Allen Johnson, the 2012 NHRA Pro Stock world champion, has been named as the new driver of Geoff Turk’s new Factory X Dodge Challenger entry. Johnson, who has been synonymous with the Mopar brand throughout his long career, is expected to drive the new Blackbird X entry in the upcoming NHRA Factory X events in Topeka, Brainerd, Charlotte, St. Louis, and Las Vegas.
Turk, the first Factory Stock driver to run in the sevens, was initially scheduled to drive his Blackbird X Challenger, but that plan changed dramatically when he was involved in a testing accident in Bowling Green, Ky., in April. Initially, Turk believed that he was not seriously injured, but he was later diagnosed with a brain hemorrhage, which required immediate surgery.
“I had bleeding on the left and right side of the brain,” Turk said. “I had numbness in my arm and got to the point where I could barely write my name, so I knew we had a serious problem. I went to the doctor, and the next thing I’m in a helicopter going for emergency surgery. I had about a 1 in 10 chance of making it through what transpired without permanent, long-lasting disability or death, but right now, I’m feeling better and better day by day. It was crazy, but it could have been worse. Besides, I’ve always enjoyed tuning and building race cars, and that’s a much bigger part than the few seconds you spend behind the wheel.”
Turk continues to recover from his injuries and has a positive prognosis, but his condition has forced him to vacate the driver’s seat in favor of Johnson, who was all too eager to accept his new assignment.
“When this Factory X class came out, I got excited and thought about putting together a deal with someone for a few races a year, but Geoff called and everything just fell into place,” said Johnson, in a recent interview with Dragzine. Johnson retired from Pro Stock following the 2017 season and most recently competed in the Flexjet NHRA Factory Stock Showdown. “I’ve always been a Mopar man and would have been disappointed to drive anything else, if even for two or three races.”
Turk previously worked with the Johnson’s on their Factory Stock program, so when it came time to name a replacement driver, the former Pro Stock champ was at the top of the list.
“A few years ago in Bradenton [Fla.], when I first ran in the sevens, we bonded,” said Turk. “Roy and Allen were struggling with their car, and I helped them out and got them competitive. Roy and Allen are good people, and they know so much from all their years in Pro Stock. They know about technology that I’m certainly not aware of.
“Allen is also the guy you want with a clutch and a five-speed,” Turk said. “He’s been to more than 500 races in Pro Stock, and it takes a long time to get that sort of insight. I’m blessed to have made some of those connections because you never know when they’ll pay off later in life. As much as I enjoyed driving, I’m not set up to do what I really want to do, which is help people win races.”
Currently, the reconstruction of Turk’s Blackbird X is well underway, and if all goes according to plan, the car will be ready for testing prior to the Topeka event.
“It will be a scramble, but it’s nothing a few 12-hour days won’t fix,” said Turk, who credited Dave Zientara of ET Extreme with helping to get the car back together. “The biggest thing is that we get a chance for AJ to make some runs and get comfortable.”
Turk also noted that he’s already learned a lot about the unique nature of a Factory X car. While they resemble both a Pro Stock and a Factory Stock car, they are very different, especially when it comes to chassis tuning. Prior to the accident, Turk had already turned some impressive numbers in his new machine, providing a brief glimpse of the car’s six-second and 200-mph potential.
“[Greg] Stanfield was very gracious to share with what he’s already learned,” said Turk. “We both found that the front end wanted to get light at speed. When I crashed, I didn’t realize that wasn’t the way it was supposed to feel. The engine in these cars is a stock height, and there is about 1,300 pounds on the rear, so they’re very different than a Pro Stock car. I used to set my Factory Stock car up to lift the front end, but that car weighed 3,600 pounds and had steel brakes.
“Stanfield explained what happened on his first few runs, and we shared what we thought, and as a result we’ll make some suspension changes. We’re still not where we want to be, but we will figure this out. It’s just going to take some different thinking because the balance is different than [a] Pro Stock car.”
The first of what promises to be many Factory X entries recently debuted at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, where five-time Super Stock champ Stanfield rolled out his Rod Shop Camaro to rave reviews.
The Factory X class is slated to make its next appearance at the upcoming Menards NHRA Nationals presented by PetArmor in Topeka, August 8-13., and Turk remains bullish on the future of the class.
“I’d like to think there will be 16-18 or more cars a year from now,” Turk said. “I know it’s been a slow process, but these cars are so much different than anything else. The Factory Stock cars are about 75% done when you get them from the OEMs. Here, you start with tubes and some body parts and not much else. And you can’t just use a Pro Stock chassis. It’s different. You can’t just pop these cars out, but they’re coming.”