VETERAN PSM RIDER STEVE JOHNSON TALKS HIS RESURGENCE IN 2021
Steve Johnson is a true veteran of NHRA’s Pro Stock Motorcycle ranks, competing in 456 races in the class with seven national event wins.
However, there was a time not long ago when Johnson was searching for answers to go quicker, and it seemed like retirement might be a possibility.
That’s not the case anymore.
Johnson enters the Countdown to the Championship – after the points were reset – second in the point standings just 20 behind leader Matt Smith.
“To look back at it, I don’t want to be corny but it is really the Mac Rak guy. I have other sponsors that are incredible, but the vision for him was how do you race against all these people if you buy the engines from them,” Johnson said. “He said I will help you but if you really want me to help you have to do your own stuff. He said is there somebody else out here that you can do that with. I was like there’s this Monster cylinder head. We still have a Vance & Hines crank, and it is still the best crank on the planet, but he didn’t want to buy a Vance & Hines complete engine. He’s OK with the crank, but he owns his own business and he understands built in America. He said if you want me to help you, you have to do your own stuff. The Monster guys said, ‘hey we will help you,’ and the next thing you know we’re running.”
Through nine races this year, Johnson has one win in Charlotte and a runner-up finish in Norwalk, Ohio. He has a 13-8 elimination-round record this season.
“The rule got changed, I think it was in 2020, but I think we all knew about in 2019. We were already getting ready in 2019 and I was already starting to run good. We were trying to do a few more things ourselves and that’s when he (the Mac Rak guy) was helping. He was trying to get us to get off on our own right away. When we knew the 4-valve was on the table we had already started gearing up for it and we already put a deposit on it. At the same time, we were going to get a couple of them, and we just had the resources for one.
"We built the engine, and it broke right away. We would’ve had it out in 2020, but we had a problem, and it broke, so it put us behind, so we had a 2-valve all of the 2020 season. But I felt like we were really ahead of the curve.”
At the season-opening race in Gainesville, Fla., in March, Johnson debuted his 4-valve Suzuki.
“We’re just really, really happy,” said Johnson, whose team is based in Birmingham, Ala. “It’s a wonderful cylinder head. It’s a Monster 4-Valve. It’s a fantastic product and we just love it. We grew up watching Warren Johnson and Bob Glidden and they were rumored as having the most amount of work ethic and I knew those guys. At the end of the day, you either have to have a lot of financial resources and a lot of people or you better be committed. I guess on one hand, not having a wife and kids gives me the affordability to be at the shop a lot."
Beyond the Pro Stock Motorcycle world, Johnson also has found another passion.
“At this point in my life, or in the last 15 years, my initiative in life is to engage young people at skilled trades, specifically in the automotive, motorcycle and diesel fields. The National Hot Rod Association gives me a platform to talk about that. To quit and throw in the towel sends a horrible message to young people and at the same time to come over here and do good it gives me a great platform to talk to young people about the emotion as well as the financial rewards that come with being a technician.”
Johnson also made a point to talk about the quality of drivers in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class.
“Our class has so much input from the driver and our class is the only class in NHRA that has drivers and riders in the same class,” Johnson said. “Some people are riding the bike and some people are driving the bike. The more I ride the bike and my relationship here in driving and riding is you ride a bull. When the bull gets released, you ride the bull. But you drive a Pro Stock Motorcycle. There are all the things you have to do. If you’re riding the motorcycle it is going to produce a different result.”