11th ANNUAL ADVANCE AUTO PARTS NATIONALS HEARTLAND PARK TOPEKA TOPEKA, KANSAS TOPEKA, Kan. (Monday, October 4, 1999) - Final eliminations for the 11th annual Advance Auto Parts Nationals were completed today after yesterday's postponement due...
11th ANNUAL ADVANCE AUTO PARTS NATIONALS HEARTLAND PARK TOPEKA TOPEKA, KANSAS
TOPEKA, Kan. (Monday, October 4, 1999) - Final eliminations for the 11th annual Advance Auto Parts Nationals were completed today after yesterday's postponement due to cold weather and rain. Tommy Johnson Jr., lost in the Funny Car final round to John Force. Johnson drove his Interstate Batteries Firebird to an elapsed time of 5.175 seconds at 239.40 mph to Force's 4.797 elapsed time at 316.97 mph.
Tommy Johnson Jr. (Interstate Batteries Pontiac Firebird) "I made a rookie error in that semi-final race. Now we need to make it pay off here in the finals. I guess this is the race (against John Force) everyone's been waiting for. At least these guys on the team have. This weekend things have gone pretty smooth and it doesn't even feel like we left Reading. We're just going out and running this Interstate Batteries Firebird down the track. That time we smoked the tires, and it was my fault because I let it get out of the groove too far. It made a hard move to the left and I didn't get on it quick enough. It got out there in the marbles and started spinning the tires. We got the round win though, but I guarantee you that it has my attention level a little higher for the finals. Maybe I needed that. The crew's going to tune her up. They definitely have a performance advantage on us right now so we'll tune it up, hope she sticks and I'll drive my heart out. I think if we run 4.86 we can beat him. If I do my job and the guys step it up then we'll be all right."
Post Race - "Of course everyone's disappointed that we got beat, but we're still pretty happy overall. You can see the momentum building pretty good for us. We missed the tune up a little bit in the final and dropped a cylinder as soon as I hit the throttle. When the car took a right-hand turn that's when I knew we were in trouble, but we needed 12 cylinders to catch his (John Force) run there. That was a pretty good pass there for him, although we knew he was going to run well. We kind of had to step it up, be close, hope he made a little mistake, and he didn't. But you can't be too disappointed with what we've done in the last few races. We've come a long way. If you throw out the second round at Indy when we got beat there, I think this Interstate Batteries Firebird is looking real good. Losing in the second round at Indy doesn't look good on paper, but it was better than it looks. At Brainerd we got to the semi final, we got the win at Reading and now we got to the finals here. Before a top-10 finish didn't look feasible, now it looks pretty close. I'm pretty happy. I think we can do this maybe once or twice or another three times before the end of the year. We want to win all we can win."
"Winning never hurts anything, from every aspect of the team. If we can keep winning then good things are going to come, and then that points us in the right direction for next year. That was the whole plan of this thing was to get me in the car early, get some experience, get everything gelling good together for next year and now you can see it coming together."
"I feel a lot better in the Funny Car now. It's far from perfect but it's comfortable enough that we're reaching the finals. Like that last run there, I probably overiried because I was trying so hard to do the right thing and I probably could have done better if I were a little more relaxed. Now we've been there - raced the final round against Force. We lost, but it's something we've done now and next time we'll be more relaxed and do a better job. The lights were right there with each other. After it took that right-hand turn I jerked it back into the groove. Everything other than that was fine. Now we get to do it again in Memphis in three or four more day and I like that."