Tommy Johnson Jr. shot a round of golf on Wednesday, and even though his score wouldn’t have qualified on the PGA tour, the opportunity to get away from drag racing provided him time to think about his next big opportunity.
The past NHRA national event champion’s big opportunity will be part of a double duty weekend at the NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.
Johnson will drive a second Santo Rapisarda Top Fuel dragster in addition to his duties as a track specialist with Don Schumacher Racing.
“It kind of caught me off guard,” admitted Johnson in an interview Wednesday evening. “Rapisarda Racing buys a lot of parts through DSR and I became acquainted with them through this.”
Johnson said the team mentioned they were possibly going to add a second car for Indy and asked if he was interested. Johnson let them know he was certainly interested but final approval would come from team owner Don Schumacher.
“The first question Don asked is if I could handle my track duties for DSR and drive,” Johnson explained. “He agreed and it really didn’t surprise him that I wanted to drive; he’s always known I wanted to anyway. I’ll just have to work harder but I am willing to do what it takes.”
Johnson believes his task of double duty in Indianapolis will provide him an opportunity to be better at both assignments.
“It won’t be a hindrance, for sure,” Johnson said. “Being able to read the track and feel it as a driver will certainly bring a value adder to the deal. To relay better information will help.”
Johnson has displayed the willingness to do whatever it takes since losing his full-time ride at the end of 2008. Then, he was the driver of the Monster Energy-sponsored Funny car of Kenny Bernstein. He’s also driven Top Fuel dragsters for the DSR-managed Yas Marina operation.
Johnson even traveled to Europe to compete in their major series and was one round away from locking up the series championship, when he was disqualified for consumption of a doctor-prescribed medication.
“The reward is well worth the effort,” added Johnson, further discussing his double duties. “It’s tough out there right now if you’re a driver. When you have an opportunity like this presented to you like this, it’s second nature to work hard. I’m use to giving every job my all anyway. You just have to dig deep and show how much driving means to you.”
And, driving means a lot to Johnson.
“It’s all I’ve ever done all of my life,” said Johnson. “Driving race cars has been what I’ve done and to have it taken away has been both disheartening and frustrating. I’ve never lost sight of what I wanted to do. There’s never been a question of whether I’ve been willing to do what it takes.
“I cannot thank Mr. Rapisarda [enough] for the opportunity to get back in a car again. It’s definitely given me a kick in my step this past week.”
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