Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals
Career-best effort not good enough to keep Johnson in the Countdown
Reading, Monday: Despite recording his career-best elapsed time and speed in his first-round race against Antron Brown, Steve Johnson and his Snap-on Tools Suzuki lost a heartbreaking race, and his opportunity to qualify for this year’s Countdown to the Championship under NHRA’s new points procedure.
“I promised to make the Countdown,” said a very dejected Johnson back in the pits, “and I hate breaking my word.
“My team, led by crew chief Mark Peiser, gave me a great motorcycle for that first round race, and I have no excuse for letting Antron beat me off the starting line by 0.021 seconds. We out-ET’d him by 0.006 seconds and were about four miles an hour faster, but he got to the finish line first, and that’s all that matters. I think the overall margin between the two motorcycles was something like 0.015 seconds, but it might as well have been an hour, because he won, and that knocked us out of the Countdown to the Championship.
“I knew the instant I let the clutch out that we were on a very good run, but I honestly didn’t expect to see numbers like 6.982/193.43 on the time slip when I turned off the track.
“I can’t even begin to express my disappointment, not just for our team, but for all of our fans and sponsors. We’ve had great support from Snap-on Tools,
“Believe me when I say that we are not giving up. We’ve qualified for the Ringers Gloves Pro Bike Battle at Indy, and we’re going to start climbing back to the top right there. The second step is going to be the U.S. Nationals itself, and we know how tough it is to win the biggest race of them all. Our team knows what it means to win that race because we won it two years ago. We want that feeling again.”
When the season began Johnson’s career-best elapsed time was a 7.001 recorded at this race a year ago. He lowered that mark to a 6.987 with a first round victory over Chip Ellis at this year’s Gatornationals in March, but didn’t come close to his previous best speed of 192.91 MPH, recorded during his winning run at the U.S. Nationals in 2005, until today.
“Personal records are nice,” Johnson admitted, “but I wouldn’t have cared if we’d’ve run in the eights all day as long as we won. It didn’t work out that way, so now we’ve got to move forward.
“I’m pretty sure some of the motorcycle racers who also missed the Countdown will be in testing mode for the remaining five races we have this season, but we won’t be in that group. It’s our intention to attack each and every race just as aggressively as we tried to attack this one. That’s how you win, and that’s what we’re determined to do. If we just happen to ruin someone else’s championship run along the way, so much the better, because no matter what, winning is what this is all about.”
With that in mind Johnson’s team will immediately be heading to O’Reilly Raceway Park at
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