Allen Johnson and his team, friends and family celebrate his latest win.
Allen Johnson put the disappointment of Thunder Valley behind him by becoming the first Pro Stock driver to win the NHRA New England Nationals at Epping, N.H. on Sunday.
The Greeneville driver was sick to his stomach after losing in the quarterfinal round a week ago at his home track of Bristol Dragway.
However, the defending Pro Stock world champion bounced back in the NHRA’s first visit to the New Hampshire countryside. He was the event’s No. 2 qualifier behind teammate Jeg Coughlin and then raced his way through eliminations for his third win of the season and the 19th of his career.
“We had a great day, and we just kept adapting to the track,” Johnson said. “Our team really worked hard, and that was a fantastic run we put together in the finals. We made a radical change after the semifinals to get ready for the finals, and it really worked. We found something that will help the rest of the season.”
Also victorious was Funny Car driver Courtney Force, who beat her father John Force in their first finals head-to-head matchup, and Spencer Massey, who bested points leader Shawn Langdon for the Top Fuel trophy.
Johnson, the defending NHRA Pro Stock world champion beat Shane Gray in the final round on a holeshot. Johnson’s Dodge Avenger posted a 6.642 at 205.38 while Gray ran 6.633 at 210.34 in his Chevrolet Camaro. The difference came down to Johnson’s .025 reaction time on the starting line to an .058 for Gray.
Ironically, Johnson struggled on the line in both his first-round win over John Gaydosh Jr. and the quarterfinal win over Tom Martino. However, he stepped it up when it counted, posting a .027 reaction time in the semifinals to a .078 for Mike Edwards.
Johnson, who reached the final round for the 41st time in his career, credited the strong run to the testing his family-owned team has been doing recently. He hopes the win will put him in good position for a strong summer run and the NHRA’s “Countdown to the Championship” playoffs in the fall.
“We’ve been doing a lot of testing, and the testing is over,” Johnson said. “We’re in race mode from here on out. I think we showed here that we’re running well, and hopefully, we can keep that up going into the Countdown.”
Johnson took sole possession of second place in the Mello Yello points standings with the victory. He now trails Edwards by 124 points with Coughlin third in the standings.
Courtney Force exacted some revenge on her legendary father in the Funny Car final. The two met in the first round at Bristol, which John Force won on his way to a first victory of the season.
John Force was the fastest qualifier at New Hampshire, but it didn’t deter Courtney, who rose to the challenge for her second win of the season.
“I woke up and I just had a good feeling,” she said. “I was hoping that we could be the first Funny Car team to take home a win at New England Dragway. We went to the top spot in qualifying and got bumped by my dad. I thought, ‘Man, he’s moving around me in points,’ and it was just time for a little revenge.”
She celebrated her 25th birthday weekend with a run of 4.301 seconds (261.67 mph) to edge her father in a battle of Ford Mustangs.
“My team needed this win,” she said. “This team with all my guys and Ron Douglas (crew chief), they give me a great race car every weekend. I definitely think we’re making some big moves now. It’s great to take home the win from New England Dragway. No one can take that away from us.”
Massey, who reached the final round last week at Bristol, blasted down the track in 4.105 seconds (271.57) for his 15th career win. He easily defeated Langdon, who smoked his tires on the final run.