NHRA Pro Stock Racer Allen Johnson Has Found Forumla For Success At Bandimere Speedway
Allen Johnson’s streak on Thunder Mountain is at four and counting.
That’s four consecutive final rounds, for those who are keeping score.
Bandimere Speedway has long been a perplexing puzzle for NHRA’s greatest Pro Stock teams. The high altitude and warm summertime conditions typically combine to make even the sharpest crew chiefs do plenty of second guessing when it comes to tuning the naturally-aspirated engines that power the fan-favorite factory hot rods.
But Johnson, who drives the event sponsor’s flagship Team Mopar/J&J Racing Dodge Avenger, has his machine dialed in for the one race each season where Pro Stock teams need to break out an entirely different book of tuning notes.
He’s won three of the last four final rounds at the scenic dragstrip located just west of downtown Denver, including the last two.
The Tennesse native will try to make it three wins in a row at the 32nd annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, July 22-24. Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also are defending winners of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.
Johnson says his edge at the kick-off for the NHRA’s grueling Western Swing all comes down to docking plenty of track time.
“For years we have tested and tested there with our Mopar Dodge, and we seem to have developed a combination that is superior,” Johnson said. “I feel like all that testing has led to our success at Mopar’s big race. And also, when you’ve done well at a track, you go back there with confidence, and we’ve definitely excelled at Thunder Mountain.”
Johnson comes into this year’s event riding high from a victory at Englishtown, N.J. and a No. 1 qualifying performance at his home track in Bristol, Tenn., along with a semifinal appearance. He’s ready to get back on the winning track after early round exits at the last two races in Norwalk and Chicago.
He says heading to Bandimere Speedway is a great way for his team to get back in the winning groove.
“I feel good about the Mopar/J&J Racing team’s chances of winning again at Bandimere Speedway,” Johnson said. “We have a really good race car, and our Mopar HEMI engines are performing at a high level. I really believe our success should continue.”
He’s currently sitting in eighth place in the Pro Stock point standings and knows that he’ll need a strong performance if he’s going to stabilize his top 10 points position and qualify for the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship playoffs. The competition has been strong this year with series leader Jason Line scoring three victories and defending world champ Greg Anderson, ’09 champ Mike Edwards and rookie Vincent Nobile taking two wins apiece.
“I feel good about the Countdown as it draws near,” Johnson said. “I think we had a little more momentum prior to the last two races, but we’ve still got some of our mojo left after our New Jersey win, and we’re heading to our favorite track on the circuit. We’ve got five races before the Countdown, and we’re going to go all-in starting at the Mopar Mile-High Nationals.”
In Top Fuel, longtime Funny Car ace Del Worsham switched categories this season and is leading the point standings behind the wheel of the Al-Anabi Racing dragster. He’s raced to five victories and seems poised to maintain his top spot for the Countdown playoffs. His teammate, defending world champ Larry Dixon, is holding firm in third place with one victory, while Spencer Massey has scored two victories in his FRAM/Prestone dragster and sits second in the standings. Although he hasn’t won a race this season, seven-time world champ Tony Schumacher is a two-time winner at Bandimere and is hungry to win some races in his U.S. Army dragster before the regular season ends.
Mike Neff has been pulling double-duty as both driver and crew chief for his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang in Funny Car and the combination has been working as he has raced to four victories in seven final rounds and holds a commanding series lead over his rivals. Neff’s top challengers this season are Jack Beckman, defending event winner Hight, Cruz Pedregon, Matt Hagan, Jeff Arend and Ron Capps. Defending world champ John Force, who has yet to win a race this season and sits eighth in points, is a five-time winner at Denver and can never be counted out.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, past world champ Eddie Krawiec holds the series lead on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson with two victories this season. Defending world champ LE Tonglet has posted two victories on his Nitro Fish Suzuki and 2008 world champ Matt Smith has emerged as a serious contender for the title this season on his Buell. Others to watch in the two-wheel category include the Lucas Oil Buell duo of Hector Arana Sr. and Hector Arana Jr., Jim Underdahl, Michael Phillips, Steve Johnson, Jerry Savoie and defending event winner Hines.
Western Swing Pivotal For Drivers Seeking Spots In Full Throttle Series Countdown To The Championship
With only five races remaining in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series regular season, it’s now crunch time for teams in each of the four categories. It’s time for many of the teams on the bubble to take a quick inventory of their status to determine the best route for gaining entry into the Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s six-race playoffs.
Teams won’t have much time to gather their bearings, because the first three of those final five regular season races will provide a mini gut-check.
With this weekend’s Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, July 22-24 at scenic Bandimere Speedway near Denver, NHRA Full Throttle Series teams will embark on a three week challenge that will test their tune-ups, the quality of their high performance machines under very different atmospheric conditions, and most importantly, their patience.
Following the race in Denver, teams will head to Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. and then forge on to Pacific Raceways near Seattle to complete the brutal three week stretch that has become known as the Western Swing.
For those drivers who are on the bubble in the point standings, a hot streak during the Western Swing may just provide the boost needed to secure a playoff spot. On the other hand, should a team get in a slump, points positions can slip away at a rapid pace.
