BRISTOL — Allen Johnson understands the question. He is just tired of answering it.
The Greeneville driver has won a NHRA Pro Stock world championship and national events at such places as Gainesville and Pomona. Still, there is no trophy from the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, the home race at Bristol Dragway which the 54-year-old driver desperately wants to win.
“We’re going to work as hard as we can,” Johnson said about trying to win the elusive prize. “It’s really important for your hometown people, for all your friends, your employees and family who support you all year and allow you to do what you do. We want to show off for them at home. We want to win real bad for them, and it’s Father’s Day so I want to do it for my dad.”
Johnson has won a class-best three times this season in the Dodge Dart for which his father, Roy, serves as the chief engine builder. Still, he is the first to admit of putting more pressure on himself at Bristol than he does anywhere else. It’s especially true after two years ago.
That’s when he qualified No. 1 for the race and then lost in the final round to Mike Edwards in the closest finish in NHRA history.
When it comes to Bristol, Johnson added it’s not smooth sailing, but who can overcome the challenges on the dragstrip cut between two mountains.
“This track has a little character to it,” Johnson said. “I’m going to try to ride the bumps better this year.”
It’s been a season of change for Johnson, a 23-time national event winner. The team was downsized from three teams to two, meaning the tough economic decision of letting four-time Pro Stock champion Jim Yates go as a crew chief.
There has also been the change from the Dodge Avenger to the new Dodge Dart, although Johnson won in the car’s debut at Gainesville. He won again recently at Topeka as he and teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. have combined to win the last three Pro Stock races.
“The whole combination when you get it all together, the car is just happy,” Johnson said. “The Dart is quite a bit different than the Avenger. The center of gravity is different and the downforce in the rear is different. But, the Mopar engineers have done a really good job on it and it’s a really, really good race car.”
He went on to explain there have been six races on the Dart now and the team has faced both good and bad conditions.
After testing last week, Johnson is confident they have a good set-up for whatever the weather is. He still prefers the hot and muggy conditions like the team faced at his last victory at the Kansas Nationals.
Overall, he believes the team has hit on a combination and things could only get better. In fact, this season has felt similar to 2012, the year he won seven races and captured the Pro Stock championship.
“We’ve won five out of the first nine races as a team,” he said. “I’m leading the class with three. Right now, we’re starting to jell and I feel like the Mopar team, both Jeg and me, we’re about to peak.”comments powered by Disqus