Allen Johnson can wrap up his first career NHRA Pro Stock title by simply qualifying for this weekend’s NHRA Finals.
The Greeneville driver captured a series-leading sixth win of the season at the most recent NHRA event at Las Vegas. He wants to go to Pomona, Calif., this weekend and finish off the season in style.
“A little bit of the pressure is off, but we want to go to Pomona and make a statement that we’re the best team this year,” Johnson said. “We want to go there and seal the deal, push just as hard as we have all year and win the race. We are approaching it the same way as we would if we only had a 26-point lead.”
It has been a career year for the 17-year Pro Stock veteran, who at age 52 has been at the top of his game. He has driven his Dodge Avenger to a career-high 51 round wins and has been the No. 1 qualifier on 10 occasions.
Heading into the final race of the year, he holds a 126-point lead over two-time Pro Stock champion Jason Line, with all other drivers mathematically eliminated from contention.
An accomplishment still missing from Johnson’s dream season is a win at Pomona. He has reached the semifinals on six occasions and the final round once at the Los Angeles-area track.
“I’ve been to the final round at Pomona, but I’ve never been able to get the win,” he said. “Winning there is like a win at Indy or Gainesville — it’s a must-do. It’s still on my ‘bucket list’ to do, and there’s no better time to do it now and put an exclamation point on our season.”
Qualifying is the first order of business. That bodes well for Johnson, who had one stretch earlier this season of qualifying No. 1 for six straight weeks.
“We’ll go at qualifying just like we have all year, trying to be No. 1 each round and get all the little qualifying points we can,” Johnson said. “We’re going to proceed like we’ve got a big hammer in our hands. We learned a few things at Pomona earlier in the year that should help us this week.”
In the other NHRA national classes, Antron Brown leads Tony Schumacher by 65 points in the Top Fuel and Jack Beckman holds a four-point lead over Ron Capps in Funny Car.
Jimmie Johnson, no relation to the Greeneville driver, added to his NASCAR Sprint Cup points lead this past weekend with his win at Texas.
The five-time champion now holds a seven-point advantage over second-place Brad Keselowski with two races to go. Clint Bowyer is clinging to an outside shot at the championship, 36 points out of the lead.
Phoenix is next on the schedule and that’s more good news for Johnson. He has four wins at the 1.017-mile uniquely-shaped track. Overall, Johnson has 15 top-10 finishes in 18 Phoenix races with a fifth-place average finish.
Keselowski has just one top-10 finish in six previous Phoenix starts with an average finish of 22nd. Bowyer’s average finish is 17th, meaning if history is any indicator, then Johnson should be well on his way to a sixth championship when the series leaves the Arizona desert.
The 37-year-old Johnson added more milestones with his win at Texas. He became just the eighth Sprint Cup driver to reach 60 career wins and he drove the No. 48 to Chevrolet’s 700th Cup Series win.
It was the 151st win for the Impala nameplate, second to the 396 wins for Monte Carlo.
Fonty Flock recorded Chevy’s first win at Columbia, S.C. in 1955. Columbia was also the site of the manufacturer’s 100th win in 1962 with Rex White. Benny Parsons won race No. 200 for Chevy at Riverside in 1978.
Other milestone wins included Dale Earnhardt picking up No. 300 at North Wilkesboro in 1986, Terry Labonte with No. 400 at Richmond in 1994, Jeff Gordon with No. 500 at Watkins Glen in 2001 and Kyle Busch with No. 600 at Bristol, the first race for NASCAR’s “Car of Tomorrow” in 2007.
Ford ranks second on NASCAR’s all-time NASCAR list with 612 wins, followed by Dodge (217), Plymouth (190) and Pontiac (155).