Now two years removed from the dog-eat-dog world of NHRA Pro Stock racing, Allen Johnson admits that he’s living a much simpler life and that suits him just fine. Trading his 215-mph Pro Stock Dodge Dart for a Drag Pak Challenger. Racing in the SAM Tech.edu Factory Stock Showdown, Johnson’s 18-wheel semi truck has been replaced by a motorhome and a tag-along trailer. His “full-time” crew is now his parents, Roy and Revonda, and his wife, Pam. Even the eight-race Factory Stock schedule agrees with Johnson, who continues to operate his successful gas station and convenience store business in Greenville, Tenn., while also maintaining a vacation home in Florida.
“This is a good place for me to be,” said Johnson. “I really like this [Factory Stock] class and it gives my dad something to do. It keeps him thinking. He spends a few hours a day in our engine shop, and then a couple hours in the garden. It’s not like Pro Stock where you had to be on the gas 24/7. This is good for my dad and good for me. It’s cheaper for me and don’t just get to drive the race car. I’m the motorhome driver, the chef, and the clean-up guy. This actually reminds me of when I started racing and it was just me and my dad with our Super Stock car. That’s what I like the most.”
A loyal Mopar racer to the bitter end, Johnson has struggled to maintain a competitive pace with his Hemi-powered Drag Pak Challenger, which is painted in the Plumb Crazy purple color popularized by 1970s Mopar muscle cars. An off-season rules revision granted new supercharger technology to the Ford and GM teams and that has left the Mopar racers scrambling. The most recent revision has reduced the minimum weight for Dodge’s by 75-pounds but that doesn’t benefit Johnson.
“I can’t get there,” he says. “I don’t’ have 75-pounds to take out of this car unless I want to spend a whole bunch of money buying carbon fiber parts. I know they [NHRA Tech Dept.] is trying to get the rules right so we’re all competitive but I don’t think we’re there yet. I think we should be able to all have the same supercharger. That would go a long way towards making it more even.”
From a driving standpoint, Johnson says the Challenger is very different from his Pro Stock car, but he’s enjoying the ride just the same. While the Factory Stock car can’t match the Pro Stocker’s 210-mph performances, the nine-inch wide rear tire keeps it interesting.
“Getting a handle on that little tire is the biggest challenge we face,” Johnson said. “It will jump out on you in a heartbeat and when you figure out how to get the car to hook, you’re liable to do a big wheelstand. It’s a constant battle. Most of the things we learned in Pro Stock have carried over to this class, but it’s not 100-percent the same. There are some differences that we’ve had to adjust to, the rear tire being one of them.”
In Norwalk, Johnson ran a best of 8.071, which was short of the 8.039 bump spot. Of the four Dodges that attempted to qualify, only reigning series champ Leah Pritchett managed to get into the field, and she is 13th.
“Like I said, I really like this class, but I’d like to see us be more competitive,” said Johnson. “Little by little I think it’s coming. Hopefully there is another adjustment coming that will help us out. There is a lot of potential here."