putting this behind us and getting to Atlanta so we can go racing."

Capps has had some success at this track. He had back-to-back Funny Car runner-up finishes in 2000 and 2001. His first final round at Atlanta came in 1995, when he was driving in Top Fuel.

"We were surprised we didn't get out of the first round at Bristol," Capps said. "The car ran well on Friday (4.874 and 4.852 seconds). We qualified seventh and had to race a good driver like Del in the first round. That was tough. It gets back to what I've been saying all season: the first round is like the final round and nobody's easy to beat on race day."

Capps and Johnson will be looking for their first wins in Georgia when qualifying begins at 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. on Friday and continues at noon and 3 p.m. on Saturday. Eliminations begin Sunday at 11 a.m.

-dpr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , Dale Creasy Jr. , Tommy Johnson Jr.