Pro Stock great Bob Glidden won seven times at Bandimere Speedway during his legendary career, the most at that track for any driver in NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series history. If Allen Johnson continues current pace of performance at Thunder Mountain, the Tennessee driver might just squeeze past Glidden’s mark in the near future.
In the last five seasons, Johnson has dominated at the scenic high-altitude dragstrip. He has won three times in five consecutive final rounds during his impressive run in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger.
Johnson wants to keep the final-round streak alive and add another victory at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, July 20-22. Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock), and Karen Stoffer (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending winners of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event that will be televised on ESPN2HD.
While many Pro Stock teams spend countless hours trying to figure out the correct setup for the one track on the circuit that presents the need for a totally different combination due to the demanding conditions and elevation, Johnson and his Mopar team feel right at home. He credits his comfort level to the preparation that he and his team have put into the race.
“We’ve tested at Denver a lot,” Johnson said. “We’ve developed a combination over the years that seems to really work at Thunder Mountain. I guess the motto is, ‘Practice makes perfect.’ We’re very confident heading into the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals. We gained a little more with our combination while testing at Bandimere Speedway recently. We are very confident that we can come in and sweep the race.”
Allen Johnson, left, with his engine builder, father Roy
In the past few seasons, Johnson has gotten off to a great start during the Western Swing with strong runs in Denver. He usually picks up positions in the points standings during the grueling three-races-in-three-weeks test. This season, at third in the points order, he doesn’t have too far to go to reach the top spot in the category.
“The Western Swing is always very critical to our season,” Johnson said. “That’s a pivotal time of the year, right before the Countdown playoffs begin. It’s where you get your mojo.”
Johnson has been getting his mojo all season by running consistently strong at each event. He has qualified No. 1 a category-best six times and has raced to two victories in three final rounds. He trails series leader Greg Anderson and defending world champ Jason Line in the points standings.
“I think we can reel Greg in,” Johnson said. “We are real close right now. If we can keep on the path we’ve been on, going to the semifinals each race and also advancing to some final rounds, and get a couple of wins, I feel like it will be really close at the end of the year.”
Johnson nearly made his win total a perfect three for three for the season by coming very close to winning in Bristol. Edwards beat him at Bristol Dragway’s finish line with a margin of victory of .0000, the closest final round in NHRA history. Johnson expects a similar photo finish for the Pro Stock world championship this season, and he believes that he has his best chance yet to close the deal.
“This is as good a season as we’ve ever seen,” Johnson said. “Last year, we had a really good shot and just weren’t consistent enough. We have a really good shot again this year. We have a few things that we need to work on. You know it’s going to come down to the end of the year, and you know it’s going to be real fun.”
But first things first. Johnson wants to make sure he takes care of the task at hand in Denver and moves one win closer to Glidden’s track record for wins.
“It would be huge to win again at Mopar’s big race,” Johnson said. “Anytime that you can claim what we’ve claimed here, five straight final-round appearances, that’s awesome. It’s Mopar’s 75th anniversary this year, and I would love to give the folks back in Auburn Hills, Mich., a Denver Wally trophy as an anniversary present.”
In Top Fuel, defending event winner Massey is riding the momentum into this event from picking up his fourth victory of the season July 8 in Norwalk. Seven-time world champ Tony Schumacher, a two-time Denver winner, is always a threat to score, as is Antron Brown, who has claimed two victories this season and was the last driver to sweep the Western Swing, in 2009. Steve Torrence is having a breakout season with two victories in four final rounds in his Capco Contractors dragster, and Morgan Lucas, Doug Kalitta, Brandon Bernstein, Shawn Langdon, Clay Millican, and David Grubnic are among the Top Fuel drivers to watch at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals.
In Funny Car, Robert Hight holds the series lead with four victories in his Auto Club Ford Mustang, but a midseason charge by veteran driver Ron Capps in the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger has tightened the gap as the regular season winds to a close. The most recent winner, Mike Neff, leads the rest of the top contenders, who include Jack Beckman, Johnny Gray, Jeff Arend, Courtney Force, Alexis DeJoria, defending world champ Matt Hagan, hot-weather specialist Tim Wilkerson, and defending event winner Force, the 15-time world champ.
The Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson duo of defending world champ Eddie Krawiec and three-time world champ Andrew Hines has dominated the competition in Pro Stock Motorcycle this season, taking all six races with three wins apiece. Hector Arana Jr. and Hector Arana Sr. have been challenging the Harleys on their Lucas Oil Buells and sit third and fourth. respectively, in the points standings. Past champs LE Tonglet and Matt Smith, defending winner Stoffer, veteran riders Steve Johnson and Shawn Gann, and rookie riders Scotty Pollacheck and John Hall will be among the event’s top challengers in the two-wheel category.
* SCHEDULE: NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4:45 and 7:15 p.m. on Friday, July 20, and 12:45 and 3:15 p.m. on Saturday, July 21. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 22.
* TICKETS: For tickets for the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, call Bandimere Speedway, 800-664-UWIN (8946), or log on to www.ticketreturn.com.
* ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 5 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 21, and two hours of eliminations coverage at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 22.
* LUCAS OIL SERIES: The Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals will feature competition in 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 noon on July 20; eliminations begin at 9 a.m. on July 21 and continue through July 22.