TOPEKA, KS – May 18, 2016 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – The process has taken longer than he would have hoped but former Pro Stock world champion Allen Johnson believes his team is headed in a direction that could lead to impressive results.
Heading to a track where he has three victories and five final-round appearances should only help the cause. Looking to break up the Pro Stock winner’s circle party that has only included Summit Racing Equipment teammates Jason Line and Greg Anderson this season, Johnson feels good about the potential of his Marathon Petroleum/J&J Racing Dodge Dart at this weekend’s 28th annual NHRA Kansas Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka.
Johnson, coming off back-to-back semifinal performances, does not have a win during the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, but thinks his team is closer than ever. Carrying that momentum into a track that has already provided plenty of success throughout Johnson’s standout Pro Stock career could be the final factor to tip things in his favor for the first time this year.
“You know, Topeka is sort of like Denver for me and Vegas,” said Johnson, who is currently sixth in the Pro Stock points standings. “It’s an altitude track and it’s just the kind of track, with the old carb setup, we just seem to perform well at. This year is going to be totally different you know. We’ve already been to Vegas with this stuff and we didn’t do that well so hopefully we’ll go out there and pick up some of that magic.”
Richie Crampton (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car) and Erica Enders (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event in the Kansas capital city. The race will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including live finals on Sunday. It is the eighth of 24 races during the 2016 season in the new-look Pro Stock class, and Johnson and his team look to be coming around on a car that now includes fuel-injected engines, shorter wheelie bars, flat hoods and a 10,500 RPM rev-limiter.
It’s been an adjustment, one that only Line and Anderson have seemingly solved flawlessly, but Johnson has made immense progress in a short time. He advanced to the semifinals at Houston and then Atlanta last weekend, putting together strong qualifying passes in the process as well.
“Since Houston, we’ve just been working on some new parts and pieces for the engine,” Johnson said.
Johnson now sits less than two rounds out of fourth place, feeling encouraged by the results the team has had from some rigorous work behind the scenes. Coupled with the good vibes he feels at Heartland Park Topeka and Johnson might have the recipe for a winning combination for the first time this season.
Knocking points leader Line, who won outran Johnson en route to the victory in Atlanta, and Anderson out of the winner’s circle would be a big boost for the 26-time event winner, and Topeka might be just the location to do it. Twelve of Johnson’s wins have come in Topeka, Denver and Vegas, proving just how impressive he has been at altitude tracks.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” Johnson said. “Everywhere where it’s been altitude tracks, it seems like we do really well but that was with the carburetors setup. But this is a brand new deal this year.”
That creates a different dynamic, but Johnson is honing in on a winning combination. But so are a variety of other talented Pro Stock stars, including defending event champion and two-time defending world champion Enders. Other stalwarts in the class include Line and Anderson’s teammate Bo Butner, Chris McGaha, 2014 top rookie Drew Skillman, five-time world champion Jeg Coughlin, Vincent Nobile, Shane Gray and Alex Laughlin.
But Johnson believes it is only a matter of time before something big happens to his team and he’s ready for that run to start this weekend in Topeka.
“I’m very proud of my team and making it to the semifinals,” Johnson said following Atlanta. “I feel really good. We’re just on the cusp on something I think. We’ve got to just keep going down this path and doing what we’re doing. We need to be the top four or fifth car each race, maintain lane choice and hopefully that’ll be the way we get to the winner’s circle.”
In Top Fuel, Crampton drove his Lucas Oil dragster to his second victory of the 2015 season. Crampton is seeking his first win against the likes of two-time and defending world champion Antron Brown and Brittany Force, who has two victories in 2016. Other top contenders for the victory include Doug Kalitta, who has won two straight races to move into the points lead, Winternationals winner Steve Torrence, Clay Millican, J.R. Todd, Shawn Langdon, Terry McMillen and eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher.
