Tommy Johnson testing brings good results

Hard Work, Testing Bring Positive Results To Tommy Johnson Jr.'S Blue Skoal Racing Crew GAINESVILLE, Fla., March 8, 2002 - As a veteran in the vagaries of drag racing, Tommy Johnson Jr. knows it has more ups and downs than the Empire State ...

Hard Work, Testing Bring Positive Results To Tommy Johnson Jr.'S Blue Skoal Racing Crew

GAINESVILLE, Fla., March 8, 2002 - As a veteran in the vagaries of drag racing, Tommy Johnson Jr. knows it has more ups and downs than the Empire State Building's elevators on a busy Saturday. One must savor the good times and forget about the bad ones.

Those worth remembering, it seems, always revolve around the same theme - good elapsed times and round wins.

There was a time just a few weeks ago when Johnson thought he'd pushed the wrong button because instead of going up in the standings, he was in the basement. He was surprised when his Blue Skoal Racing Funny Car qualified 16th at the 2002 season-opening Winternationals at Pomona, Calif., and disappointed with a first-round loss that left him tied for last in points, too.

"I was being as patient as I could be," Johnson recalled, "and the thing is that I really don't have any patience. I'm not sure where I got it. But I've never given up or quit. I don't care what happens, you never quit."

He didn't and neither did team owner Don "The Snake" Prudhomme, who made a crew chief change, calling on veteran Larry Meyer to replace Mike Green, and sent both his Funny Cars - Ron Capps drives the Green Skoal Racing Camaro - to test before the second NHRA Powerade Series race at Phoenix.

The results were uplifting.

"I went from a miserable way of starting the season to qualifying well, making it to the semifinals and I could've easily won the race," Johnson said. "Now I'm sixth in points and just a little over a round out of third place. That's a nice recovery."

And a positive story about never giving up.

"The change didn't come overnight," Johnson added. "We made it happen during testing, both before the Phoenix race and then the day after the race. That's the nice thing about the way Prudhomme approaches racing. He gives you all the resources you need to make it work. We spent several days and made many runs while the Blue crew put in a lot of hard work getting the car to where it is right now."

Where it is is smack in the middle of what promises to be an interesting, congested battle for Funny Car supremacy going into just the third of 23 series events, the Mac Tools Gatornationals, March 15-17, at Gainesville Raceway.

Reigning 11-time champion John Force is the leader with 216 points, and he's followed closely by Del Worsham at 206. Scotty Cannon has 128, Capps 126, Gary Densham 113 and Johnson 106.

"Gainesville has always been my favorite race," said Johnson, despite the fact he's never won there and his best showing has been a semifinal finish. "I like the way the city and county support the race and the racers. The track always yields good performances and I think our combination is showing a lot of potential. Performance-wise, we're equal with most of the guys and we're still fine-tuning it."

Johnson qualified fourth at Phoenix with a 4.867-second run while his best at Pomona had been a 5.042. He defeated Al Hofmann and Cruz Pedregon before squaring off against Force in the semis. Just as Johnson's Blue Skoal Racing machine began pulling away from Force's tire-spinning car, a blower explosion silenced Johnson's engine and enabled Force to regroup and reach the finish line first.

"It was dead quiet for a second," Johnson said while recalling the race. "Then I could hear him coming. I was leaning forward in the seat, trying to do everything I could to get to the finish line before he did."

That semifinal appearance was only the third for Johnson in 26 races with Prudhomme's team. He went to the finals in his first two times, winning at Las Vegas and placing second at St. Louis in 2001. With his performance level on the upswing, Johnson sees more semifinal and final-round visits ahead.

-sr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Al Hofmann , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , John Force , Tommy Johnson , Gary Densham , Scotty Cannon , Cruz Pedregon , Tommy Johnson Jr.