Johnson family savors long-awaited NHRA championship
Nov 15, 2012 at 11:16 AM
Allen Johnson and family had plenty to celebrate on Wednesday.
Days after clinching the 2012 NHRA Pro Stock championship, Bristol Dragway hosted a luncheon at Logan’s Roadhouse in honor of the Greeneville driver and his immediate family. It was a fitting tribute as Allen’s father, Roy, serves as engine builder on the championship team as well as the inspiration for the fast-driving son.
“It’s a success for our family,” Allen Johnson said. “It’s what we’ve dreamed of, and this is for our entire family and crew. It’s been an evolution. I raced with my dad a couple of years and then we had to basically shut the team down. We started back racing in 1995, and those first few years were tough. We might qualify for four or five races.
“It has taken 17 years, but all the hard work and determination has paid off.”
The championship came in Johnson’s 17th season on the NHRA circuit, and after decades of racing for the 71-year-old Roy Johnson.
“It’s my dream come true 40 years later,” Roy Johnson said. “When I was a kid, I wanted to run Pro Stock and I didn’t have the money. I had to run Super Stock.
“It’s phenomenal that he came up with the money and we were all smart enough to put it together and make it happen.”
Allen Johnson put together the greatest season of his career, nearly doubling his career win total with seven victories. Now the owner of 16 national-event wins, he made 11 final-round appearances and was the No. 1 qualifier for 10 races this season.
It is a long way removed from his early racing days, when Roy drove his Street Stock car at English Mountain Dragway in Newport and Allen’s mother would drive the truck hauling all the tools and other equipment.
Truly a family effort these days, Allen’s wife Pam is also an integral part of the team, providing support when needed.
Still, there was a time when Roy Johnson actually discouraged Allen from racing.
“He had two kids and was going to college trying to get his education,” Roy Johnson said. “Yet he would come in and keep working on that race car. He was going racing when he should have been going to school. I thought, ‘This isn’t going to work.’ I had a chance to sell the car and got rid of it. He got mad at me, but I told him if he ever got the money on his own, I would help him.
“I was thinking he would never come back. I told him to get his degree and his own money and we could race. So, here we are.”
While Johnson & Johnson Racing had been successful as a family-run team, there still was a missing link, according to Allen. That changed at the end of 2010 when two-time Pro Stock champion Jim Yates joined the organization.
“He gave us what we lacked,” Johnson said. “There was a hole there. I’ll call it a scientific hole where we based all of our decision making on data and results. Jim is an engineer and he is very good at organization, planning and data manipulation. He was able to look at things more from an engineering perspective.”
Loyal to the Mopar brand from the beginning, Johnson gave Dodge its first NHRA Pro Stock championship since Darrell Alderman’s title in 1994 and its fifth title overall.
“It’s Mopar’s 75th anniversary and we were able to win their title race (in Denver) and the championship for them.,” Johnson said. “ It’s huge for all of them, but all the Mopar fans, they are some of the craziest, most loyal fans in the country. They’re so thrilled and happy. You wouldn’t believe all the e-mails and congratulations I’ve received.”
Johnson capped off the season in style, driving his Dodge Avenger to victory at Pomona Raceway, after needing only to qualify to wrap up the title. His final margin of victory was a whopping 185 points over runner-up Jason Line.
“The second half of the year actually got easier,” Johnson said. “We were doing a better job and knew what it took. We had the fast car, the consistent car and the great power from dad. It actually got where we expected to be the No. 1 car every time down the track.
“All the hard work and testing the first part of the year, as well as the willingness of the team to figure out the problems, the second half of the year we didn’t have them.”