It’s been a long seven years for Steve Johnson since he last enjoyed a victory, but the Pro Stock Motorcycle veteran changed that in a major way on Sunday at zMAX Dragway.
On a historic weekend in the class, Johnson added to it, making the third-quickest run in class history in the final round with a pass of 6.729-seconds at 198.03 mph on his four-valve Mac Rak Suzuki to win the NGK NTK NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte.
It set a new track record, lowered the quickest run ever for a Suzuki and handed Johnson his seventh career win.
“When you have a career path and you reach a goal, it can be euphoric,” Johnson said. “We are committed to this sport and I’m so excited about the emotion of our sport. I feel like our sport is really doing well. This trophy is so cool and this is the most special (win)."
Karen Stoffer was quickest off the starting line in the final round with a .020, but Johnson had that made up just past half-track. Matt Smith tried to track him down, going 6.744 at 202.48, but there was no stopping Johnson on Sunday.
Smith’s pass was a career-best in speed and the fifth-fastest of all-time, as the points leader advanced to his third final round this season and 60th in his career. Stoffer came in third with a run of 6.771 at 198.64 and Joey Gladstone, making just his second career final round appearance, went 6.773 at 198.90. Gladstone also made his first career 200-mph run during the weekend, becoming the final rider to reach the Denso 200-mph club.
It was Stoffer’s first final round since the fall Charlotte race in 2019 and the first in a four-wide race, and she reached the final on the strength of a .003 light in the semifinals.
Smith won the first-ever four-wide race at zMAX Dragway in 2010 and appeared in his fifth final round in the unique format.
Johnson appeared at that same final at the inaugural four-wide race 11 years ago, and looked strong earlier this season, racing to the final quad at Las Vegas last month.
He’s worked tirelessly trying to solve the vast potential of the new four-valve Suzuki and this weekend was likely the breakthrough.
Johnson made five straight runs in the 6.70s, qualifying second with a 6.738 at 196.90. That was the seventh-quickest run at that time, and Johnson only got better in eliminations. He took second to Andrew Hines in the opening quad, going 6.783 and stepped it up in a loaded semifinal quad that featured Hines, Smith and Eddie Krawiec.
Johnson won that with a 6.760 at 197.80, but the best was yet to come in the final round.
In all, it was an incredible weekend for the class, as nine of the fastest 10 runs in class history were made either on Saturday or Sunday at zMAX Dragway, with Krawiec’s pass of 203.49 the fastest run 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 coming in Charlotte.