Gateway: Tommy Johnson final elimination report

Don Prudhomme's Skoal Racing: Tommy Johnson, Skoal Racing Blue Camaro Finish Second At Craftsman Nationals MADISON, Ill., June 24, 2001 - Tommy Johnson and the Skoal Racing Blue Camaro Funny Car made their second final-round appearance of the...

Don Prudhomme's Skoal Racing:

Tommy Johnson, Skoal Racing Blue Camaro Finish Second At Craftsman Nationals

MADISON, Ill., June 24, 2001 - Tommy Johnson and the Skoal Racing Blue Camaro Funny Car made their second final-round appearance of the 2001 season Sunday and finished second at the Sears Craftsman Nationals at Gateway International Raceway near St. Louis.

Johnson marched to the final from the No. 8 starting position and, thanks to crew chief Ed "The Ace" McCulloch's tuning, was the only driver to record four four-second elapsed times on race day. Johnson won at Las Vegas in April in his first title round since joining Don Prudhomme's Funny Car team. He also defeated John Force, the 10-time Funny Car champion and Winston Series point leader, in the semifinals.

"We made eight runs in a row without smoking the tires and ran in the fours all day long," Johnson said, "so the positives far outweigh the negatives" of not winning.

He beat Force with a 4.998 at 293.98 to a 5.030 at 291.32, but he couldn't make defeat Force teammate Tony Pedregon in the finale.

Johnson's Skoal Racing teammate, Ron Capps, failed to qualify for the first time this season. His Green Camaro experienced mechanical problems during Friday night's key qualifying session and he missed the 16-car field by one-thousandth of a second. His best run was 4.979 seconds and it took a 4.978 to make the show.

Johnson, meanwhile, wasn't happy about the race's outcome.

Pedregon surprised Johnson at the starting line by staging quickly and, Johnson admitted, it threw his timing off.

"I looked at the lights and thought 'what's he doing?' and then I thought 'that's all right. But then I realized I only had seven seconds (to stage his car before NHRA's electronic timing system would issue an automatic foul start)," Johnson recalled. "Then I hurried up and jumped in there and it screwed me all up. I started rushing my whole routine and it cost me. I let it bother me."

The result was Pedregon had a better reaction time and used it to win with a 5.006 at 296.31 to Johnson's quicker 4.989 at 293.54.

"Overall, it was a good day, but you should never give away a final," he added.

Johnson, who had won only three rounds of racing in the last six events, did move into eighth place with 602 points, 22 behind seventh-place Frank Pedregon and 77 behind sixth-place Whit Bazemore's 679. Capps is now fifth at 686.

The team's next outing is the Pep Boy's NHRA 50th Anniversary Nationals at Pomona, Calif., July 5-7.

Qualified: Johnson, No. 8, 4.906 seconds at 305.22 mph; Capps, did not qualify

First round: Johnson, 4.952 at 302.75 def. Bob Gilbertson; Quarterfinals: Johnson, 4.997 at 296.37 def. Bruce Sarver; Semifinals: Johnson, 4.998 at 293.98 def. John Force; Final: Tony Pedregon, 5.006 at 296.31 def. Johnson, 4.989 at 293.54.

Pro winners: Doug Kalitta, Top Fuel; Tony Pedregon, Funny Car; Warren Johnson, Pro Stock

Next event: Pep Boys NHRA 50th Anniversary Nationals, Pomona, Calif., July 5-7.

-DPSR-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bruce Sarver , Bob Gilbertson , Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Doug Kalitta , Tommy Johnson , Don Prudhomme