Tommy Johnson Jr., 49, has been the most successful Funny Car driver over the past three seasons with Terry Chandler’s Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car at Don Schumacher Racing by finishing third in points twice and second in 2016 with crew chief John Collins and assistant Rip Reynolds.
The native of Ottumwa, Iowa, who lives outside Indianapolis in Avon, has competed in more than 400 NHRA pro events, which includes stints driving for four hall-of-famers (Don Schumacher, Kenny Bernstein, Don Prudhomme and the NFL’s Joe Gibbs).
In addition to winning event titles in seven countries, he is one of 15 drivers to win NHRA events in Top Fuel and Funny Car and one of only 18 to qualify No. 1 in both nitro categories.
Tommy Johnson Jr. and the Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car sponsored by Terry Chandler nearly had a perfect finish to the 2016 season and believes it can be even better.
Johnson and the team led by crew chief John Collins and Rip Reynolds remained in the championship hunt until the final weekend of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season and closed the year with its third trip to the winner’s circle.
The strong finish by Johnson, whose team won two of six event titles in the Countdown to the Championship playoff, ended with his best finish in his career and showed that the Make-A-Wish team will start the new season as a contender.
It might be the favorite considering it has been the most successful Funny Car, cumulatively, over the past three seasons with nine event wins and a pair of third-place finishes to go with the 2016 runner-up.
The native of Ottumwa, Iowa, and longtime resident of Avon, Ind., also recorded career-best time (3.847 seconds) and speed (328.46 mph).
When Terry Chandler opted to fund the fourth DSR Dodge Charger R/T team for the 2014 season and devote marketing exposure to Make-A-Wish, Johnson was hired to drive and longtime DSR assistant crew chief John Collins was promoted to run the team.
Chandler was presented with the NHRA Blaine Johnson Award in November 2015 during the annual NHRA Awards Ceremony. The award named for late NHRA racer Blaine Johnson is presented to a person who exemplifies perseverance, commitment and dedication to NHRA.
He has competed in 370 NHRA pro events, which includes stints driving for four hall-of-famers (Don Schumacher, Kenny Bernstein, Don Prudhomme and the NFL’s Joe Gibbs).
In addition to winning event titles in seven countries – United States, Canada, England, Finland, Sweden, Australia and United Arab Emirates – he is one of only 15 drivers to win NHRA events in Top Fuel and Funny Car and one of only 18 to qualify No. 1 in both nitro categories.
Johnson’s first stint with DSR was in 2009 as the lead driver for the Yas Marina Circuit Top Fuel dragster team that was managed by DSR and later remained as DSR traction specialist through 2012.
His racing career started at age 8 competing on motorcycles at his local Iowa track and raced on two wheels until 14 when he then strapped into his first racecar. At 15, he became the youngest to earn an NHRA competition license. His driving career began in the sportsmen ranks as he piloted vehicles in the Super Gas, Super Comp and Top Alcohol Funny Car categories. He broke through for his first NHRA victory at the 1988 NHRA event near Columbus, Ohio, beating Pat Austin in the final round of Top Alcohol Funny Car to collect his first career "Wally" trophy.
He earned his NHRA Top Fuel license in 1989. The next season, he powered his dragster to a run of 4.964 seconds becoming the 14th member of the exclusive Cragar 4-Second Club.
A year later, Johnson advanced to his first professional final round where he posted a runner-up finish to five-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Joe Amato at the Mopar Mile-High Nationals near Denver.
The following season, he became the 15th member of the Slick 50 300-mph Club after clocking a speed of 302.01 mph at Houston Raceway Park.
Johnson’s career was stuck in neutral for a few years before Gibbs, the NFL hall-of-fame and Super Bowl winning coach, hired him to drive a Funny Car in 1999 when he claimed two victories in four final round appearances and finished 10th in the Funny Car standings in just 13 events.
Johnson was hired by Prudhomme to drive a second Skoal Racing Funny Car in 2001 where he remained through the 2007 season. He finished sixth in the 2005 standings with crew chief Mike Green, DSR’s two-time world champion with Top Fuel driver Tony Schumacher. He joined Bernstein’s Monster Funny Car team in 2008.
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