JOHNSON JR. RACES TO SEMIFINALS AT DALLAS ENNIS, Texas (Sept. 24, 2006) -- Eight-time NHRA winner Tommy Johnson, Jr. raced his Don "the Snake" Prudhomme-owned Skoal RacingSM Chevy Funny Car to a semifinal finish Sunday at Texas Motorplex.
JOHNSON JR. RACES TO SEMIFINALS AT DALLAS
ENNIS, Texas (Sept. 24, 2006) -- Eight-time NHRA winner Tommy Johnson, Jr. raced his Don "the Snake" Prudhomme-owned Skoal RacingSM Chevy Funny Car to a semifinal finish Sunday at Texas Motorplex. Johnson remains sixth in the NHRA Funny Car standings and now sits just 18 points from fifth position.
After qualifying his silver-and-blue Skoal Racing Chevy in the No. 2 position for the ninth time in his career, Johnson bested No. 15 qualifier Jack Beckman and 2005 NHRA Funny Car champion Gary Scelzi before falling to No. 3 qualifier Mike Ashley in the semifinals of the 21st annual O'Reilly Fall Nationals.
The Iowa native used the third quickest elapsed time of the round to score the wire-to-wire opening-round victory over Beckman, who made his first career Funny Car start at the Dallas race. Johnson used a tune-up from crew chief Mike Green to power the special edition Monte Carlo to a run of 4.826 seconds at 308.71 mph, while Beckman's flopper lost traction and slowed to a 6.556-second pass. It was Johnson's first round win since winning the Brainerd, Minn. event in August.
In a marquee quarterfinal match-up of two of the flopper division's elite drivers, Johnson used a starting-line advantage to earn the 12th holeshot victory of his career. Johnson used a slightly quicker reaction time (.068 of-a-second) and a performance of 4.904 at 306.81 to edge Scelzi's quicker, but losing pass of 4.899 at 311.49. Johnson and Scelzi have a 3-3 mark in six races this season.
In his sixth semifinal appearance of the season, Johnson got the jump at the start, but the Skoal Racing flopper smoked the tires instantly and slowed to a run of 7.840-seconds. Ashley drove to a pass of 5.311 at 211.83 to advance to his first career final round. It was the first pass of the weekend that the Skoal Racing Funny Car failed to make a complete quarter-mile run. Johnson has now competed in 39 elimination rounds this season.
"It was a good weekend," Johnson said. "Sure, we wanted to get back to the final round, but I'm not too disappointed. I'm happy with the way our car is running; we're one step closer to cracking the top five and that's our goal. It's hard to be disappointed when you go to the semis.
"We're not sure what happened on that semifinal run. We haven't smoked the tires that early all season long. It's something mechanical, it's not a tune-up issue. Mike (Green) has a great handle on the tune-up. It's just unfortunate that it happened then."
The next NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series event is the 22nd annual Toyo Tires Nationals, Sept. 29-Oct. 1, at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pa. Johnson won the Reading race in 1999. The race was originally schedule for Sept. 14-17, but was postponed due to rain.