MADISON, Ill. (Oct. 1, 2017) – After a first-round loss at Gateway Motorsports Park, Tommy Johnson Jr. sees his chances of winning a Funny Car world championship slipping away.
“Realistically this probably killed our chances for a championship, but we can still finish higher in the standings,” said Johnson, who finished second in the NHRA Mello Yello Series standings last year and third the two previous years in Terry and Doug Chandler’s Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car.
“We’ve been fighting issues with our car and it’s the wrong time of the year to have that.”
Johnson ranks seventh in points at the midway point of the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoff and trails Don Schumacher Racing teammate and points leader Ron Capps by 204 points.
Johnson entered race day qualified ninth with a time of 3.897 seconds at 325.30 mph. His first round opponent was DSR teammate Matt Hagan.
Johnson ran a 3.940-second pass (324.90) but Hagan ran a 3.838 (334.73) to go low of the first round.
“The team will just continue to work through it, do the best we can, finish as high as we can and more than anything try to prepare ourselves for next year.
“It’s unfortunate you’re out of it so soon, but not every year is going to be a successful year. So we’ll learn from it, make ourselves better and come back stronger.”
After the early loss on Sunday, Johnson now sits seventh in the points as the NHRA has a weekend off before travel to Dallas for the fourth event of the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
Event winner: Ron Capps (Don Schumacher Racing)
No. 1 qualifier: Robert Hight (John Force Racing) 3.830 sec.-track record, 333.91 mph
TOMMY JOHNSON JR., Terry and Doug Chandler’s Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T
Crew chief: John Collins; Assistant: Rip Reynolds
First round: Matt Hagan (3.838, 334.73 mph) def. JOHNSON (3.940, 324.90)
Qualified: No. 9
FRIDAY: 4.314 sec., 213.50 mph, (Session 1); 3.897, 325.30, (Session 2)
SATURDAY: 4.130, 234.74, (Session 3); 4.007, 308.21, (Session 4)
Pts Events Wins Rup Semi Qtr 1st rd Poles DNQ W/L
2017 7th 21 1 4 5 5 6 1 0 31-20
CAREER 419 16* 28 58 102 170 15 44 367-359
* 14 FC/2 TF
Career best time, speed: 3.837 sec. (Phoenix 2017); 332.02 mph (Sonoma 2017)
BY THE NUMBERS
Last event: Sept. 22-24, Reading, Pa.:
A year ago at Gateway: Qualified No. 8, lost in championship round to Jack Beckman
Career at Gateway: Wins 0, Runner-ups 2 (2001, 2016), Poles 1 (1999)
COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
(Official standings through St. Louis; 21 of 24 events; DSR drivers in CAPS)
1. RON CAPPS (8) 2395 —–
2. Robert Hight (3) 2349 -46
3. Courtney Force 2287 -108
4. MATT HAGAN (3) 2238 -157
5. JACK BECKMAN (2) 2228 -167
6. John Force (1) 2197 -198
7. TOMMY JOHNSON JR. (1) 2191 -204
8. J.R. Todd (2) 2168 -227
9. Tim Wilkerson 2130 -265
10 Cruz Pedregon 2096 -299
About Don Schumacher Racing
Don Schumacher Racing, headquartered in Brownsburg, Ind., fields seven professional NHRA teams. In Top Fuel, the U.S. Army dragster driven by eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher, the Matco Tools dragster driven by three-time world champion Antron Brown and the Papa John’s Pizza/Mopar Top Fuel dragster driven by Leah Pritchett; and in Funny Car, 2016 world champion Ron Capps in the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T; 2011 and 2014 world champion Matt Hagan in the 80th anniversary Mopar/ Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T, and 2012 NHRA world champion Jack Beckman in the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge and the Make-A-Wish Dodge driven by Tommy Johnson Jr., both of which are funded by the late Terry Chandler.
DSR has won 316 NHRA national event titles and 16 world championships.
Follow Don Schumacher Racing at ShoeRacing.com, on Twitter at @shoeracing and Facebook.com/shoeracing.