"We've Got To Find The Gremlin That's Holding Us Back"-- Steve Johnson After Losing In The First Round In Chicago IRONDALE, AL 6/12/07 The NHRA Torco Race Fuels Route 66 Nationals started out on a promising note for Snap-on Tools Suzuki Pro...
"We've Got To Find The Gremlin That's Holding Us Back"-- Steve Johnson After Losing In The First Round In Chicago
IRONDALE, AL 6/12/07 The NHRA Torco Race Fuels Route 66 Nationals started out on a promising note for Snap-on Tools Suzuki Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Steve Johnson, but after eliminations on Sunday afternoon the 21-year veteran of the class was less than pleased.
"We ran a 7.030-second run in the first qualifying session on Friday afternoon," he said from his shop in Irondale on Tuesday morning. "That was a good, solid run that put us in the seventh position in qualifying, which is in the top half of the field, right where we wanted to be.
"Mark (Peiser), our crew chief, and I were both pleased with that, particularly since the motorcycle ran hard in the second half of the track. That's an indication that you've got the horsepower you need to succeed. We thought at that point that a few minor adjustments would make the front half quicker, and we'd be right in the thick of things.
"We made those adjustments, but our Suzuki didn't come around like it should have.
"Somewhere, some way, there's a gremlin in this motorcycle, and we've got to find it if we hope to become contenders for this year's POWERade Series championship."
After a first round loss in eliminations Johnson dropped out of the Top 8 in the standings, and is now 28 important points behind the cut-off position for this year's title, with just six races remaining before all the professional fields will be cut to the Top 8 contenders.
"We still have plenty of time to improve our position," he said, "but we need to make our move sooner rather than later. We're looking for just two or three hundredths of a second -- about the time it takes to snap your fingers a couple of times, but we need to be qualifying in the top half of the fields to earn more points for the Ringers Gloves Pro Bike Battle at Indy. We also need to have lane choice for the first round of eliminations in every race. That's important stuff."
Johnson is holding on to the eighth and final qualifying position for the Pro Bike Battle, but as he acknowledges, "Right now that's of secondary importance. We definitely want to be in the Battle, but in all honesty, contending for the POWERade title is what this is all about."
With that in mind Peiser and the rest of Johnson's crew are already back in Alabama, and have disassembled their engines in search of any little thing that isn't perfect internally. They've also scheduled a test session at O'Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis for next Tuesday in preparation for the ProCare Rx SuperNationals in Englishtown, New Jersey on the weekend of June 22-24.
Johnson played a key role in the Snap-on Tool Show and Day At The Races for Snap-on franchisees at Route 66 Raceway, and also hosted a number of WyoTech Technical School enrollees, who got a complete "tour" of Johnson's pit area on Saturday. Johnson also led the students through a relaxed and humorous Reaction Time seminar.
Saturday's final qualifying session netted another 7.03-second elapsed time, this one ultimately seven thousandths of a second slower than his Friday best, but it was already too late, as he'd been bumped down to the 11th starting position.
"As I said earlier, that isn't where we want or need to be. When qualifying ends we need to be eighth or better to get lane choice for Sunday," he said.
"We're going to keep digging," he added. "It's incredibly frustrating to know that we're this close to being as competitive as anyone out there, but when seven riders qualify in the six second range, and we're not among 'em, well, that tells you we've got to keep working to solve our problems."