Johnson back at full strength as NHRA begins

Jeff Birchfield • Feb 8, 2012 at 10:44 PM

Allen Johnson feels like a new man heading into the 2012 NHRA Full Throttle Racing Series season.

The Greeneville racer had surgery to repair his right bicep during the offseason. Now back at full strength, Johnson is confident entering this weekend’s NHRA Winternationals at Pomona, Calif.

“I’m just dying to get going,” said Johnson who finished fourth in last season’s Pro Stock standings. “It’s going to be an exciting season. We have such a strong team in place and a great car in our Dodge Avenger. I am certainly ready. We look to start the season on a very strong note at Pomona.”

There is plenty of reason for Johnson to be hopeful.

He ended 2011 on a strong note, reaching the final round in two of the season’s final three races. His team, with Richie Stevens in the driver’s seat for testing, recently recorded the fastest unofficial pass in Pro Stock history with a run of 6.466-seconds.

“We just have to continue what we were doing at the end of last year and making the right decisions and choices,” Johnson said. “We have the right personnel in place and we just have to let them do their jobs, and I have to do my job behind the wheel.”

His J&J Racing team headed up by his father, Roy, returns intact from last season. Among those leading the way are Mark Ingersoll as crew chief and Jim Yates as team engineer. Yates joined the squad late in the 2011 season, and the move instantly paid dividends. The team earned a final-round appearance at both Phoenix and Las Vegas.

Johnson has advanced to the semifinals in three of his last four starts at Pomona, although he’s still looking for a first win there. He has been among the top half of the field in nine of his last 10 appearances at the Los Angeles-area track The 2012 season marks the 17th consecutive season that Johnson has raced a Dodge in the NHRA Pro Stock ranks. He has top-10 finishes in the standings in each of the last six years, and last season’s fourth-place was a career best. He went 28-21 in round wins with the highlight an event win in the NHRA Supernationals at Englishtown, N.J. in June.

In addition, he was the No. 1 qualifier at his home race at Bristol and at Sonoma where he set a track record.

Most important was being No. 1 at his sponsor’s Mopar Mile-High Nationals at Denver, where he advanced it to the final round.

“My Dad and I have raced Mopars all our lives, and the brand has such a deep loyalty and commitment to us,” he said. “We have one goal this year and that is to win a title for everyone at Mopar. We are going to give it everything we have.”

- The 2012 NASCAR season is only nine days away with the Budweiser Shootout scheduled for Feb. 18.

The 54th annual Daytona 500 runs a week later and boasts a record purse of more than $19 million. The winner of the race will collect a minimum of nearly $1.5 million.

Prize money for second-place is over $1 million, and fifth-place is paid nearly $500,000. These numbers are before any other incentives are added.

To promote hard racing throughout the 200 laps, the mid-race leader will receive a $200,000 bonus

- Local short track racing starts less than a month away with Kingsport Speedway hosting an open practice session on March 3. The season opens the following weekend with a special Saturday afternoon show.

It will be the first of four races in March scheduled at the 3/8-mile concrete track.

Defending track champion Nate Monteith of Blountville, runner-up Lee Tissot of Asheville, N.C., and Johnson City’s Zeke Shell, who scored a first NASCAR-sanctioned win last season, will be among the favorites in this season’s featured Late Model division.

Hayden Woods, the 16-year-old who was the Legends division champions last season, will also move up to race Late Models.

Other defending champions at Kingsport are Mark McCrary of Bristol in Pure 4 and Jeff Counts of Abingdon, Va., in Street Stock.

Dirt track action gets underway March 17 with the Spring Thaw at Volunteer Speedway. It will mark the 39th year of racing at the 4/10-mile dirt track in Bulls Gap.

Dale Ball of Johnson City heads into the season as two-time defending Pro Late Model champion. Others looking to repeat are Jamie Whitt of Wise, Va., in Hobby Stock, and Jesse Wilder of Bulls Gap in the Road Warriors champion class.

- The Tennessee Indoor MX season has the Indoor Motorcross Showdown scheduled this weekend at the Smokey Mountain Expo Arena in White Pine.

It will be the finals for the Pro-Am Championship Series which features a $10,000 purse.

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