February 28, 2014 — team report — photo via Twitter — CHANDLER, AZ — Tommy Johnson Jr. had a very fulfilling weekend behind the wheel of the Don Schumacher Racing Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T, a car fully sponsored by Terry Chandler and designed to raise awareness for the foundation. The Make-A-Wish team had one of the most consistent cars on the property and made their way to the semifinals for the first time with Johnson as their driver, but the memorable moments didn’t stop there.
The weekend was even more rewarding as many Make-A-Wish families and Wish Kids were on the property at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park to cheer them on at the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals in Phoenix.
“It was so great having the Make-A-Wish folks here and so many Wish Kids, but also, there were so many fans who came by to show their appreciation for what Terry has done by keeping this team together and running the Make-A-Wish paint scheme to raise awareness,” said Johnson. “It was a very rewarding weekend.”
Johnson and the team were very pleased to earn a start from the No. 2 position based on a qualifying best time of 4.029-second at 316.08 mph, which nearly bettered Johnson’s career bestset two weeks ago at the season opener Pomona.
The lofty qualifying position came with a first-round meeting with Tony Pedregon, and Johnson launched right with his opponent and then sailed past to get the win light with one of the best passes of the round, a 4.09 at 313 mph to top a troubled 6.84. For round two, the Make-A-Wish Dodge was set to square off with veteran driver Tim Wilkerson. Johnson was first off the starting line and first to the finish with another 4.09 showing on the scoreboard to drown out Wilkerson’s 4.18. Again, Johnson’s time was among the quickest. Only one car was quicker, and that car belonged to Robert Hight, who was to be his semifinals challenger.
Notably, Johnson’s most recent trip to the semifinals occurred here in Phoenix in 2008, and the driver in the other lane was Hight. His opponent won that match, but Johnson hoped to turn the tables this time around.
Johnson improved to a 4.08, but Hight’s 4.04 was simply untouchable. With the semifinals finish, Johnson moved into the No. 4 position in the Funny Car points standings.
“With the attention that this car has received, you also want to have success,” said Johnson, a nine-time NHRA national event winner. “The team has done an outstanding job for these first two races, and it’s continually getting better and better. Hopefully, we continue that trend.
“Everyone on this Make-A-Wish team is doing a very good job. This is a great team. You always want to do better, that’s just the nature of it, but I’m finding it really hard to be disappointed with anything that’s happened so far this year.”
For Chandler, the team sponsor who was determined to make 2014 a year of giving, the weekend was overwhelming, but in the best possible way.
“On Saturday, I had a chance to speak with some of the Make-A-Wish families in our hospitality area,” said Chandler. “I’m not very comfortable with speaking in front of people yet; this is all new to me, but I had to let those Wish Kids know that this isn’t my race car, this race car belongs to every one of them. My heart was so full meeting these precious children, I just thought it would bust. I think that was true for all the guys on our team. Everyone’s hearts were very full. It was a wonderful weekend.”