CHANDLER, Ariz. – After a busy and what he thought was a productive off-season, Allen Johnson didn’t come out with the bang he hoped for to start the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.
The former Pro Stock world champion is determined to not let that become a trend, starting at a track that has been a home to previous success for him.
Johnson won at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in 2014 and 2005, and is eager to get his season jumpstarted in his Marathon Petroleum/J&J Racing Dodge Dart at this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals.
“We thought we had a successful off-season but we spent all our time on the dyno and not at the track,” Johnson said. “When we got to the track (at the season-opener in Pomona), it kicked us in the butt. We basically had to backtrack and get back to our foundation for Phoenix. The off-season didn’t provide us with a lot other than what not to do.”
Johnson’s baseline for what not to do came after a weekend of struggles in Pomona that saw him qualify 13th and bow out in the opening round. That wasn’t what he had anticipated following an off-season where he felt the team had made significant improvements.
The team had to adjust to the redesigned Pro Stock class last year and Johnson never could find his footing, finishing eighth in the points standings.
The struggles at Pomona weren’t ideal, but Johnson — who has 27 career wins — remains confident his team is a championship contender despite the bumps in the road.
“We’ve got the same team and it’s a good team,” Johnson said. “We’re really fighting the engine combination still. The low RPM change really hurts the Hemi engines. We’re just doing everything we can to try to get more torque out of them. That’s why we were so bad at the first race.”
A strong weekend in Phoenix could provide the turnaround Johnson is after. An early-season triumph can provide a considerable boost, especially if it comes by knocking off defending event winner and reigning world champion Jason Line.
The win last year at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park was Line’s first of eight, and his title defense started just as strong, winning in Pomona. Johnson is after the same momentum, knowing how much early success can carry over to the rest of the season.
“A win early in the season can boost our momentum and give us a solid foundation under us and that makes it easier to progress forward all year,” Johnson said. “When you have that solid foundation, it makes it easier to make gains all throughout the season and that’s what we’re seeking to get back to in Phoenix.”
“It’s very crucial to have that solid foundation and build the blocks on top of that solid foundation and then you can progress from there. It’s so crucial.”
CREDIT: NHRA Communications