Englishtown: GM Racing final summary

GM Racing Clean Sweep at NHRA SuperNationals ENGLISHTOWN, N.J., June 24, 2007 - It was a banner day for GM Racing at the 38th annual ProCare RX Supernationals with a clean sweep of the professional categories that included victories for Team...

GM Racing Clean Sweep at NHRA SuperNationals

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J., June 24, 2007 - It was a banner day for GM Racing at the 38th annual ProCare RX Supernationals with a clean sweep of the professional categories that included victories for Team Chevy in Funny Car and Top Fuel, and a win for Pontiac in the Pro Stock category.

Tommy Johnson Jr. cast adversity aside, and battled back from a ferocious first-round fire that completely destroyed his Chevy Impala Funny Car to capture his first national-event win of the season. The 39-year-old Avon, Ind., resident defeated Tony Pedregon in the all-Impala SS championship round, snared the maximum number of points a driver can earn without setting a national record (118), and leaped-frog four spots to eighth place in the POWERade standings. It was an especially gratifying afternoon for Johnson after Don Prudhomme Racing teammate Larry Dixon captured his second consecutive win in Top Fuel.

"This trophy is for the guys on my team," said Johnson. "They earned it the hard way today. All year we've been struggling and they've been working, but today, I put them to the test and they delivered. I have to thank Mike Ashley's team and Bob Vandergriff's team for pitching in after the fire. We race against each other, but it's a tight-knit group out here. I thought we would make it okay for second round, but I wasn't sure when I got back to the pits and the guys did it."

Johnson entered raceday with his Skoal Racing Chevy Impala qualified in the No. 1 spot. Johnson's Chevrolet recorded the quickest runs in three of the four qualifying sessions, and that included a track-record e.t. of 4.729 seconds at 321.96 mph.

In his round-one match-up with Gary Densham, Johnson rode out a finish-line engine explosion and fire that devastated his primary Chevy Impala SS Funny Car body. After an exhaustive, all-hands-on-deck thrash led by Snake Racing team crew chief Mike Green, Johnson's backup Chevrolet returned in round two to post the quickest run of eliminations at 4.914 seconds.

"It got pretty bad in there first round," said Johnson. "It caught me off guard. Usually there's a warning and you'll hear the motor going away, or something like that. I had to pedal it, which is a cardinal sin in a Funny Car on the top end, but I pedaled it and it took off, and I thought, 'This is going to be all right.' Our car just doesn't blow up. We haven't oiled the track in three years, but all of sudden, out of nowhere, it was blazing pretty good. Then the smoke started and I just locked it up, slid it a few times and decided it was time to get out. That was hard to take after first round because we were No. 1 qualifier, finally got the thing running and we had to rebuild it in 75 minutes. To take such a good running car and do that can completely mess up your combination, so it was a little disheartening.

"To then come out second round and run low e.t. of eliminations after burning the car to the ground in the first round was amazing," said Johnson. "When I saw them loading the car on a flat bed on the end of the track I was pretty nervous, but once I got back to the pits, and midway through the process, I thought we were going to be okay. To show how good the guys are on this team, we fired up our car before one of the other Funny Cars did that round. That was how fast the guys worked and how good of a job they did. Mike Green, Scott French, they got their act together, we're back on track. That was big, really big."

Johnson returned the favor to his teammates in round three by defeating Jeff Arend on a holeshot, and then outran Pedregon's Chevrolet in the finals with a 4.994 e.t. at 305.84 to a 5.022-second lap at 306.33 mph. Johnson's margin of victory was a razor-thin .017 of a second.

"In the semis, to run a 4.96 to a 4.96 and get the light for my guys, couldn't make me feel any happier," said Johnson. "In the finals, I had no idea what the times were but we just barely got it. I told Snake (team-owner Don Prudhomme) I couldn't let the guys down after all that work.

"We have a lot of packing to do. You should see our pit area - it's a mess. With six races in a row I'll take this one. We needed this and with five left, maybe we can get them all."

It was Johnson's ninth career victory and his first win since last summer's NHRA Nationals in Brainerd, Minn. And in a day of firsts for the Chevy Impala driver, it was Johnson's first victory at Old Bridge Raceway Park and his first with Don Prudhomme Racing teammate Larry Dixon.

"It's been a long time since we've seen this many smiles in our camp," said Johnson. "To go out on Friday night and run that 4.72 in our Chevy Imapla SS and be No. 1, there were a lot more smiles when we pulled back in the pits. We really needed this and with the way the points system is structured this year, and the Countdown to the Championship, we had to get ourselves back into contention. This gives us a chance and by moving to eighth place, I think you've still yet to see the best from this Skoal Racing team. We're back in the Countdown and I think we've picked the right time to start running good.

"As soon as Larry's (Dixon) car took off I turned to see if we could pull of a double. It means a lot to me to be in the winner's circle with Larry Dixon and to be his teammate. To be our first double together, and in front of our U.S. Smokeless Tobacco sponsors, we have a lot of them out here today, this was a huge win for our team - I don't know how you get a bigger win for this team."

