Johnson doesn't have anything against Route 66 Raceway, but he's not sure if the track has something against him. Â Twice Johnson has come to Joliet to race. Â Twice he left without earning a place in Sunday's eliminations. Â He's determined...
Johnson doesn't have anything against Route 66 Raceway, but he's not sure if the track has something against him.
Twice Johnson has come to Joliet to race. Twice he left without earning a place in Sunday's eliminations. He's determined not to let it happen again this weekend.
"I like the track, but I can't seem to get the monkey off my back," said Johnson, who struggled with mechanical problems in the season's first event at Route 66 Raceway in June and did not qualify. "I don't think that will happen this time. I'm optimistic we'll get our Skoal Racing Blue Camaro in the show."
His performance in the last nine races lends credence to his confidence. He's qualified in the top eight all but once, with third his highest, ninth the lowest. Johnson's best at Joliet earlier in the year was 4.910 seconds but he needed to run quicker than 4.900 to make what was then the quickest 16-field in NHRA history.
"I'd like to get a little revenge on the track this time," Johnson commented. "I don't know if the weather will be colder than it was in June (when it was unseasonably cold).
"Our car really wants to run good," he added. "All we need to do is get the track to hold it."
While this is the first fall event at Route 66, the track has hosted the June race since 1998. Johnson's first appearance was 1999 when he failed to qualify his family-owned Top Fuel dragster. He didn't attend the 2000 race, then missed the field in his first visit driving the Blue Skoal Racing Camaro.
Something Good to Remember
Johnson's memories of the track are not all bad. One day after the 1999 race he was hired to drive Joe Gibbs' Funny Car. He tested the car and earned his Funny Car driver's license at Route 66. Then he went to Columbus, Ohio, for his first event driving nitromethane-burning Funny Cars.
Importance of Winning Rounds
There is more to winning competitive rounds than merely padding a driver's point total.
When Johnson defeated Bob Gilbertson in the opening round at Memphis on Sunday it marked the first time in five events the Blue crew made it to the quarterfinal round.
"It was nice to get past the first round," Johnson admitted. "That really gets things flowing for the crew. When you don't get to second round for a while it's hard to get back in rhythm (when the crew services the motor, clutch and fuel system in the allotted 75 minutes between rounds).
"We have a good shot at keeping that rhythm going at Joliet because it's the second of three races in a row."
Johnson easily pulled away from Bob Gilbertson in the first round, winning with a 4.901 at 302.75 mph. In the next round, Johnson slowed to a 4.994 at 299.66 to John Force's winning 4.929 at 308.99.
Johnson was ready for Force at the starting line, leaving with a .451 reaction time (.400 is perfect), his best of the season. Ironically, it was only third best on Sunday, behind Gary Densham's .414 light against Johnson's teammate, Ron Capps, in the semifinals and Frank Pedregon's .437 in the first round.
Johnson is eighth in points with 898 and is 10 points behind Pedregon.
The Pep Boys Nationals, postponed two weeks ago by the terrorist attacks, completes the trio of races Oct. 5-7 at Reading, Pa.