Indianapolis: Tommy Johnson preview

Skoal Racing Report: Tommy Johnson Jr. Driver Of Don "The Snake" Prudhomme's Skoal Racing Blue Camaro Funny Car The Race: 47th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, Indianapolis Raceway Park, Aug . 31-Sept. 3, Clermont, Ind. Standing: Seventh...

Skoal Racing Report:
Tommy Johnson Jr.
Driver Of Don "The Snake" Prudhomme's Skoal Racing
Blue Camaro Funny Car

The Race:
47th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, Indianapolis Raceway Park, Aug . 31-Sept. 3, Clermont, Ind.

Seventh place, 810 points after 17 of 24 NHRA Winston Series events.

Good Test Session Boosts Johnson's Confidence Going Into U.S. Nationals

Tommy Johnson still holds the Raceway Park Funny Car elapsed time and speed records he set in 1999 - 4.885 seconds and 315.71mph. 

And, until he and his Skoal Racing Blue Camaro crew tested at the newly resurfaced track (Aug. 21-22) he didn't know if he'd be able to improve upon it when qualifying begins Aug. 31 for drag racing's richest, most prestigious race.

Now he knows, and he doesn't want to stop there.  "I think this is the best shot I've had at winning the race, especially with the way we're running right now," he said.  "I have a pretty good track record there - being No. 1 qualifier two years in a row and still holding the track record.  (His 4.963 was the best last year.)

"It hasn't worked out after that," added Johnson, who wasn't able challenge for the race wins, "but I have to say that I have a real good chance to extend my streak of No. 1 qualifiers.  I'm ready to go."

The confidence boost came from a 4.830-second test run, a 4.920 and good incremental numbers on one run that was aborted when the blower belt broke.  The 4.83 was Wednesday's quickest run.

"The new track was very impressive," Johnson commented.  "This could be the best Indy race ever.  Both lanes seem to be really good and the traction was excellent."

Quick Times Should Be Expected

A fast track should lead to good times and speeds, Johnson noted.  "It's going to be tough.  You aren't going to see who can slide their cars down the track," he said.  "It's going to be who can run the best.  That's the way you want Indy to be.  You want to go out and just outrun everybody. 

"To win this race, you're going to need some horsepower and you're going to have to run good. Performance-wise, I don't think anybody is going to be disappointed with this U.S. Nationals."

Tradition Still Holds At Indy

"I've been going to Indy for so many years and every year I go it brings back a lot of memories," said Johnson.  "I don't know what it is, but testing there is even pretty cool. 

"It's not any different than any other track.  The same kind of stuff happens there, it's just that there's something special about it.  And I like it.

"This is the race to win," he continued.  "We've struggled and had some tough times this year, but if we could win Indy that would make up for it.  If you can't win the championship, you might as well win Indy, because that's the next best thing."

Racing At Indy Goes Back To 1984

The first time Johnson competed at Raceway Park was 1984 when he drove in Super Comp.  He'd come to Indy before that to watch his dad race.

His best performance came in 1992 when he advanced to the Top Fuel semifinal. He was beaten by Ed "The Ace" McCulloch, who is now the crew chief on his Skoal Racing Blue Camaro. 

"The barrel valve broke on the run and I had to hold open the throttle with my foot," Johnson recalled.  "I had all kinds of problems." 

Even with the trouble Johnson still ran 4.977 at 282.84 mph to McCulloch's 4.873 at 292.49. McCulloch won the race, winning for the first time in Top Fuel after collecting five U.S. Nationals Funny Car titles.

Winning Ways At U.S. Nationals

Team owner Don Prudhomme has seven career victories at Raceway Park, the latest coming in 1989 when he not only won the race but the Bud Shootout and set a national Funny Car elapsed time record.

Three of Prudhomme's wins came in Top Fuel, the first in 1965 in his first U.S. Nationals appearance.

Add McCulloch's six and the Funny Car team has 11 overall.

A Look Back At Colonel's Nationals:

"We needed a good test session after our first round (result) at Brainerd (Minn., Aug. 19)," Johnson noted.  After qualifying fourth (4.925 seconds at 312.28 mph), he was eliminated in the first round by a blower explosion when he hit the throttle at the starting line.

"The Blue crew couldn't find out what caused the problem so they put the motor back together and left the combination the way it was and we ran 4.920 on our first test run at Indy.  That would've easily won the round. (Del Worsham ran 4.966 at 309.27).

"Testing before Indy definitely helped because we could've been going into Friday night's first qualifying run at IRP saying 'I hope we fixed the problem.' We know we have now."


Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Del Worsham , Tommy Johnson , Don Prudhomme , Tommy Johnson Jr.