For the first time ever, four Chevrolets advanced to the semifinals in Funny Car and the round-three lineup included three Impala SS drivers and a Monte Carlo. This weekend's remarkable Red Bowtie Brigade included eventual race winner Johnson (Impala), runner-up Pedregon (Impala), Jeff Arend (Impala) and Tony Bartone (Monte Carlo). Arend lost in round three to Johnson and Bartone lost to Pedregon.

Team Chevy's Larry Dixon charged to his second straight national-event Top Fuel victory from the No. 11 qualifying spot. Dixon defeated Whit Bazemore in round one (4.947 seconds), Doug Kalitta in round two (4.669 seconds), and Hillary Will in the semifinals (4.662 seconds). In the finals against Doug Herbert, the Donnie Bender-tuned Skytel dragster illuminated the win light with 4.625 second e.t. at 321.73 mph. Herbert followed with a 4.675 second run at 316.30 mph. Dixon's margin of victory was .064 of a second.

"There were a lot of tough races today," said Dixon, "and a lot of good cars. It proves that if you can get qualified you can win from any spot. I have to thank the team, Donnie (Bender), obviously Snake and all the guys here from Skytel this week."

It was Dixon's 40th career national-event victory (in 74 final-round appearances), his fourth at this venue (in eight final-round appearances), and it moved him into second place on the all-time Top Fuel wins list, 12 behind all-time leader Joe Amato (52). The victory also placed the two-time NHRA champion in second placed in the POWERade standings, just 35 points behind first-place Rod Fuller, and it gave the legendary Don Prudhomme his fourth national event double-up as a team owner.

"We left Chicago, got Donnie his first win, we were thrilled to death," said Dixon. "Low and behold, we get to the finals here and win another one. I don't keep track of the stats and it wasn't until last week that I learned that I'd been to the last five finals here. It kind of shocked me. We haven't had a really great car in a few years so to go to the finals and win some of these is cool."

Greg Anderson captured his sixth win of the season in a Pontiac GTO to complete the GM Racing quarter-mile trifecta. Anderson defeated Team Chevy's Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the all-GM final round to earn his 49th career victory (in 70 final-round appearances). It was also Anderson's third career win at Old Bridge Raceway Park and by bagging the maximum amount of points a driver can earn without setting a national record (118), it further solidified his grip on first place in the POWERade points standings.

"It takes a total team effort and a little luck, regardless of how many times you win," said Anderson. "I had a lot of luck in the first round, a race I shouldn't have won. We lost an engine and I got lucky. But you know, when you get that second chance you'd better make the most of it. We blew a motor, we changed it with great backup stuff, we came back out with a great run in round two, worked our way back over into the favored lane and somehow ended up with our Summit Racing Pontiac in the winner's circle."

Anderson entered raceday with his Pontiac qualified in the No. 1 position after setting both ends of the track record with a 6.592 second run at 210.57 mph. He defeated Craig Hankinson on a holeshot in round one, Dave Connolly in round two and Jim Yates in round three to advance to the finals against Coughlin, who had beaten Anderson's teammate, Jason Line, in the finals two weeks ago at Chicago.

"You have no idea how much pressure there is when you roll up against a competitor like Jeg Coughlin," said Anderson. "He's an awesome driver, I had raced his teammate Dave Connolly earlier in the day, and Coughlin is always on top of the wheel every time he races. It took a special effort to put this one in the win column for Summit Racing, but we got it done, against both Jeg and Dave. That means everything to me and for the guys at Summit Racing, that's payback for Chicago."

In the finals against Coughlin, Anderson's Summit Racing GTO launched with a .059 reaction, but by then it was over with Coughlin fouling with a starting-line red light. Anderson's Pontiac crossed the finish line with a 6.617 e.t. at 209.52 mph to give team-owner Ken Black his sixth straight win at this event (Jason Line won in 2004-2006).

"He dug a little too deep, went a little too far, and that's what it's all about," said Anderson. "Laying it all on the starting line. It's NHRA POWERade Pro Stock Racing and it's absolutely fantastic this year."

Three drivers in GM-branded Pro Stock cars advanced to today's semifinal round including No. 1 qualifier and Pontiac GTO driver Greg Anderson, Jim Yates (Pontiac) and Chevy Cobalt driver Jeg Coughlin Jr. Yates took out Jason Line and Greg Stanfield before losing to Anderson in round three.

"It was a great weekend," said Yates. "It was a huge confidence builder for the WileyX Pontiac team. We struggled in qualifying, we struggled the last three races and came in here, and we struggled during qualifying but still got in pretty good. We felt confident in our opportunity and then we came out this morning, won a couple of rounds and that set the pace for us today. Greg's (Anderson) just a tough cookie. We tried some stuff on the car that was either going to make us go faster or slower - we went slower. If it had gone faster we could have given him a run. It went 6.67 the round before and if it had gone a couple of hundredths faster with a 6.65 we could have given him a run for his money. That's the chance you take when you try new things. We're looking forward to the future. We have six races in six weeks now, and that last round we needed to try something and we learned a lot from it."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Tony Pedregon , Tony Bartone , Joe Amato , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Gary Densham , Don Prudhomme , Greg Stanfield , Jason Line , Mike Ashley , Jeff Arend , Bob Vandergriff , Rod Fuller , Hillary Will , Dave Connolly , Craig Hankinson , Ken Black , Tommy Johnson Jr.