Johnson Jr. Rolls To Pole In Arizona

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, February 26 2017

Tommy Johnson Jr. set a track record during Funny Car qualifying in Arizona on Saturday.

Tommy Johnson Jr. set the Funny Car track elapsed-time record at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park Saturday en route to qualifying on-pole for the 33rd annual NHRA Arizona Nationals.

Johnson powered his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T to a career-best 1,000-foot pass in 3.837-seconds at 329.10 mph during the final qualifying session in Chandler, Ariz., near Phoenix, for the 15th pole of his career. Robert Hight, the 2009 world champion from John Force Racing, set the previous mark of 3.905-seconds last February.

“We did some things on that run that we wouldn’t normally do. It definitely worked,” said Johnson, of Don Schumacher Racing. “We knew the conditions were good. I could tell during the run that the car was a bunch better. You could feel it in there that it pulled really well early in the run so I knew it was a good one. We went up with no expectations but I felt pretty confident going in there. (Crew chief) John Collins saw something that he wanted to try.”

Friday provisional pole-sitters Leah Pritchett (Top Fuel) and Jason Line (Pro Stock) also secured No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the second of 24 events on the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

A win this weekend would be extra special for the Make-A-Wish team, funded by Terry Chandler. “We always have a huge turnout from Make-A-Wish in Phoenix,” Johnson said. “Phoenix is the headquarters of Make-A-Wish, so we’ll have a lot of corporate people out to the track along with the kids and families we usually have come out to the races. It would definitely be a great weekend to perform well, and we’re all looking forward to entertaining the Make-A-Wish kids.”

Each Saturday during the NHRA season, Johnson, Chandler and the Make-A-Wish team host children battling life-threatening illnesses. Make-A-Wish is one of the world’s leading children’s charities, serving every community in the United States and its territories. With the help of donors and more than 27,000 volunteers, Make-A-Wish grants a wish somewhere in the country every 37 minutes. It has granted more than 254,000 wishes since its inception in 1980, including more than 14,200 in 2014 alone.

Johnson, who won at Phoenix in 2006, was eliminated during the second round of competition at the season-opening Circle K NHRA Winternationals at Pomona, Calif., two weeks ago. The team was forced to use its back-up Dodge Charger after a wheel stand the week before during testing in Phoenix bent its primary chassis.

“Pomona wasn’t the end result we were looking for but it wasn’t bad either,” Johnson said. “I think that (repaired) chassis is a little bit better and it’ll get us back on-track.”

Johnson, Collins and assistant crew chief Rip Reynolds also are eager to improve upon their 2016 Phoenix finish. Johnson began race day as the No. 7 qualifier with an E.T. of 3.965-seconds at 318.77 mph. But he was eliminated on Sunday in the second round.

Johnson will race Central New York privateer Phil Burkart Jr. and the Schwab Dodge in the opening round of eliminations on Sunday. Courtney Force of John Force Racing qualified second at 3.838-seconds and 332.67 mph in her Advance Auto Parts Chevy Camaro SS and will line up opposite Jim Campbell in Round 1. Reigning world champion Ron Capps of DSR qualified third in the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T and will open against Jeff Arend.

Pritchett held onto the top spot in Top Fuel with her national record run from Friday. The 1,000-foot pass in 3.658-seconds at 329.34 mph in a DSR dragster secured her third career pole and second in as many races this season.

“We are still figuring this race car out,” said Pritchett, who won the Winternationals from pole position. “It seems like we have it under control from the numbers that we lay down. But we’re starting to get outside that box a little bit to see how big our window is. My main focus as a driver has been to be 100 percent dead-straight/dead-square, because if this car washes-out I’m not going to be able to steer it or get it down the track.” Pritchett will get a first-round bye, as only 15 Top Fuelers were entered this weekend.

Three-time/reigning world champion Antron Brown of DSR qualified second with a 3.667-second run at 328.78 mph in his Matco Tools dragster.  Brown will face Steve Chrisman in the first round. Eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher sits third with the U.S. Army dragster, completing a DSR sweep of the top qualifying spots.

In Pro Stock, Line earned the 51st pole of his career with a quarter-mile pass in 6.509-seconds at 212.19 mph in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro from Friday.

“It was a good time Friday and we didn’t feel like anyone was going to go faster than that,” said Line, the three-time/reigning world champion. “It was a time to try to learn some new stuff and try to get ready for tomorrow (Sunday). The track is good when it’s cold, and you’ll see some really good racing tomorrow.”

Line, who also won at the Winternationals, is matched against Val Smeland in the first round of eliminations. Four-time world champion Greg Anderson _ Line’s Summit Camaro teammate at Ken Black Racing _ qualified second and will face veteran independent racer Kenny Delco. Rookie Tanner Gray remained third in his Gray Motorsports Valvoline Camaro.

Eliminations are scheduled to begin Sunday at 11 a.m. FOX Sports 1 will air three hours of racing beginning at 6 p.m. (EST).


Sunday’s first-round eliminations pairings for the 33rd annual NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, the second of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.  Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings:

Top Fuel _ 1. Leah Pritchett, 3.658-seconds, 329.91 mph  vs. Bye; 2. Antron Brown, 3.667, 328.78  vs. 15. Steven Chrisman, 4.771, 162.96; 3. Tony Schumacher, 3.667, 328.30  vs. 14. Terry Haddock, 4.292, 190.43; 4. Steve Torrence, 3.684, 327.59  vs. 13. Steve Faria, 3.905, 311.56; 5. Doug Kalitta, 3.695, 328.78  vs. 12. Shawn Reed, 3.836, 307.72; 6. Troy Coughlin Jr., 3.696, 326.48  vs. 11. Scott Palmer, 3.834, 307.79; 7. Brittany Force, 3.703, 329.42  vs. 10. Terry McMillen, 3.768, 322.11; 8. Clay Millican, 3.710, 320.74  vs. 9. Troy Buff, 3.764, 321.96.


Funny Car _ 1. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 3.837, 329.10  vs. 16. Phil Burkart Jr., Charger, 5.352, 165.94; 2. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.838, 332.84  vs. 15. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.950, 167.57; 3. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.839, 333.58  vs. 14. Jeff Arend, Chevrolet Impala, 4.479, 202.91; 4. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.839, 333.33  vs. 13. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.007, 294.95; 5. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.852, 329.42  vs. 12. John Force, Camaro, 3.941, 320.36; 6. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.869, 329.18  vs. 11. Gary Densham, Mustang, 3.938, 320.36; 7. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.889, 328.22  vs. 10. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 3.920, 328.14; 8. Del Worsham, Camry, 3.896, 328.22  vs. 9. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.897, 327.74.

Did Not Qualify _ 17. Jeff Diehl, 7.257, 93.50.

Pro Stock _ 1. Jason Line, Chevy Camaro, 6.509, 212.19  vs. 16. Val Smeland, Camaro, 8.530, 111.55; 2. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.522, 211.73  vs. 15. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.600, 209.56; 3. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.538, 211.79  vs. 14. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.599, 209.23; 4. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.540, 211.43  vs. 13. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.583, 210.21; 5. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.541, 211.73  vs. 12. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.583, 209.62; 6. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.542, 211.23  vs. 11. Deric Kramer, Dart, 6.581, 209.88; 7. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.548, 211.26  vs. 10. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.558, 211.59; 8. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.553, 210.70  vs. 9. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.554, 210.60.


| , RacinToday.com Sunday, February 26 2017
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