The plan for Allen Johnson this weekend was to come to Bandimere Speedway and dominate.
After Saturday’s marvelous performance in Pro Stock at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, Johnson is two-thirds of the way there. Even in extreme heat and less than ideal conditions, Johnson was brilliant during two qualifying sessions, capped off by an incredible 6.951 at 197.97 mph, setting the track record in the process and qualifying No. 1 at the track for the third straight year and fifth time overall.
“It just shows the strength of this Mopar Dodge Avenger team. In the heat of the day, in the worst air of the whole weekend, we came out here and made our best run, getting ready for tomorrow,” Johnson said. “Hats off to the engine guys, my dad and everyone on the car. We just have a bad hot rod right now.”
Through two days, Johnson, who picked up his seventh No. 1 qualifier of 2012, has been dynamite and several steps ahead of a talented Pro Stock contingent that haven’t solved the Bandimere altitude nearly as well as Johnson.
Only seven drivers qualified in the 6-second zone and only two others – Mike Edwards at 6.966 and V. Gaines at 6.968 – could even make it to 6.96. Johnson got to 6.95 on both of his qualifying passes on Saturday, running 6.956 at 198.17 mph to kick off his day.He stepped it up even more during the final qualifying session – even as the track temperature rose to nearly 120 degrees – and made it clear that the extensive testing he has done at the high-altitude track have been plenty beneficial.
“This is what we thought we could do coming here after testing,” Johnson said. “We’ve got a bad hombre right now and this Avenger is really hauling the mail. I really want to give that Wally to the Mopar folks on their 75th birthday.”
The bonus for two days of qualifying dominance is 12 bonus points for having the best pass in every session. For the team, the real bonus is running well – and a clear step ahead of the competition – in conditions that were less than ideal and conditions that will likely be replicated during Sunday’s eliminations.
“Conditions will be just about the same as they were (during the final qualifying session), so more of the same would be what we want for tomorrow,” Johnson said. “But even that run right there wasn’t perfect, so we might be able to put another .01 in there.”
In the first round of Sunday’s eliminations, Johnson will face Paul Pittman, who has yet to make a full pass and qualified No. 16 with a whopping 13.844.
Johnson laughed off the notion of a possible red light and a massive upset – “an .020 light is about the best I can get,” Johnson said with a chuckle – and focused instead on what will be a grinding day.Should he get past Pittman, Johnson would face the winner of points leader Greg Anderson and Jeg Coughlin in the quarterfinals, which would be no easy task.
“We’ll just go out there and try to make another qualifying run and try to get set up for the second round, which will probably be a little tougher,” Johnson said.
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