In Funny Car, Topeka fans witnessed what was at the time a record 15 three-second runs in the class last year. Race winner Beckman made five of those in his Infinte Hero Dodge Charger, including a 3.984-second sprint in the finals to defeat 16-time world champion John Force. Beckman is after his first win of 2016, while others to watch include two-time season winner Tim Wilkerson, points leader Courtney Force, reigning world champion Del Worsham, Robert Hight, three-time Topeka winner Ron Capps, four-time Topeka winner Cruz Pedregon, Chad Head, Alexis DeJoria and two-time world champ Matt Hagan, who won last weekend in Atlanta.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand how the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
The event also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:30 and 7 p.m. on Friday, May 20 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, May 21, at 1:30 and 4 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 22.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call (800) 884-NHRA (6472) or visit www.NHRA.com/tickets. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
NHRA KANSAS NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 28th annual NHRA Kansas Nationals, the eighth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in three categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock – earn points leading to 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships. The race also will feature competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series.
WHERE: Heartland Park Topeka, Topeka, Kansas. From Kansas City, take the Kansas Turnpike (I-70) to the Topeka Boulevard exit and travel south to the track. From Wichita, take the Kansas Turnpike (I-335) to the Topeka Boulevard exit and travel south to the track.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, May 20-22
FRIDAY, May 20 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 4:30 and 7 p.m.
SATURDAY, May 21 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:30 and 4 p.m.
SUNDAY, May 22 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Saturday, May 21, FS1 will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 11 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, May 22, FS1 will televise three hours of live finals coverage at 2 p.m. (ET).
2015 EVENT WINNERS: Richie Crampton, Top Fuel; Jack Beckman, Funny Car; Erica Enders, Pro Stock.
MOST VICTORIES: John Force, 9, FC; Scott Kalitta, 6, TF; Warren Johnson, 5, PS; Cruz Pedregon, 4, FC; Greg Anderson, 4, PS.
Top Fuel – 3.710 seconds by Crampton, May ‘15; 329.91 mph by Larry Dixon, May 2015.
Funny Car – 3.967 seconds by Chad Head, May ‘15; 325.06 mph by Courtney Force, May ’15.
Pro Stock – 6.515 seconds by Erica Enders, May ’15; 211.43 mph by Enders, May ’15.
Top Fuel – 3.680 sec. by Antron Brown, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car – 3.879 sec. by Jack Beckman, March ’16, Gainesville, Fla.; 331.45 mph by Matt Hagan, Nov. ’15, Pomona, Calif.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.
TICKETS: For tickets call (800) 884-NHRA (6472). Tickets also available online at www.NHRA.com/tickets.
NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, CA — Point standings (top 10) following the seventh of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series –
1. Doug Kalitta, 586; 2. Antron Brown, 522; 3. Brittany Force, 518; 4. Steve Torrence, 474; 5. J.R. Todd, 418; 6. Clay Millican, 387; 7. Tony Schumacher, 349; 8. Richie Crampton, 337; 9.Leah Pritchett, 308; 10. Terry McMillen, 293.
1. Courtney Force, 522; 2. Jack Beckman, 482; 3. Tim Wilkerson, 476; 4. Ron Capps, 471; 5. Robert Hight, 458; 6. Del Worsham, 429; 7. John Force, 416; 8. Alexis DeJoria, 394; 9. Matt Hagan, 390; 10. Tommy Johnson Jr., 351.
1. Jason Line, 812; 2. Greg Anderson, 716; 3. Bo Butner, 553; 4. Drew Skillman, 432; 5. Chris McGaha, 393; 6. Allen Johnson, 392; 7. Jeg Coughlin, 308; 8. Vincent Nobile, 294; 9. Erica Enders, 289; 10. Alex Laughlin, 272.
Pro Stock Motorcycle:
1. Eddie Krawiec, 353; 2. Andrew Hines, 233; 3. Hector Arana, 207; 4. Jerry Savoie, 204; 5. Chip Ellis, 193; 6. Angelle Sampey, 179; 7. LE Tonglet, 143; 8. Matt Smith, 124; 9. Karen Stoffer, 118; 10. Scotty Pollacheck, 117.