Richmond: Team Mopar preview

Center Line, Mich. -- Team Mopar® NHRA Pro Stock teammates Allen Johnson and Richie Stevens Jr. went head-to-head in a final round battle at the 1999 Richmond event at Virginia Motorsports Park. The duo would be overjoyed to repeat that final...

Center Line, Mich. -- Team Mopar® NHRA Pro Stock teammates Allen Johnson and Richie Stevens Jr. went head-to-head in a final round battle at the 1999 Richmond event at Virginia Motorsports Park. The duo would be overjoyed to repeat that final round fight this weekend at the Torco Racing Fuels NHRA Nationals, the last event before the Countdown to 1 trims the field of drivers from eight to four in the chase for the 2007 NHRA Pro Stock title.

Johnson, driver of the HEMI®-powered Mopar/J&J Racing Dodge Stratus R/T, scored his first career win in that final round match up against Stevens eight years ago. Johnson holds a slim lead over the fourth-place Jeg Coughlin and fifth-place Jason Line in the NHRA Countdown to 4. With every round weighted with drama, Johnson would like nothing better than to ring up his second Richmond victory and sixth career win this weekend.

Stevens will pilot his Team Mopar/Valspar Dodge Stratus R/T, owned by Don Schumacher Racing and tuned by J&J Racing, with an eye toward maintaining his ninth position in the Pro Stock standings and also helping his teammate Johnson in his quest for his first NHRA Pro Stock championship. A repeat of the 1999 final between the Louisiana native and Johnson would go a long way to helping Stevens realize both goals, with one tweak--Stevens would like to be the one in the winner's circle.

Allen Johnson on Torco Racing Fuels NHRA Nationals: "Pretty confident, but critical" Johnson has little margin for error as he focuses on finishing in the top four and qualifying for the Countdown to 1, a two-race shootout for the 2007 NHRA Pro Stock championship set to commence following the Torco Racing Fuels NHRA Nationals. The Greeneville, Tenn., native enters the event this weekend confident but cautious.

"I think we did just what we needed to at Dallas [the previous event, where Johnson advanced to the semis]. We didn't gain much ground, but we gained a little," Johnson observed. "I guess if I were to write a headline for Richmond, it would be 'Pretty confident but critical.' We have to go rounds, and we have to go at least one round further than Jeggy [Coughlin]. And we have to stay put and have a little bit of luck.

"I feel real confident in the motor program. Dad [Roy Johnson, co-owner and engine builder for J&J Racing] found a little power this week. But I'm sure Jeggy and Jason [Line] will have in the best of the best."

Johnson's past success at the track aside, the Team Mopar veteran knows he must bring his "A" game if he is to advance to the Countdown to 1 two-race title battle. He can't afford any slipups.

"I have guarded optimism. I do feel confident there," Johnson remarked. "The air is good, and we usually run pretty well. But it's also guarded optimism. We have to make all the right decisions and I need to drive well. Everything needs to come together this weekend."

Richie Stevens Jr. concentrates on holding ninth spot in standings, helping teammate Johnson advance to next step in Countdown Stevens doesn't have to look far for a reminder of his final round defeat by Johnson in 1999 at Richmond. Johnson plastered a photo of the last round pass on the J&J Racing trailer.

"Back in 1999 I went to three straight finals, and Richmond was the second of the three. I came up a little short to AJ," said Stevens. "He kind of messes with me a little bit about it. As a matter of fact, we have a picture of that race up in the trailer. He kind of gives me a hard time about it."

The razzing is good natured. Stevens and Johnson tested together earlier this week in Maryland, and Stevens would like nothing better than to score a round win this weekend against Jeg Coughlin or Jason Line, Johnson's main Countdown competition.

"Hopefully, this testing will pay off good for us," said Stevens. "It would be nice if we could get out there and be matched up with either Jeggy or Jason and knock them out for Allen. That's our goal as of now. Try to go out there and take out one of those two and get Allen on the road to the championship."

Stevens is also waging his own points battle, as he looks to score his sixth career top 10 Pro Stock points finish.

"Luckily, we had V. Gaines and Jim Yates go out in the first round [at the previous event], so that kind of helped us in the points," said Stevens. "Every event we try to win the race, but we just have to keep pace with Gaines and Yates. If I can just out-qualify them and go a few more rounds each Sunday we should be alright. We should be able to hold the spot down pretty good.

"It would be nice to make it to the finals. I just want to help [Johnson] as much as I can to get the championship and win it for Mopar. It'd be nice to swap and have me in the winner's circle, but if both of us get to the finals we'll both be good in the points, and that's all that matters."

-credit: dsr/mopar

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Richie Stevens Jr. , Allen Johnson , Jason Line , Roy Johnson