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Tommy Johnson Jr. fighting gremlins, the weather in pursuit of Funny Car field

As the rain continued to fall Sunday morning, Tommy Johnson Jr., driver of the Make-A-Wish Funny Car, had a wish of his own: a chance to still make the Funny Car field at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.
01 Sep 2019
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
Feature
Tommy Johnson Jr.

As the rain continued to fall Sunday morning, Tommy Johnson Jr., driver of the Make-A-Wish Funny Car, had a wish of his own: a chance to still make the Funny Car field at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.

Johnson, who this weekend is running a special livery supporting Riley Hospital for Children on the Make-A-Wish chassis, sits in the No. 18 spot after three aborted passes over the course of Friday and Saturday, with a best e.t. of just 4.36 against the 4.06 bump spot.

“It’s just been stupid things,” said Johnson, who has a qualifying streak of 139 races spanning six seasons without a DNQ, dating back to his time before saddling up in the DSR Funny Car. “We just missed it on the first run and smoked the tires Friday, then came back Saturday and dropped the No. 1 cylinder at a hit – and it never does that – and then Saturday night it broke a piston.

Even with the wounded slug, the car still ran 4.37 in Q3 and would have run quick enough had not the oil-pan pressure switch shut down the engine.

“It would have run .89 or .90 on that run,” he said. “It just shut itself off. If not for the switch, we would have made it in. It probably would have thrown the rods out when I lifted, but we would have taken that.

“If we get the chance today –- and it looks like we will –- we know what the car can run. If I can get it past halftrack, we’ll get in.”

Johnson has never won Indy –- he was runner-up to John Force in 2002 while driving for legend Don “the Snake” Prudhomme –- but is working hard to maintain his No. 2 seed heading into the Countdown to the Championship, and a win – and most certainly a spot in the field – would go a long ways towards that goal.