Make-A-Wish: Johnson, Crew Want Explosions To Stop

Category : Competition Plus

Mark Rebilas Photo

In just three weeks, Funny Car racer Tommy Johnson’s situation went from rough-to-take to tough-to-beat.

And in about two seconds Saturday evening, their efforts blew up in a fiery spectacle that didn’t hurt anything but their feelings and team owner Don Schumacher’s pocketbook.

Johnson experienced two serious body-destroying engine explosions in his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger at the Magic Dry Arizona Nationals near Phoenix. But Friday he took the early No. 8 qualifying position and improved to fifth overnight. Then in Saturday’s third overall session, Johnson zipped to the top of the order, trumping tentative No. 2 John Force’s elapsed time by one-thousandth of a second. While Force was wanting to set himself up for a strong shot at earning his NHRA record-extending 150th victory, Johnson was looking for some safe consistency.

His hard-working crew had scrambled to build him a new ride – after they drove 1,700 miles back to the Brownsburg, Ind., shop and before they had to drive it 863 miles down here to Gainesville, Fla.

“The guys had lot of work to do the last two weeks between races. Luckily, we had that amount of time. The guys worked hard every day,” Johnson said.

That was just practice for them. They’ll had to do it again – this time overnight.

They worked late into the night Saturday because Johnson’s engine blew up in the final Funny Car qualifying session, tossing the body over the guard wall onto a grassy strip in front of the return road and grandstands.

“We had some small chassis work to do. We were fortunate the frame wasn’t bent, so it was a small fix,” he said of the post-Phoenix task. “We had to get another Hellcat body mounted. We’re actually down to our last two bodies. Fortunately, there was another one that had just been mounted or we would have been in trouble.”

They might officially be in trouble now.

“The guys did a lot of work. We had to rebuild everything. It was not only the body, but we had to go over all the parts. We hurt two blowers [and] two manifolds. It starts adding up quickly, and then you have all the little pieces that you don’t see, like the cable and all the smaller pieces, that got burnt,” Johnson said. “They did a great job to put it all back together, and we come out here Saturday afternoon and go low in the third session. It shows that their hard work paid off and the level of job that they are doing to continue the performance that we’ve been on. I’m really happy for them.”

He spoke too soon. But Johnson has seen his team perform miracles before. Tommy Johnson earned his only Englishtown, N.J., victory and his first ever at any racetrack from the No. 1 qualifying position in June 2007. Along the way to that triumph, the one he calls “still my all-time win,” his car caught fire in a Round 1 victory and appeared too charred to continue. But his crew had the car ready for him in about an hour’s turnaround time.

“I couldn’t believe that happened. It’s just not supposed to happen,” Johnson said.

Surely the Make-A-Wish driver understands miracles.

LINK TO ORIGINAL COMPETITION PLUS ARTICLE


DSR Gainesville Post-Race Recap

Category : DSR news

50th annual NHRA Gatornationals
Event 3 of 24 (Gainesville)
Gainesville Raceway
Gainesville, Fla.
March 15-17, 2019


DSR Gainesville Elimination Highlights:

  • Leah Pritchett departs Gainesville sitting second in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship Top Fuel rankings
  • DSR Dodge Hellcats occupy three of the top five spots in the Funny Car point standings with Jack Beckman leading the way in second
  • Beckman powered to a semifinal finish

Driver Information:
Funny Car:

(Excerpt)

TOMMY JOHNSON JR.
Driver of the Make-A-Wish Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat

Qualified: No. 3 (3.896 E.T. at 324.75 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.933 E.T. at 326.56 MPH defeated John Smith 5.306 E.T. at 150.05 MPH
E2: 3.892 E.T. at 327.03 MPH defeated by Jack Beckman 3.898 E.T. at 329.67 MPH

Race Recap:
Tommy Johnson Jr. qualified third to start race day at the NHRA Gatornationals with a round-one matchup against part-time racer John Smith. Johnson navigated his Make-A-Wish Dodge Hellcat cleanly down the track in 3.905 seconds to take the win over Smith’s 4.353 second pass.

Round two featured an intramural battle between the Chandler family’s ‘giving cars’ with Johnson lining up opposite teammate Jack Beckman behind the wheel of the Infinite Hero Hellcat. Johnson and Beckman clocked nearly identical reaction times (0.069 versus Beckman’s 0.063) and maintained pace until just before the finish line when the Infinite Hero Dodge pulled ahead to claim the holeshot victory.

Quotable:
“Wrong side of the closest race of the weekend. I’m happy the car is running so well. It’s frustrating that we keep having gremlins jump up and bite us but I’m proud of the team for how hard they’ve worked. They keep pushing and the car keeps on performing. It’s just a matter of time. You continue to run that good, things will eventually go your way instead of going against you. I’m ready for Vegas. It’s one of my favorite tracks. Everything comes in threes, we’ve gone through our three and we’re moving on.”

NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship Standings:
Top Fuel
1. Doug Kalitta – 246
2. Leah Pritchett – 204
3. Steve Torrence – 197
4. Richie Crampton – 178
4. Billy Torrence – 178
6. Terry McMillen – 166
7. Mike Salinas – 161
8. Clay Millican – 157
9. Antron Brown – 150
10. Austin Prock – 138

Funny Car
1. Robert Hight – 330
2. Jack Beckman – 225
3. Matt Hagan – 215
4. John Force – 200
5. Tommy Johnson Jr. – 191
6. Tim Wilkerson – 165
7. Bob Tasca III – 163
8. J.R. Todd – 159
9. Ron Capps – 146
10. Shawn Langdon – 143


About Don Schumacher Racing:
Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) is the winningest team in NHRA Drag Racing history, having claimed more than 325 NHRA national event titles and 17 world championships since opening its doors in 1998.

Headquartered in Brownsburg, Indiana, DSR fields seven professional teams competing in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing series. In Top Fuel, the Matco Tools dragster driven by three-time world champion Antron Brown, the MOPAR/Pennzoil/Sparkling Ice dragster driven by Leah Pritchett and eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher’s machine. In Funny Car, the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat driven by 2016 world champion Ron Capps, the Mopar Express Lane/Pennzoil/Sandvik Coromant Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat piloted by Matt Hagan, and in Terry and Doug Chandler’s ‘giving cars,’ 2012 NHRA world champion Jack Beckman in the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge, and Tommy Johnson Jr. behind the wheel of the Make-A-Wish Dodge.

DSR also campaigns two Factory Stock Showdown entries. The duo is piloted by Pritchett, the 2018 Factory Stock Showdown Series champion, and former Pro Stock racer Mark Pawuk.

Follow Don Schumacher Racing at Shoeracing.com, on Twitter and Instagram at @shoeracing and Facebook.com/shoeracing.

Link to full DSR article


DSR Gainesville Qualifying Report

Category : DSR news

50th annual NHRA Gatornationals
Event 3 of 24 (Gainesville)
Gainesville Raceway
Gainesville, Fla.
March 15-17, 2019


DSR Gainesville Saturday Highlights:

  • The DSR Top Fuel dragsters will start race day at the 50th running of the NHRA Gatornationals seeded in the top five
  • The four-car DSR Funny Car squad qualified in the top-half of the field with Tommy Johnson Jr. leading the way in third
  • Both Antron Brown and Leah Pritchett made top three runs in Q3 to earn bonus points
  • Johnson powered to the quickest run of Q3 and earned three bonus points
  • Matt Hagan banked a point when he clocked the third quickest pass of the final Funny Car qualifying session

Driver Information:
Funny Car:
(Excerpt)

TOMMY JOHNSON JR.
Driver of the Make-A-Wish Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat

Qualified: No. 3 (lane choice)

The Competition: No. 14 John Smith

The Results:
Q1: 5.002 E.T. at 152.24 MPH
Q2: 3.985 E.T. at 322.58 MPH
Q3: 3.896 E.T. at 324.75 MPH (Three bonus points for quickest run of the session)
Q4: 4.385 E.T. at 182.92 MPH

Bonus Points: Three

Quotable:
On his Q4 explosion:
“That was probably the biggest boomer I’ve ever had. That was a big one. There was no warning whatsoever. The car was running really good and just before the finish line, kaboom! Unexpected for sure. I hate it for the crew guys, all the extra work it’s going to cause. They went through that enough already in Phoenix. I don’t think any of (these explosions) are related, and that’s what’s unfortunate. I don’t think it’s a problem we have, it’s just maybe a run of bad luck. We’ll get it fixed, the car has been running really well. We’ll come out here tomorrow, see if we can’t lay down some good runs and keep the body on it.”


About Don Schumacher Racing:
Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) is the winningest team in NHRA Drag Racing history, having claimed more than 325 NHRA national event titles and 17 world championships since opening its doors in 1998.

Headquartered in Brownsburg, Indiana, DSR fields seven professional teams competing in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing series. In Top Fuel, the Matco Tools dragster driven by three-time world champion Antron Brown, the MOPAR/Pennzoil/Sparkling Ice dragster driven by Leah Pritchett and eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher’s machine. In Funny Car, the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat driven by 2016 world champion Ron Capps, the Mopar Express Lane/Pennzoil/Sandvik Coromant Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat piloted by Matt Hagan, and in Terry and Doug Chandler’s ‘giving cars,’ 2012 NHRA world champion Jack Beckman in the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge, and Tommy Johnson Jr. behind the wheel of the Make-A-Wish Dodge.

DSR also campaigns two Factory Stock Showdown entries. The duo is piloted by Pritchett, the 2018 Factory Stock Showdown Series champion, and former Pro Stock racer Mark Pawuk.

Follow Don Schumacher Racing at Shoeracing.com, on Twitter and Instagram at @shoeracing and Facebook.com/shoeracing.

