Denver: Steve Johnson preview

Johnson Ready To "Climb The Mountain" at Denver's Mile-High Nationals IRONDALE, AL 7/11/07 It's coming down to crunch time for Snap-on Tools Suzuki Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Steve Johnson of Irondale, Alabama. Only four races remain during...

Johnson Ready To "Climb The Mountain" at Denver's Mile-High Nationals

IRONDALE, AL 7/11/07 It's coming down to crunch time for Snap-on Tools Suzuki Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Steve Johnson of Irondale, Alabama. Only four races remain during which he can secure a position in the Countdown to 8, the preliminary cut-off point for this year's NHRA POWERade Series championship.

"The new NHRA points system has already turned out to be pretty darn exciting," Johnson said as he made his team's final preparations for the Mopar Mile-High Nationals this coming weekend in Morrison, Colorado, just outside Denver. "If we're not among the top eight points earners after the Toyo Tires Nationals in Pennsylvania in mid-August, we're not going to be eligible for the title.

"Right now being Number 8 is just as important as being Number 1," he said, "and while we're in the top 8 right now, we need to solidify our position so that we can really go after the big prize -- the POWERade championship.

"The way the new program works is that after the field has been cut down to the top 8 riders just prior to the U. S. Nationals over Labor Day weekend, there'll be another cut-down to the top 4 after three more races for Pro Stock Motorcycle. Believe me, everyone's feeling the pressure, 'cause everyone's got the same goal right now:Make it into the top 8 in the points."

Johnson's crew chief, Mark Peiser, has been successful in the rarified air of the Mile-High Nationals before, and knows what it's going to take to get Johnson's Snap-on Tools Suzuki into the winner's circle for the first time in 2007. "We've already installed differenyt transmission ratio pistons for Denver," he said, "but that's not the only changes we've made to our Suzuki. I could outline those changes, but then Steve would kill me!

"Seriously, we've given this coming weekend's race a lot of thought, and I'm confident the changes we've made will result in our being very competitive against the rest of the field.

"The real problem with racing at Bandimere Speedway is that the Harleys and Buels are running 160 cubic inch engines and the Suzuki's are limited to 101ci. At sea level there's parity between the two combinations, but at 5,800 feet those V-Twin guys kill us with their bigger engines.

"You've also got to balance the changes you make to the motorcycle. Go too far and it's going to be gasping for air and not making enough power. Don't go far enough with your changes and the motorcycle just won't go down the track quick enough to make the field."

Johnson, who is featured in Bandimere Speedway's latest track newspaper in a major personality profile story, is looking forward to racing in Denver. "There are four or five races that everyone wants to win. Races like the Gatornationals and the U. S. Nationals are really important, but when it comes to the points they're no more important than the Mile-High Nationals. What I like about this race is the challenge. You've got to make major changes to your combination, so this race is just as much about the decisions the crew chief makes as it is about what the rider does.

"The bottom line is that everyone has to pull together to win, and I think our team is doing that. We may not have the quickest motorcycle this coming weekend, but as long as we don't shoot ourselves in the foot we've got a team that's capable of winning. I think we're more than up to the challenge of the high altitude of the Mile-High Nationals."

-credit: sj/ja

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Series NHRA
Drivers Steve Johnson