Tommy Johnson Jr. Driver Of Don "The Snake" Prudhomme'S Skoal Racing Blue Camaro Funny Car THE RACE: 13th annual Advance Auto Parts Nationals, May 25-27, at Heartland Park Topeka, Topeka, Kan. HEARTLAND PARK HISTORY: This has been...
Tommy Johnson Jr.
Driver Of Don "The Snake" Prudhomme'S Skoal Racing Blue Camaro Funny Car
13th annual Advance Auto Parts Nationals, May 25-27, at Heartland Park Topeka, Topeka, Kan.
HEARTLAND PARK HISTORY:
This has been Johnson's "home track" for virtually all his career. Although he hasn't won there, he was runner-up in Funny Car two years ago.
Seventh place, 408 points, after eight of 24 NHRA Winston Series events.
LOOKING AHEADA TO ADVANCE AUTO NATIONALS:
"I've had pretty good success at Heartland Park," Johnson said. "I set the national speed record (306.64 mph, 1994) there when I was driving my Top Fuel dragster and I got in the Top Fuel 4-second Club there.
"I've already run a Funny Car there so I know I like the place. And, after our runs at Englishtown (N.J.) last weekend, I know I'll have a competitive racecar.
"We should be able to qualify in the top five. I like being able to go to= Topeka with our car running well."
Johnson's Skoal Racing Blue Camaro - a solid performer through the first five races, including a win at Las Vegas - developed mechanical problems crew chief Ed "The Ace' McCulloch had trouble locating. The car didn't post a competitive time in 10 runs, including the first two qualifying passes last weekend at Englishtown, N.J.
"We had a problem we worked hard to find," Johnson commented. "The two-car team paid off in that situation. The crew took everything off Ron's (teammate Ron Capps) Green Camaro - injector, blower manifold, magnetos - and put them on my car and finally got it in the show.
"We eliminated the problem area. That's the advantage of having a teammate. We took all the good parts off his car, that is running really, really well, and qualified my car . That's teamwork at its best.
"At least we are back on track and are competitive, thanks to Ron and his crew."
Johnson's Blue Camaro posted a 4.951-second time on its first run with the Green Camaro's parts and came back with a 4.858 on its last qualifying run to wind up fifth in the 16-car line-up. He was, ironically, one position in front of Capps' 4.863.
A LOOK BACK AT THE SUPERNATIONALS:
Johnson was on the outside looking in after his first two qualifying runs, having a best of 9.943 seconds.
That's when McCulloch and assistant crew chiefs Todd Okuhara (Green Camaro) and Tommy Delago (Blue Camaro) decided to switch key parts from Capps' car to Johnson's.
On race day, the engine in Johnson's car dropped a cylinder and he slowed to a 5.076 at 287.41 mph, but it was enough to beat Johnny Gray. In the next round against Gary Densham, Johnson said the car started like it was going to run well, only to shake the tires and go into tire smoke.
"It was on the verge of running well when it shook," Johnson recalled. "I pedaled it, but when the tires caught, they smoked.
"Considering how we've run in the last few races, this was a positive weekend," he added. "You hate to lose in the second round, but at least we're back on track."