Tommy Johnson Houston preview

Tommy Johnson Jr. Driver Of Don "The Snake" Prudhomme'S Skoal Racing Blue Camaro Funny Car The Race: 14th annual O'Reilly Nationals, Houston Raceway Park, Baytown, Texas, March 23-25 Houston Raceway Park Track History: Reached...

Tommy Johnson Jr.
Driver Of Don "The Snake" Prudhomme'S Skoal Racing Blue Camaro Funny Car The Race:
14th annual O'Reilly Nationals, Houston Raceway Park, Baytown, Texas, March 23-25

Houston Raceway Park Track History:
Reached semifinals in his first visit to the track driving Funny Car, October 1999.

His two round wins then were one more than he managed in eight visits while at the controls of a Top Fuel dragster.

Standings:
Sixth place, 110 points, after two of 24 NHRA Winston Series races. (Gatornationals was postponed until April 21 by rain Sunday at Gainesville, Fla.)

Looking ahead to the O'Reilly Nationalsg:
"Now we get to race two weeks in a row," Johnson said. "I like racing at Houston. The track is fast and usually both lanes are pretty much even.

"I'd rather race every week because you build some consistency and familiarity with the car. The more you drive, the better you get. That's why I'm ready to go to Houston."

Johnson thinks the rain in Gainesville that washed out eliminations was good for the Skoal Racing Blue Camaro crew. "We had a few problems during qualifying so it will be nice to get a few more runs (during O'Reilly Nationals qualifying) to work things out. You always think you have them worked out, but you'd like to know for sure.

"During our three weeks off (from Feb. 19 to March 15), the guys lost just a little edge on the tune-ups and you lose a little edge on how you drive. Everything is better when you race more."

This will be the third time Johnson has driven a Funny Car at Houston. His first two stops came during the discontinued fall event at Raceway Park.

"It is a good racetrack," he commented. "It is close to sea level and that helps make a lot of horsepower.

Looking Back at the Gatornationalsg:
Johnson's best run was 4.909 seconds at 309.42 mph and put him sixth overall, just below teammate Ron Capps. He got down the track on three of his four runs.

"We smoked the tires in the first qualifying session - something we hadn't done before. We came back and basically put the same tune-up in the car that Ron had in the first round.

"We were a couple hundredths slower because the supercharger wasn't what we thought it was. Other than that, it was the same as what Ron ran. As tight as the Funny Car field is now, the main thing is to get qualified because you can't win if you're not racing."

Funny Car drivers turned in the quickest 16-car starting field for the second straight race. The final qualifier's time was 4.960 seconds, down from 4.961 at Phoenix Feb. 18. And, for the first time, 18 drivers exceeded 300 mph, giving the category its first all-300 mph starting line-up.

Johnson's first-round foe is Jim Epler when the Gatornationals race is concluded next month.

<pre> Tommy Johnson Jr. Facts:

Birthdate: 4/6/68 Hometown: Ottumwa, Iowa

Career wins: 4 (two Funny Car, two Top Fuel). Final rounds: 9 (5 Top Fuel, 4 Funny Car) Last win: 10/19/99 at Memphis Last final round: 10/22/99 at Dallas Best Funny Car elapsed time: 4.838 seconds ('01 Pomona, Calif.) Best Funny Car speed: 320.05 mph ('99 Dallas)

-www.snakeracing.com

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Epler , Ron Capps , Tommy Johnson , Tommy Johnson Jr.