BRISTOL — Allen Johnson stayed at the head of the Pro Stock pack on Saturday at Bristol Dragway.
Leading three of the four Pro Stock qualifying sessions, the Greeneville driver captured his third straight No. 1 qualifier award at the NHRA Ford Thunder Valley Nationals.
“The Mopar Dodge Avenger was so solid, four great runs,” Johnson said. “We were low every round except this morning. Hats off to my crew and my dad (engine builder Roy Johnson) and everybody in the Mopar organization.”
In the Nitro classes, Antron Brown’s elapsed time of 3.814 seconds (323.12) held up in Top Fuel and Bob Tasca III at 4.063 (310.48) kept the top spot in Funny Car.
Johnson, whose track record time of 6.623 seconds from Friday night held up, posted the fastest speed at 207.75 mph. It was his fourth pole of the season and the 22nd of his career.
While he’s looking to get past the semifinal round at Bristol for the first time in his career, Johnson was optimistic about his chances in today’s eliminations.
“It’s like we’ve already won the battle, now we’ve got to win the war,” Johnson said. “We’ve got a very consistent race car with good people making good decisions. We’ll just go out today and if the driver does his job, we’ve got this thing whipped.”
Mike Edwards, the three-time defending race champion, was second quickest at 6.641 (207.27) in a Pontiac, followed by Vincent Nobile at 6.659 (207.43) in a Dodge.
Johnson believed track conditions for today will resemble those during Saturday’s final round of qualifying. The one difference, however, is the Pro Stock cars race after the Top Fuel and Funny Car machines instead of the other way around.
“We run behind the fuel cars on Sunday and that throws a little bit of a wrinkle in there,” he said. “But, we’ve been running behind them a long time and I think we’ll be OK.”
Heading the Top Fuel ladder, Brown captured his second pole of the season and the 31st of his career, which includes 11 in the Pro Stock Motorcycle ranks.
His teammate Tony Schumacher was faster in three of the four sessions, but Brown’s run on Friday night proved impossible to top.
“You’ve got to be aggressive, but you can’t be overly aggressive,” Brown said. “You’ve got to hit it in the right spot to make these cars perform on this race track. You still have to make the power to make the car get through the clutch and have all the variables it takes to get down the race track.”
Schumacher, a four-time race champion, stayed second at 3.822 (320.66), followed by Terry McMillen and three-time Thunder Valley winner Doug Kalitta.
Tasca held off fellow Ford driver Mike Neff to win his first Funny Car pole of the season and the third of his career. He said that Bristol’s bumpy track surface provides more of a challenge than most drag strips.
“There’s no question this is more of a driver’s track,” Tasca said. “When it hits the bumps out there, the front wheels come off the ground. At 300, 400, 500 feet with the wheels off the ground, you better be paying attention when they come back on the ground. Drivers with more experience definitely have an advantage at this track.”
Gates open at 9:30 a.m. today with pre-race ceremonies scheduled for 11 a.m. Final eliminations are set to begin at noon.