Allen Johnson says if he’s dreaming, please don’t wake him.
The veteran Pro Stock driver from Tennessee is having the greatest season of his 17-year career and is heading to the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus as the series points leader in the 200-mph factory hot rod class and, for the first time, as the heavy favorite to win the world’s most prestigious drag race.
With four victories in six final rounds and a class-leading nine No. 1 qualifying positions, Johnson has been the leader of the pack since he won in Denver in impressive fashion. All he needs to do to secure the No. 1 seed for the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship is qualify in Indy.
Johnson is ready to take advantage of his great situation and strike while the iron is hot. He wants to get what every racer in NHRA wants: a Wally that says “Mac Tools U.S. Nationals” winner on it.
“Hopefully, the good vibes we have had the last few races will carry on into the U.S. Nationals, and we can go up there and show off a little in our Mopar Dodge Avenger,” Johnson said.
Johnson will be racing hard to secure his top seed for the playoffs and earn a coveted victory at the sport’s oldest and most tradition-rich event, Aug. 29-Sept. 3 at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Mike Neff (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock), and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending winners of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event that will be televised on ESPN2HD in more than 10 hours of coverage during Labor Day weekend.
After getting off to a slow start at the beginning of the season with some early-round exits, Johnson got serious in Las Vegas and won. He added two-time world champ Jim Yates to his tuning brain trust that already included crew chief Mark Ingersoll and his father and engine builder, Roy Johnson. The team hit its stride after the Vegas win and raced to victories in Topeka, Denver, and Sonoma. Runner-up finishes were claimed in Bristol and Brainerd.
Next stop: Indianapolis.
“Indy is one of the most important events of the year, prestige-wise,” Johnson said. “It’s also the last event of the regular season, so you want to get some momentum going for when the Countdown starts.”
Johnson has never been to a final in Indy, and his only visit to the media center at Lucas Oil Raceway was in 2008 when he was the No. 1 qualifier for the event. He hopes to make plenty of trips to the tower this time. His confidence is at an all-time high, and he knows he has a very fast hot rod.
“Heading to Indy leading the points is very prestigious for every member of our Mopar/J&J Racing team,” Johnson said. “Winning at Indy would be right up there with winning the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals in Denver, our sponsor’s race. It would be very big.”
To take the win in Indy, Johnson will have to hold off Anderson, a six-time winner of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, and a surging Erica Enders, who has raced to three victories since her breakthrough performance in Chicago in July. Others to watch in Pro Stock include past Indy winners Mike Edwards, Jeg Coughlin Jr., Warren and Kurt Johnson, and Larry Morgan. Jason Line, Vincent Nobile, V. Gaines, and Shane Gray also will be in the hunt for victory.
• SCHEDULE: The first of five qualifying sessions is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 31. Two sessions will be held on Saturday, Sept. 1, at 2:30 and 6 p.m., and the final two qualifying sessions will take place on Sunday, Sept. 2, at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 3.
• TICKETS: For tickets for the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus, call 800-884-NHRA (6472) or log on to www.NHRATix.com.
• ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise more than 10 hours of coverage of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus. Three hours of qualifying coverage and coverage of the NHRA Traxxas Nitro Shootouts will air at 11 a.m. ET on Sunday, Sept. 2. Two additional hours of qualifying coverage and Traxxas Shootout highlights will also air on Sunday, Sept. 2, at 5 p.m. ET. Eliminations for the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus will be featured during six hours of coverage on Monday, Sept. 3, starting at noon ET.
• LUCAS OIL SERIES: The Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus also will feature competition in all categories of the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, where some of the future stars of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series are born. Lucas Oil Series qualifying begins at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 29, and eliminations begin at 8 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 30, and continue through Monday, Sept. 3.
• NHRA PRO MOD SERIES presented by ProCare Rx: NHRA’s popular Pro Mod touring series will make its seventh start of the 10-race 2012 season at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus. The series features some of the world’s fastest and most unique doorslammer cars, with an eclectic mix of vintage and late-model body styles, in quarter-mile competition. The first qualifying session will be Friday, Aug. 31, at 4:30 p.m. Qualifying will continue on Saturday, Sept. 1, with sessions at 2 and 5:30 p.m. The final qualifying session will be Sunday, Sept. 2, at 2 p.m., followed by the first round of eliminations at 5 p.m. Eliminations will continue on Monday, Sept. 3, at approximately 2:30 p.m.