MILLINGTON, Tenn. (Aug. 16, 2004) - In the sporting world, there are very few things more thrilling than watching two 8,000 horsepower nitromethane-powered Funny Cars blast down the drag strip at more than 300 mph at night with the header flames...
MILLINGTON, Tenn. (Aug. 16, 2004) - In the sporting world, there are very few things more thrilling than watching two 8,000 horsepower nitromethane-powered Funny Cars blast down the drag strip at more than 300 mph at night with the header flames blasting above the roof of the sleek race car.
The motor sports fans in the southern part of the United States will have the chance to witness the second and final night race on the 2004 NHRA schedule when the NHRA POWERade Series makes its annual visit to Memphis, Aug. 20-22, for the 17th annual O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals at Memphis Motorsports Park.
"I really like night racing," Tommy Johnson Jr. said. "I think all drag races should be at night. The temperatures are cooler and it's just a bigger thrill for the fans at night. You go back to the grassroots days and it was Saturday night racing that helped build the sport."
Johnson, a two-time winner of the Memphis race and one of three drivers (Kenny Bernstein and Mike Dunn) to have scored Memphis wins in both Top Fuel and Funny Car, had a solid outing at the first night race earlier this year near St. Louis, qualifying his blue Skoal RacingSM Funny Car in the No. 2 position en route to racing to the quickest and fastest run of his career. With the heat and humidity expected during the race weekend, more career bests for the Iowa native aren't expected, but Johnson has fared well in the hot summer heat this season.
"The temperatures will put a different twist on the race this year since we're running in August," Johnson said. "It will be a little more difficult to get down the race track, but I don't mind that. The way we've been running, that kind of plays into our hands. I think we have a much better car when it is hot and sunny."
Hot and sunny conditions are likely for the opening round of eliminations, which kickoff at 3 p.m., four hours later than the typical 11 a.m. start. However, as drivers advance rounds, the sun will dissipate and conditions will be more like what the crew chiefs had to deal with during qualifying. Adapting to the temperature change will be one of the keys to success at Memphis.
If Johnson and veteran tuner Mike Green play their cards correctly-and with Johnson's past success at Memphis Motorsports Park-there's a chance the Iowa native could advance to his first final round appearance of the 2004 NHRA season. For some unknown reason, certain drivers have success at different race tracks and Memphis is definitely one of Johnson's favorite.
"It's just one of those tracks where there's nothing special or any big hoopla, but for me, it always has been a really good event," Johnson said. "They've had the race several different times of year and I've won it twice. I've won Memphis in both Top Fuel and Funny Car, and I don't know why, it just seems to happen."