Best Qualifying Effort of '07 Sets The Tone For The Balance Of Steve Johnson's Season CLAREMONT, IN 9/3/07 The NHRA U.S. Nationals isn't a sprint, it's a marathon, and few know that better than former Nationals Pro Stock Motorcycle winner, ...
Best Qualifying Effort of '07 Sets The Tone For The Balance Of Steve Johnson's Season
CLAREMONT, IN 9/3/07 The NHRA U.S. Nationals isn't a sprint, it's a marathon, and few know that better than former Nationals Pro Stock Motorcycle winner, Steve Johnson, of Irondale, Alabama. Changing weather conditions, two evening sessions with cooler temperatures, blazing hot race days and, oh yes, some balky equipment, and you've got just a small idea of the obstacles that Johnson faced this Labor Day weekend.
"To qualify for this race you've got to pull out all the stops every year," Johnson said after the race. "But, to qualify in the top half of the field like we did, which was a first for us this season, that was pretty special.
"Okay, that's the good news. The bad news was that we were changing engines and transmissions after almost every run. We brought three engines with us, and every night we went completely through two of them trying to find the right combination for the track surface and the weather conditions. Throw in a little transmission trouble, and it's easy to see why this was both a good and bad weekend for our Snap-on Tools Suzuki.
"To run in the sixes at this level of event was absolutely awesome," he continued. "This was the first time we've qualified in the top half of the field this season, and to do it here was something we can really build on. It shows that our Snap-on Tools team is on the right track. Now we have to put together these good qualifying efforts with better race day performances.
"But, we're not forgetting that this Number 7 qualifying result puts us in a good position for next year's Ringers Gloves Pro Bike Battle, because it takes a year's worth of qualifying efforts to earn enough points to be in the Top 8 for that show. This is a good start for that."
Johnson raced Angelle Sampey in the first round of this year's Ringers Pro Bike Battle on Saturday morning, and was very disappointed with his loss. "We had a better Reaction Time on the Tree, which means we left on her, but In third gear it felt like someone had hit the brakes," Johnson said. "We definitely had an engine problem, so after the run we yanked that one out, and put in our newest engine to finish qualifying. But, when I tried to do the burnout the transmission failed, and we lost that run.
"We spent a ton of money preparing for this event, but trying to run as hard as we had to puts a lot of stress on parts, and we have never, in my entire career, had the kind of failures we had this weekend.
"This was just one of those weekends that had a lot of highs, and some serious lows. I'm happy that we went two rounds during eliminations on Monday for the U.S. Nationals, but at the same time I know that, when things are right with our Suzuki, we're capable of so much more.
"Next year we're going to have more chances to prove ourselves, because the new schedule was announced this weekend, and Pro Stock Motorcycle will compete in 17 POWERade Series races in 2008. That's one more than we're running this year, so our fans will have more of an opportunity to see us in action, and I'm pretty excited about that."
As usual with this very popular driver, he also had himself one very busy weekend with personal appearances. He also hosted a number of WyoTech student enrollees and their families with John Neu, District Sales Manager for Snap-on Tools, and also took time out to participate in both an extensive radio interview, and just for grins, a taped interview for 1320TV.com. "And people wonder why I'm exhausted at the end of one of these long weekends," he said with a grin.
"Every racer says it, but the funny thing is that we all believe it and live it. What we do out here really is all about the fans. If they're having a good time and enjoying the show, than we are," Johnson said. "Drag racing is a lot of work, and when you lose it's tough to take, but when a fan walks up and says, 'Good job, you'll get 'em next time,' man, that's a good feeling."
Next: O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals, Memphis Motorsports Park, Memphis, TN September 14-16