For Top Fuel driver David Grubnic, who posted a runner-up finish at Route 66 Raceway two weeks ago, he’s eager to hold on to his 10th place position, or if possible keep the momentum going and move higher in the standings.
“Moving into the top ten in points was a huge accomplishment for us (at Chicago),” Grubnic said. “Hopefully now we can start getting more and more round wins and climb even further up in the points.”
The two Top Fuel drivers on the outside looking in are Terry McMillen, who has held the 10th spot for most of the season, and Bob Vandergriff, who is less than two rounds out of 10th after posting a runner-up finish at Topeka in his C&J Energy Services dragster.
A cluster of veteran drivers are hungry to make the top 10 in Funny Car. Two-time world champ Tony Pedregon and veteran racers Tim Wilkerson and Jim Head are sitting 11th-13th and desperately want to take the 10th spot that Service Central Dodge Charger driver Johnny Gray currently holds. Gray knows the next five races are going to provide a great challenge to make the playoffs.
“This is a very competitive, superb Funny Car group,” Gray said. “You can’t take anything for granted and the results from one race can mean jumping or falling multiple places in the standings – and now is not the time for falling.”
In Pro Stock, four drivers will jockey for the final two spots. Shane Gray and Ron Krisher are holding down the final two positions after the Chicago race, but Ronnie Humphrey and veteran driver Larry Morgan, who posted a runner-up finish in Norwalk in his Lucas Oil Ford Mustang, are gaining ground.
“For us to make the Countdown just a year and a half into this program with Ford would surprise some people, I promise you,” Morgan said. “It was the impossible dream, but we’re only a few rounds out now. We’re going to do what we can to make it happen.”
There are only four races remaining in the regular season for the Pro Stock Motorcycle teams and as many as seven riders will be competing for the final two spots in the top 10. While rookie Hector Arana Jr. seems to be making strides toward keeping one of the spots with back-to-back No. 1 qualifying efforts in the last two races, Michael Phillips’ untimely DNQ in Chicago has opened the door for Chicago runner-up Chip Ellis, who is sitting 11th, and Chicago quarterfinalist David Hope, who is 12th, to crash the party in the final hour. Veteran rider Steve Johnson, Angie Smith and Shawn Gann are also still mathematically eligible.
MOPAR MILE-HIGH NHRA NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 32nd annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, the 12th of 22 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. Drivers in four categories - Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle - earn points leading to 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series world championships. NHRA is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2011 and will pay tribute to the evolution of the hot rod and honor its legendary racers as well as the sport’s current stars.
WHERE: Bandimere Speedway, Morrison, Colo. The track is 10 miles west of Denver, just north of the historic town of Morrison. From Denver, take Interstate 70 west to C-470 and travel south to the Morrison Road exit. Take Morrison Road west to Rooney Road and go north to the track.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, July 22-24.
FRIDAY, July 22 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying at noon
FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at 4:45 p.m. and 7:15 p.m.
SATURDAY, July 23 - LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations begin at 10 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at 1:45 p.m. and 4:15 p.m.
SUNDAY, July 24 - Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Saturday, July 23, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 7 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, July 24, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage starting at 7 p.m. (ET).
2010 EVENT WINNERS: Doug Kalitta, Top Fuel; Robert Hight, Funny Car; Allen Johnson, Pro Stock; Andrew Hines, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
MOST VICTORIES: Bob Glidden, 7, PS; Joe Amato, 6, TF; John Force, 5, FC; Warren Johnson, 5, PS.
Top Fuel – 3.862 seconds by Antron Brown, July ’09; 318.39 mph by Brown, July ’09.
Funny Car – 4.121 seconds by Ron Capps, July ’09; 303.37 mph by Jack Beckman, July ’09.
Pro Stock – 6.957 seconds by Mike Edwards, July ’09; 198.64 mph by Allen Johnson, July ’10.
PS Motorcycle – 7.238 seconds by Michael Phillips, July ’10; 186.54 mph by Ryan Schnitz, July ’05.
Top Fuel - 3.770 sec. by Larry Dixon, Feb. ’11, Pomona, Calif.; 327.03 mph by Tony Schumacher, Feb. ’11, Pomona, Calif.
Funny Car - 4.011 sec. by Matt Hagan, Oct. ’10, Reading, Pa.; 316.45 mph by Robert Hight, June ’11, Bristol, Tenn.
Pro Stock - 6.495 sec. by Rodger Brogdon, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.; 213.57 mph by Erica Enders, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.
PS Motorcycle – 6.777 sec. by Hector Arana, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.; 199.26 mph by Eddie Krawiec, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.
TICKETS: Order tickets by phone at (800) 664-UWIN. Tickets also are available online at www.ticketreturn.com.
RESERVED SEATS (includes pit pass) - Friday: Adult, $40-50; Junior (12 years and under), $18-24. Saturday: Adult, $40-50; Junior (12 years and younger), $18-24. Sunday: Adult, $48-58; Junior (12 years and under), $24-28.