K&N Filters Winternationals
Johnson suffers first-round defeat
Pomona, Sunday: Tommy Johnson Jr. clocked his quickest and fastest pass of the early 2004 NHRA season in the opening round of eliminations at Pomona Raceway Sunday, but fell in a close battle with No. 6 qualifier Del Worsham.
Johnson, a five-time NHRA event winner, drove his Mike Green-tuned blue Skoal Racing Chevy Monte Carlo to a run of 4.878 seconds at 308.35 mph, but Worsham’s 4.816 at 318.54 edged Johnson at the finish line. Jerry Toliver defeated Gary Densham in the Funny Car final at Pomona on Sunday.
“The car ran a lot better today,” Johnson said. “We’re getting a lot closer with the tune-up on these Skoal Racing Chevys. We got a little behind during qualifying and that bit us on Sunday. You hate to lose, but there were some positives for the crew. If the car didn’t shake the tires and I didn’t have to pedal it, it would have run close to Ron’s (Capps) 4.80.
“This gives us a lot of confidence heading into Phoenix. I can’t wait to get there. I want to get going right now because I feel that we’re close. I would run tomorrow if we could. I’m glad we don’t have to wait another week. I don’t like the off weeks.”
Johnson Jr. qualifies IN No. 14 position
Pomona, Saturday: Tommy Johnson Jr. and the Don Prudhomme-owned blue Skoal Racing crew finished in the No. 11 qualifying spot Saturday after completing qualifying for the season-opening Winternationals at Pomona Raceway. Johnson's best run of the weekend came on Friday after he blasted his Chevy to a run of 4.891 seconds at 318.62 mph.
Johnson made two passes behind the wheel of his Mike Green-tuned Chevy Monte Carlo on Saturday, recording a run of 6.632 seconds at 131.64 mph on his first effort. The Iowa native then clocked a pass of 5.528 at 180.74 on his final qualifying attempt. John Force was the quickest of the 23 Funny Cars attempting to make the 16-car field after recording pass of 4.746 at 324.36 on Saturday.
"We're trying to get our feet on the ground with the setback blower," Johnson said. "The fuel curve has thrown us for a loop. We'll be all right. The more runs we make and the more tuning Mike (Green) and the guys do the better it will get.
"I've got confidence the guys will figure it out for tomorrow. They'll put their heads together and make some adjustments. I think the 4.89 at 318 we ran on Friday is just scratching the surface. There's plenty more there, we just have to fine tune it a little bit. Tomorrow is Sunday and you've got to go for it. I think the guys will get aggressive with the tune-up and the results will be there."
Johnson posts 4.89-second pass Friday
Pomona, Friday: Tommy Johnson Jr. and Don Prudhomme's blue Skoal Racing Funny Car crew improved over their first run of the 2004 season Friday after Johnson powered his Chevy Monte Carlo to a pass of 4.891 seconds at 318.62 mph at Pomona Raceway.
"That's exactly what we wanted to do," Johnson said. "We wanted to get the car down the race track and get in the show a little better. We wanted to improve and to make sure everything went right and it went perfect. We have plenty of room for improvement."
Johnson, who clocked a run of 4.930 at 295.21 last Thursday, is the eighth quickest of the 23 Funny Cars attempting to qualify for Sunday's 16-car field. Johnson earned his last No. 1 qualifying spot at the 2001 Winternationals.
"The most encouraging thing is the speed," Johnson said. "It ran 318-mph and I shut off early. Now we can get after it tomorrow. We've got our feet on the ground and we can go for it."
Johnson and the blue Skoal Racing crew will look to move up the Funny Car order when qualifying continues Saturday.
Johnson sixth on first day of racing
Pomona, Thursday: Tommy Johnson Jr. christened Chevrolet's Monte Carlo make into NHRA Funny Car competition Thursday at Pomona Raceway by clocking a run of 4.930 seconds at 295.21 mph, good enough for the No. 6 position.
Johnson, who qualified No. 1 three years ago at the season-opening event, and fellow Skoal Racing driver Ron Capps unveiled the Monte Carlo body prior to Thursday's first run.
"I can see tremendously better with the new Monte Carlo body," Johnson said. "It's unbelievable how good the vision is out of this car. I'm really looking forward to making many runs with the new body."
Johnson qualified his Mike Green-tuned flopper solidly into the Funny Car field despite suffering engine damage near the end of the run.
"I don't know what happened, but the car laid over about the 1,000-foot mark," Johnson said. "The engine through rods out and was on fire, and then Ron (Capps) came up right behind me and did the same thing.
"With the potential rain in the weather forecast, I couldn't have asked for more. Around 500 feet, that entered my mind. It was on a good run and I knew we were in the show. It might not have been a record-setting run, but we're qualified."
Newlywed Johnson ready to break winless streak
Pomona, pre-race: After the conclusion of the 2003 NHRA campaign, Tommy Johnson Jr. went into the 2003-04 off season knowing things would be frenzied. The Iowa native and driver of Skoal Racing blue Chevy Funny Car and fiancé, fellow nitro-category driver Melanie Troxel, were scheduled to be married on New Years Eve.
"There was sure a lot of stuff to do," Johnson said. "The wedding made the off season go by very quickly. With all the planning, the wedding and the honeymoon, I kept busy. Then it was time to go racing already."
Johnson, one of 13 drivers to have earned victories in both the Top Fuel and Funny Car categories, tied the knot at a small ceremony in Indianapolis on December 31. Following their honeymoon in Hawaii, Johnson headed back to the mainland with one goal in mind, another top 10 finish in his Don Prudhomme-owned flopper and a shot at his first NHRA POWERade Funny Car championship.
Johnson returns his entire blue Skoal Racing team, including crew chief Mike Green, for his fourth season under the Snake Racing umbrella. The Indianapolis resident eyes a fast start when the 2004 NHRA season kicks-off with the 44th annual K&N Filters Winternationals at historic Pomona Raceway.
"I knew the stability would be big and after testing it was apparent that it made a big difference," Johnson said. "We didn't have to learn a new crew chief and team. We're already into full race mode. We have to make sure we don't fall back into old habits that were no good. The key is to change the things that didn't work."
Johnson has raced to five career NHRA victories, including one while driving for Prudhomme at Las Vegas in 2001. Since that victory in the spring of 2001, Johnson has appeared in six final rounds without a victory. The second generation racer is eager to break the winless drought and collect "Wally" trophy No. six and help Prudhomme inch closer towards the 100-win mark.
"I would just as soon get the win at Pomona," Johnson said. "The two-year drought has been because of certain circumstances, not because we can't do it. I'm confident this team is capable of winning or they wouldn't be here. I don't see any reason we can't start off at Pomona with a win."
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