FULL DSR ARTICLE HERE


DSR Gainesville Pre-Race Report

Category : DSR news

50th annual NHRA Gatornationals
Event 3 of 24 (Gainesville)
Gainesville Raceway
Gainesville, Fla.
March 15-17, 2019


Noteworthy:

  • Jack Beckman returns to Gainesville as the defending Funny Car event champion after racing to victory from the No. 1 spot in 2018
  • Matt Hagan enters the race weekend as the most recent Funny Car victor on tour with his recent Phoenix win
  • The DSR Dodge Challenger Drag Pak duo piloted by Mark Pawuk and Leah Pritchett return for the season-opening SAM Tech Factory Stock Showdown Series event
  • Pritchett, who will pull double-duty by also competing in the Top Fuel category, kicks off her Factory Stock Showdown Series title defense campaign
  • Antron Brown made his NHRA debut at the 1998 event, competing in Pro Stock Motorcycle
  • At age 15, Tommy Johnson Jr. became the youngest driver to enter a national event when he competed in the 1984 Gatornationals in the Super Gas category​DSR-Owned Track Records:
    Top Fuel, E.T.: 3.682 seconds, Tony Schumacher (2017)

DSR Driver Information:
Funny Car:

(EXCERPT)

TOMMY JOHNSON JR.
Driver of the Make-A-Wish Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat

2018 Gainesville Recap:
Qualified fifth; Quarterfinal finish (defeated Cruz Pedregon in E1; defeated by Shawn Langdon in E2)

Last Event (Phoenix):
Qualified fourth; Quarterfinal finish (defeated Jim Campbell in E1; defeated by J.R. Todd in E2)

2019 Season Statistics:
Three round wins; ranked fourth in points

Career Statistics:
448 races; 17 wins (two Top Fuel); 18 No. 1 qualifiers (one Top Fuel)

Noteworthy:
At age 15, became the youngest driver to enter a national event when he competed in the 1984 Gatornationals in the Super Gas category

Quotable:
“Gainesville is always a special race for me because my first ever national event was at Gainesville in 1984 (competing in Super Gas). It’s just a race we look forward to every year because it’s the unofficial ‘East Coast kickoff.’ The Gatornationals is such a great event and this year is the 50th anniversary. I’d love to win it; it’s one of my favorite races on the tour but I’ve never won it and I can’t think of a better time to do it than during the 50th anniversary. Our Make-A-Wish Hellcat has been performing so well lately. We had a couple of issues in Phoenix but we’re going to rebound and come out swinging this weekend. With the way our car has been running, I think this is the best chance we’ve ever had to win it. “


About Don Schumacher Racing
Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) is the winningest team in NHRA Drag Racing history, having claimed more than 325 NHRA national event titles and 17 world championships since opening its doors in 1998.

Headquartered in Brownsburg, Indiana, DSR fields seven professional teams competing in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing series. In Top Fuel, the Matco Tools dragster driven by three-time world champion Antron Brown, the MOPAR/Pennzoil/Sparkling Ice dragster driven by Leah Pritchett and eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher’s machine. In Funny Car, the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat driven by 2016 world champion Ron Capps, the Mopar Express Lane/Pennzoil/Sandvik Coromant Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat piloted by Matt Hagan, and in Terry and Doug Chandler’s ‘giving cars,’ 2012 NHRA world champion Jack Beckman in the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge, and Tommy Johnson Jr. behind the wheel of the Make-A-Wish Dodge.

DSR also campaigns two Factory Stock Showdown entries. The duo is piloted by Pritchett, the 2018 Factory Stock Showdown Series champion, and former Pro Stock racer Mark Pawuk.

Follow Don Schumacher Racing at Shoeracing.com, on Twitter and Instagram at @shoeracing and Facebook.com/shoeracing.

LINK TO FULL DSR ARTICLE


Tommy Johnson Jr.’s Make-A-Wish Funny Car team recovering from wild NHRA Arizona Nationals

Category : NHRA news

A couple of big explosions won’t keep crew chief John Collins and the Make-A-Wish Funny Car team from going for the Wally at the 50th running of the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals.

Tommy Johnson Jr. endured a Magic Dry Organic Absorbent NHRA Arizona Nationals he probably wants to forget. His Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger//SRT Hellcat Funny Car blew up twice during eliminations (although once resulting in a round win) and that means a lot of work for the Brownsburg, Ind.-based crew.

Thankfully, the work comes with a little extra cushion because the 50th running of the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals is scheduled for two weeks after the Arizona Nationals. Granted, there are few events on the schedule more prestigious than the Gators. Johnson is looking for his first-ever win in Gainesville and enters the weekend as the second-ranked Funny Car driver in Power Rankings.

He’s also fourth in the points, just behind teammates Jack Beckman and Matt Hagan. Robert Hight is the early-season leader. Johnson wrapped up 2018 with a great car, but failed to get to the winner’s circle after winning twice in 2017. His last win came at the 2017 Auto Club NHRA Finals in Pomona, the season-ending race.

Indy Bureau Chief John Kernan caught up with crew chief John Collins to discuss what the rebuild process looks like after a very busy weekend in the desert.

06 Mar 2019 Jacob Sundstrom, NHRA National Dragster Associate Editor
LINK TO ORIGINAL NHRA ARTICLE