Memphis: Johnson preview

Tommy Johnson Jr. feels he has a special bond with Memphis Motorsports Park. It was the site of his first professional NHRA victory in 1994 when he won the Top Fuel title. Two years ago, Johnson added a win in Funny Car to become only the ...

Tommy Johnson Jr. feels he has a special bond with Memphis Motorsports Park. It was the site of his first professional NHRA victory in 1994 when he won the Top Fuel title.

Two years ago, Johnson added a win in Funny Car to become only the second driver to capture races at the track in both Top Fuel and Funny Car. In 1999, Johnson was just beginning to enjoy driving a Funny Car and was in the midst of a streak every driver loves when he arrived in Memphis.

Johnson had been to two straight final rounds - at Reading, Pa., and Topeka, Kan., winning the first and losing the second. It rained in Memphis that weekend, but the race was completed and Johnson prevailed again in Joe Gibbs' Funny Car.

Johnson suited up for 13 NHRA Winston Series events that year and still managed a 10th place finish.

Last season wasn't as rewarding, however. Driving for another team, Johnson entered 11 races and qualified for seven. One was at Memphis, where he lost in the first round to Ron Capps. Capps went on to win the race and Johnson joined Capps on Don Prudhomme's Skoal Racing team this year.

"This is about the time of the year when I get on a roll," said Johnson. "Two years ago I was in four of the last six finals, and there's no reason why it can't happen again.

"The track has really come around at Memphis. It used to be marginal but recently it's been a very good racetrack.

"I hope weather doesn't play a part in it this year," he continued. "When I won here two years ago it rained and we had one Sunday morning qualifying session. Because we won the race I actually made five runs on Sunday.

"Last year it was very cold. If the weather cooperates we should be able to have a good race. Even though we've had bad weather the last two years we've still managed to have great performances."

"I've had a good comfort level at tracks where I've done well and I hope my Skoal Racing Blue crew can turn things around at Memphis. We've struggled a bit but we're trying to get back on track."

Camaro Displaying Consistency

Johnson's Camaro was very consistent during U.S. Nationals qualifying (Aug. 31-Sept. 2 at Indianapolis) and that improved his outlook for this event, which is now the first of three races in three weeks.

The postponement of last weekend's Keystone Nationals at Reading, Pa., moved Memphis up to the first stop, followed by a race at Joliet, Ill. (Sept. 21-23) and the rescheduled Keystone Nationals (Oct. 5-7.

"The thing we've needed the most is consistency," Johnson noted, "and it's starting to come around. The car is running really good and we aren't breaking any parts

"The next couple of weeks ought to be the big turning point for our two Skoal Racing cars. I plan to get in the winner's circle again before the season is over."

Johnson won at Las Vegas in April and was runner-up at Madison, Ill., near St. Louis, in June.

-Skoal Racing

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Ron Capps , Don Prudhomme , Tommy Johnson Jr.