Allen Johnson admitted he cannot wait to see what excitement the Countdown to the Championship will generate. The Mopar-sponsored Pro Stock driver hopes his actions are an indication of what is to come in the battle for the series championship.
Johnson defeated six-time series champion Greg Anderson in the finals of the NHRA Sonoma Nationals in Sonoma, Ca, to score his fourth victory in five final rounds this season. He’s one race away from sweeping the revered NHRA Western Swing.
“Right now we have an awesome race car,” Johnson said. “We have an awesome team making decisions. It’s sweet to go up there as a driver and know you have the fastest car and it’s up to you as a driver to be consistent. That’s my job and I was able to do it today. Hopefully we can carry it into Seattle.”
Though Johnson set the pace for the class from start to finish at the last event in Denver and continued this weekend in Sonoma, he was anything but brimming with confidence.
“We were not confident because of the combination we were running was a brand new combination engine we hurt on the first run in Denver and had to ship home,” Johnson said. “That was the motor we tested in Denver and ran bad-to-the-bone. We never ran it at sea level. We sent it home, repaired it and shipped it back. We had a team meeting and voted to take the Denver winning engine out and put the repaired engine back in. We struggled a bit the first couple of runs. It wasn’t the dominant .02 or .03.”
Johnson has been a threat to win the NHRA Full Throttle Series championship for the last three seasons and for various reasons fell out of contention. This season Johnson was determined to change what had become a tradition.
“We changed chassis and added personnel,” Johnson said. “We’ve got the best crew chief in the pits in Mark Ingersoll. He was battling three crew chiefs on the Summit team and two on the Cagnazzi team. He was trying to make decisions for two teams. We just saw the need to add some expertise to him, with him and behind him. We added Jim Yates, an engineer and racer. We added him to the team to support Mark, keep the data and keep everything to help him make the decisions instead of him making those decisions from the gut, the heart. That’s paid dividends.”
Johnson admits one of the best attributes of his team presently is they have learned how to win and one round at a time.
As Johnson learned, they can change engines in 19 minutes and did so before his second round match with Jeg Coughlin.
“The first Top fuel cars were in the water when Dad said we had a dead hole,” said Johnson. We changed engines in 19 minutes and fired for the first time in the staging.”
Situations such as the one he encountered prior to the second round effectively taught Johnson a valuable lesson.
“I take it one race at a time. Second round I had Jeg Coughlin and he’s a Mopar teammate, and the best leaver in the class. I left on him. Then I had Jason and he’s the defending champion. I left on him. Then I had Greg, didn’t leave on him [.001] reaction. I was loaded. You have to learn how to win, round after round.”
Johnson isn’t just winning by just enough. He’s executing an incredible level of dominance in the Western Swing.
“I cannot imagine doing two in a row, maximum points,” admitted Johnson. “It’s mind-boggling. We are getting in championship mode and we need to get in that frame of mind. I don’t know. I’ve never thought of myself as the best out there. I need to start thinking of that to get the confidence headed into the championship stretch.”
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