Johnson Shoots for Second Straight Win and Stevens Strives to Solidify Countdown Standing at Schuck's Auto Supply NHRA Nationals Center Line, Mich. -- Keeping their MoparÂ® Mile-High momentum rolling, Team Mopar NHRA POWERade Pro Stockers, Allen...
Johnson Shoots for Second Straight Win and Stevens Strives to Solidify Countdown Standing at Schuck's Auto Supply NHRA Nationals
Center Line, Mich. -- Keeping their Mopar® Mile-High momentum rolling, Team Mopar NHRA POWERade Pro Stockers, Allen Johnson and Richie Stevens Jr. head to the Schuck's Auto Supply NHRA Nationals at Pacific Raceways near Seattle this weekend. The pair dominated last weekend's 28th Annual Mopar Mile-High Nationals, qualifying 1-2 respectively. Johnson won the event, his first win of the year, and gave Mopar its first Pro Stock victory at the Mopar Mile-Highs since 1994, when Darrell Alderman took top honors for the brand.
Johnson, driver of the Mopar\J&J Racing Dodge Stratus R/T, will not only be seeking his second win of the year, he will also be defending his 2006 Seattle win. Stevens Jr., the Don Schumacher Racing driver who advanced to the quarterfinals at the Mopar Mile-High event, moved into the eighth and final spot in the NHRA's new Countdown to the Championship playoff system. A strong showing at Seattle will help to cement the driver of the Team Mopar/Valspar Dodge Stratus R/T in the Countdown Top Eight with only three events remaining following this weekend before the Countdown cutoff.
Johnson rises to the challenge as six-race stretch nears conclusion Team Mopar's Johnson turned it up a notch just as the NHRA POWERade Pro Stock Series began an unprecedented and crucial stretch of six straight races.
In the first four of the back-to-back events, Johnson has captured a No. 1 qualifier spot, a victory and a semifinals finish, has posted an 8-3 round record and has qualified in the top-half at each event. Heading to Seattle, Johnson is focused on defending his 2006 event title and finishing the six-race stretch and the Western swing (last weekend at Denver, Seattle this weekend and Sonoma the following weekend) on a strong a note.
"I think our endless hours on the dyno with dad [Roy Johnson, J&J Racing's engine builder] and the guys at the shop, the endless hours at the track for Richie, me and the crew, are just starting to payoff," Johnson said.
Although confident due to his recent success, Johnson remains cautious in his approach to this weekend.
"We've got to keep it going. We can't lose our focus. Things are coming into my mind like sweeping the Western swing. But we've got to qualify in the top half and we've got to win first round. That's the first objective, and I think from there we can go a little further."
After his first win of the year last weekend at Mile-High, Johnson was overjoyed, but quickly put the "W" in his rear-view mirror to focus on the task ahead at Seattle.
"I don't think you can put it into words, how big it was. It was monumental," said Johnson. "We'll take it, and then build on it for this week."
Crunch time for Stevens Jr. commences this weekend The next four races, starting with the Schuck's Auto Supply NHRA Nationals this weekend, are undoubtly the most important of the season for Stevens Jr.
Stevens has the final spot in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoff system, with a mere two point cushion on the ninth-place Warren Johnson, a six-time Pro Stock champ. Only 15 points separate Stevens from the seventh-place Larry Morgan, making every round of racing pressure-packed.
"We've got that spot, but we are barely holding on to it. It's not a guarantee yet," said Stevens of his current position. "If I could have gone some more rounds on Sunday in Denver it would have helped to solidify the spot. We still have four races left."
Stevens can take heart in his team's recent success in qualifying and his round win over Erica Enders at Denver, as well as his successful track record at the next two venues.
"We've got a great handle on the car, as far as making horsepower and Mark [Ingersoll, crew chief for Stevens and teammate Johnson] setting the car up good. We're making good runs in qualifying," observed Stevens. "To go out there first round and get that .006 light against Erica felt really good. I'm just going to go out there and have fun and drive the car, and that's usually when you do your best.
"I've done good at Seattle; I actually won the race in 2000. At Sonoma, I've had a pretty good record there as well. So I've got two races coming up that I've done well at in the past. It would be nice to go some rounds at Seattle. I just want to get my points up. I would like to be in that fourth or fifth spot, and on more solid ground entering the Indy race."