JOHNSON JR. HOPES TO KEEP MOMENTUM GOING STRONG AT PHOENIX CHANDLER, Ariz. (Feb. 21, 2005) - There were a lot of firsts for Tommy Johnson Jr. and his Skoal RacingSM team at the season-opening Winternationals two weeks ago at Pomona Raceway.
JOHNSON JR. HOPES TO KEEP MOMENTUM GOING STRONG AT PHOENIX
CHANDLER, Ariz. (Feb. 21, 2005) - There were a lot of firsts for Tommy Johnson Jr. and his Skoal RacingSM team at the season-opening Winternationals two weeks ago at Pomona Raceway. Johnson earned his first victory in nearly four years and team owner Don Prudhomme collected his first Funny Car win in almost two full seasons. On top of all that, for the first time in his veteran driver's career, the Iowa native now hears the words "current Funny Car points leader" in front of his name.
"It a nice change," Johnson said. "I like the sound of it. You can't get too crazy because it's just the first race of the year, but it sure feels nice."
Johnson and his talented crew look to keep their Skoal Racing Chevy atop the points standings when the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing series makes its annual February trip to the Valley of the Sun for the 21st annual Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals at Firebird International Raceway in Chandler, Ariz., just south of Phoenix. Johnson and company were at the Arizona track four weeks ago preparing for the 2005 season during the National Time Trails.
"Now that we got that win, we can't get too excited or complacent with just one win," Johnson said. "You've got to put it behind you and move on to the next race. Hopefully, this will give us a lot of momentum and confidence and we can keep it going all season long."
With a lifetime of drag racing experience under his belt, the second generation racer knows the Winternationals triumph can vault a team towards a strong run the entire season, but he's also aware that there have been a few obscure racers that have opened the year with a win and then faded shortly thereafter. Last year, Jerry Toliver won the season-opener and then failed to qualify at F.I.R. just a week later. Fortunately, Johnson is surrounded by a talented crew of seasoned mechanics and a brain trust of Mike Green, Todd Okuhara, Phil Shuler and Johnny West, all of whom have vast experience on the NHRA circuit.
"We knew we could do it," Johnson said. "We just had to go out and get the job done. Vince Lombardi said that winning is a habit. You've got to know how to win before you can go out and do it. I know the guys have a lot of confidence and know that we can go rounds.
"It doesn't matter if it's a one or two-car operation. We picked up where we left off at the end of the season. It's the same group of guys and I still believe it would have happened if we had two cars on our Skoal Racing team this year."
Fact is that Don Prudhomme's 2005 racing stable features just one flopper and after one race, that decision looks to be the right one.