Mac Tools U.S. Nationals
Tough weekend for defending champ
Indianapolis, Monday: After last year’s NHRA U.S. Nationals, when Steve Johnson rode his Snap-on Tools Suzuki to a belated victory (he wasn’t declared the winner until 24 hours later after a video tape replay showed his motorcycle ahead at the finish line), he promised himself that he’d return this year and win the race outright.
Dreams are one thing, reality another. After a promising qualifying effort that included a best of 7.092 seconds, Johnson’s hopes were dashed by Paul Gast in the first round when his colorful red and black Snap-on Tools Suzuki dropped off the pace with a 7.152 second elapsed time.
“I don’t know where that came from,” a very disappointed Johnson said at the finish line. “(Crew chief) Mark Peiser and the guys did an excellent job prepping the bike and we all thought we had the right combination for race day, so the only thing I can say is that I guess we were wrong.
“I can’t even begin to tell you how disappointed I am. There were a lot of very strong motorcycles out here, and I’d be less than honest if I said I thought we’d have an easy time of it in winning the race. But, I did think we could give everyone a real run for the money, and to come up short in the first round is kind of a major blow to our collective egos.
“It also proves that we still have a long way to go. We’re competitive, yes, but we aren’t yet where we need to be, which is at the top of the qualifier’s list, and we’re still hanging right around the middle of the pack.
“I have the utmost confidence in Mark’s ability to get us the rest of the way there, and I do feel that we’re improving with each passing race. Now we’ll have to dig a little deeper so that in our next outing at Maple Grove Raceway we come up with more positive results.”
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