Biker Johnson Ends Seven-Year Skid

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, May 18 2021

Steve Johnson rode to victory at the Four-Wides. (RacinToday photo by Deb Williams)

CONCORD, N.C. – When Steve Johnson erased his seven-year winless streak in NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle, his victory signaled both on-track and off-track success.

In the competition arena, Johnson’s Suzuki had floundered since his last win at Gainesville, Fla., in 2014. He finally decided the only way he could turn around his on-track performance was to focus on the details and stop buying his engines from his competition. That meant long hours in his 10,000-square-foot shop developing the four-valve engine. However, it was not without its personal challenges as well. While Johnson and his team worked diligently to turn around its on-track performance, long-time crew member Ervin “Jock” Allen was fighting for his life, battling the terrible COVID virus in an intensive care unit at a Birmingham, Ala., hospital. The pandemic struck Allen’s entire family, taking the life of his mother while he lay in the ICU. 

“I was in there every day in the ICU with him,” Johnson said about Allen. “Less than 10 percent of the people come out alive from being on a ventilator for 21 days or more. He was on one for 24 days. His whole family had COVID, so they couldn’t go in there and tell him his mother had died. I went in there to tell him. … I told him she wanted to go be with his dad. 

“To have him finally come to the track, and struggle with his weight and struggle with his stamina, and struggle with putting the darn transmission in right, it’s cool the sanctioning body gives you a trophy that says you guys came through that and you did it with a great job.”   

When the 2021 NHRA Camping World Series season opened in March at Gainesville (Fla.) Raceway, Johnson made it to the semifinals before losing to eventual winner Matt Smith. Then in April in the season’s first four-wide, Johnson reached the final round on The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He stumbled in Atlanta Dragway’s final race, but charged back two weeks later in the NGK NTK Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway.

Johnson’s performance at zMAX was the breakthrough his team needed. The 60-year-old California native made five straight runs in the 6.70s, qualifying second with a 6.738-second elapsed time at 196.90 mph. That was the seventh-quickest run ever in the class at that time and Johnson’s performance continued to improve through Sunday’s eliminations. He finished second to Andrew Hines in the opening quad with a 6.783. Then in a semifinal quad that included Hines, Smith and Eddie Krawiec, Johnson sped to victory with a 6.760-second pass, 197.80 mph. In the final round, Johnson made the third quickest run in class history — 6.729 seconds — to dispense with Smith, Karen Stoffer and Joey Gladstone and claim his seventh career victory.

“Obviously, when you have a career path everybody wants to have some type of a goal and when you reach the goal it can be euphoric,” Johnson said. “If it’s not, then you probably need to pick something else up.” 

Johnson won zMAX Dragway’s inaugural NHRA Carolina Nationals in September 2008, but in gaining his first four-wide victory he set a track record and lowered the quickest run ever for a Suzuki.

“This is the most special (win) because of everything I’ve (been through),” says Johnson, who is third in the standings. “Everything in life you relate something to. The infrastructure of Steve Johnson Racing is as positive and as professional as I believe I can make it. When we get something like this that has the background behind it, it becomes higher than a U.S. Nationals trophy (which Johnson won in 2005 and 2008).”     

 Overall, Johnson led a spectacular Pro Stock Motorcycle weekend. Nine of the fastest 10 runs in class history occurred on either Saturday or Sunday at zMAX Dragway with Krawiec’s pass of 203.49 mph being the fastest ever in Pro Stock Motorcycle. Hector Arana Jr. also made a 203 mph run on Sunday, with 14 of the fastest 20 runs in class history occurring at zMAX.

Pro Stock Motorcycle is now idle until June 24-27 when the class travels to Norwalk, Ohio, for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals. 


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, May 18 2021
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