Las Vegas: Tommy Johnson Jr. wins

Tommy Johnson Jr., Skoal Racing Team Hit Jackpot With Victory At Summitracing.Com Nationals At Las Vegas LAS VEGAS - Tommy Johnson Jr. put Don "The Snake" Prudhomme's Skoal Racing team into the winner's circle for the first time when he ...

Tommy Johnson Jr., Skoal Racing Team Hit Jackpot With Victory At Summitracing.Com Nationals At Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS - Tommy Johnson Jr. put Don "The Snake" Prudhomme's Skoal Racing team into the winner's circle for the first time when he defeated Whit Bazemore in the Summitracing.com Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Johnson's victory - the fifth of his career, third in Funny Car and 19th for Prudhomme as team owner - came two days after he and Prudhomme celebrated birthdays (60 for Prudhomme, 33 for Johnson). And it was a decisive win. Johnson left the starting line first and won easily, posting at time of 4.856 seconds at 310.77 mph to a 4.965 at 291.07.

"That's as good as it gets for a birthday present," an elated Johnson said. "It was a great weekend. Snake and I have been kidding about this for a long time, how nice it would be to win a race here."

Not only did he get the team's initial 2001 win, he did it with teammate Ron Capps' Skoal Racing Green Camaro body on his Skoal Racing Blue chassis. The Green car is the 2001 Camaro while Johnson's new Camaro won't be ready until the next race. The Green Camaro became available when Capps was upset in the opening round by Bazemore.

"We needed a little more down force in the middle of the track so we took the Green Camaro and put it on the Blue chassis and we had the Blue driver in the winner's circle with the Green Camaro," Johnson explained. "Both crews pitched in today to get the job done. I know both crews are really proud of their accomplishment. It's amazing what 16 guys working together can get done."

This is Johnson's first win since October 1999, when he drove Joe Gibbs' Funny Car for the final 13 races of the season. He is now four races into what is his first full year as a Funny Car driver.

"The last few years have been pretty tough," he said. "I had my own family team and couldn't keep the sponsorships to keep it going. I had an excellent opportunity with Gibbs and finished in the top 10 in points and I drove half a year with the Hofmanns last year. Don Prudhomme's team is a first-class operation."

Johnson, a two-time winner in Top Fuel, qualified third here and had three runs in the 4.80s (seconds) during eliminations and one 5.054 (when his car spun the tires down track, precipitating the move to the Green Camaro). He had the days' quickest Funny Car reaction time (.462) in the finale against Bazemore's .519 and was never threatened.

He has 279 points put him third in NHRA Winston Series standings and only 24 points behind second-place John Force and 41 behind pacesetter Bruce Sarver.

CAPPS, DRIVING the Skoal Racing Green Camaro, fell victim to mechanical misfortune in his opening-round match against Bazemore.

"The tires shook real bad and I gave (the throttle) a quick pedal and I heard the motor freewheeling so I shut it off," said a disappointed Capps. "The tire shake pushed the drive line away from the coupler. It was too bad because Whit was one point ahead of us in the standings. Our car was running strong, but there's nothing you can do when parts break."

It was the first time in four races that Capps exited in the opening round.

He'd qualified fifth with consistent a run of 4.841 seconds and added another at 4.873 seconds during very cool conditions. Capps is seventh in points with 218.

The next event is the completion of the rain-delayed Gatornationals, April 21 at Gainesville, Fla.

Qualified: Johnson, No. 3, 4.838 seconds at 318.24 mph; Capps, No.5, 4.841 at 316.53

First round: Johnson, 4.868 at 311.13 def. Jim Epler, 5.998 at 155.76; Whit Bazemore def. Capps; Quarterfinals: Johnson, 5.054 at 279.09 def. Gary Densham, 5.187 at 226.54; Semifinal: Johnson, 4.885 at 310.34 def. Dean Skuza, 5.054 at 272.12; Final: Johnson, 4.856 at 310.77 def. Bazemore.

Pro winners: Kenny Bernstein, Top Fuel; Tommy Johnson Jr., Funny Car; Jeg Coughlin Jr., Pro Stock.

Next event: Mac Tools Thunder Valley Nationals, April 27-29 at Bristol, Tenn.

-Prudhomme-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Kenny Bernstein , Jim Epler , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Don Prudhomme , Tommy Johnson Jr.