Memphis: Team Mopar preview

Johnson is in the Thick of Fight in the Countdown to 4 While Stevens Resolves to Remain in the Top 10 at O'Reilly NHRA Mid-South Nationals Center Line, Mich. -- Team Mopar® Pro Stocker Allen Johnson heads to the O'Reilly NHRA Mid-South...

Johnson is in the Thick of Fight in the Countdown to 4 While Stevens Resolves to Remain in the Top 10 at O'Reilly NHRA Mid-South Nationals

Center Line, Mich. -- Team Mopar® Pro Stocker Allen Johnson heads to the O'Reilly NHRA Mid-South Nationals in Memphis in the third spot in the NHRA POWERade Countdown to 4 playoff standings. With the top four drivers advancing to the two-race Countdown to 1 shootout for the NHRA Pro Stock championship, a solid outing in Memphis is a must for Johnson to maintain his title hopes.

Richie Stevens Jr., Johnson's teammate, did not qualify among the eight drivers who advanced to the Countdown to 4. However, the Louisiana native is still determined to post a strong finish to his 2007 season. His focus has shifted to scoring a top-10 finish in the final NHRA Pro Stock standings and helping Johnson as much as possible by eliminating some of his Countdown to 4 competition.

Early berth in Countdown to 4 begins to payoff for Allen Johnson Johnson qualified his Mopar/J&J Racing Dodge Stratus R/T in the Countdown to 4 with two races to spare. With his spot in the Countdown locked up, Johnson and his father, J&J Racing co-owner and engine builder Roy Johnson, were able to experiment with modifications to the HEMI® engine in his Dodge Stratus R/T. That extra preparation time is just now beginning to pay dividends.

"Everything we learned [Roy] has incorporated into a couple of engines, and changed them around and definitely picked them up," said Johnson. "I feel very confident. I feel like we gave away two rounds at Indy. We should have got runner-up at worst. We made one boo-boo, and that was that we didn't make a very good run in the first round and lost lane choice for the second round. I think we were right on our game plan. We just missed it by a couple of thousands of a second. We'll go into Memphis with exactly the same game plan--qualify in the top half, win first round, and get lane choice for the second round."

Johnson believes his J&J Racing team is beginning to fire on all cylinders. It couldn't come at a better time, during Countdown to 4 crunch time in the ultra-competitive NHRA POWERade Pro Stock division.

"We've always done pretty good in Memphis. Of course, it's in our home state," Johnson said. "We're just now really getting in our stride, and Dad's really getting in his stride on the engines. I feel like my driving has come around here a little bit in the last week. I just feel like we are in a really good position to do something good over the next three weeks. There is no room for error. We have to be perfect."

Richie Stevens Jr. has goal to be in the top 10 in standings It's difficult to be on the sidelines looking in, as is the case for Stevens, driver of the Team Mopar/Valspar Dodge Stratus R/T owned by Don Schumacher Racing and maintained by J&J Racing. Although his championship run is over, Stevens' pride and competitiveness will drive him as he pursues his sixth career NHRA Pro Stock top-10 points finish.

"We've got the car running good. I think the car is where it needs to be," remarked Stevens. "I just need to do a good job. Hopefully we can go some rounds. The championship battle is pretty much out of sight, out of mind. The best I could do is ninth, and hopefully I can get that spot before the year is out. I think we can come away with one [spot in the top-ten] if we can go a few rounds.

"The game plan now is just to go out there and win races. We go into Memphis which is kind of my second home race. I've got a lot of friends and family coming out to the race so hopefully we can put on a good show for them."

Another goal of Stevens is to aid his teammate, Johnson, in his NHRA Pro Stock title chase.

"We've got five races left and it would be good to go out there and win one," Stevens said. "We'll just suck it up and go out there and play spoiler. Maybe we can go out there and meet up in couple of rounds with the people that A.J. is battling for points. Hopefully we can get matched up against those top cars. If I can do my job and Mark [Ingersoll, crew chief] can get the car set up right, we can go out there and win some rounds and keep those other guys from gaining points on A.J. and give him a little push."

-credit: mopar/dsr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Richie Stevens Jr. , Allen Johnson , Don Schumacher