LAS VEGAS (April 2, 2017) - It's be 16 years since Tommy Johnson Jr. hoisted an NHRA Wally trophy at the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway but he did it again on Sunday.
But when they arrived for Saturday qualifying, the Make-A-Wish Dodge Charge R/T Funny Car, sponsored by Terry Chandler, was just hoping to qualify.
After an uncharacteristic day Friday, Johnson came into Saturday as the No. 19 ranked Funny Car driver. His lap of 3.887 seconds at 328.46 mph on Saturday safely got him into Sunday's show as the No. 6 qualifier.
"It started off Friday, just you know a very tricky racetrack and very few cars got down it. You kind of went into Saturday going, 'boy I hope we can figure this thing out,'" Johnson said.
"The weather changed a little bit. We're not used to running those conditions, but when the weather changed to a little warmer racetrack, sun on it, it kind of came to everybody and we just made the appropriate changes like we normally would to the car and went right down the racetrack."
Johnson faced Jim Campbell in the first round for Sunday's eliminations. He clocked a pass of 3.943 (320.97) to give him the win. He moved into the second round where he faced Robert Hight of John Force Racing. Hight double-stepped resulting in a red light and Johnson got the win. He clicked his hot rod off before the finish line and coasted to a 4.068 (268.71).
He then traveled to the semifinals where he faced 16-time champion John Force. It was a rematch of two weeks ago of the Gatornationals when Force got the round win, and later the event win. This week, both drivers had reaction times of .071 seconds but Johnson's Mopar pulled away for a pass of 3.997 (319.45).
Finally, in the final round of race day, Johnson lined up against nitro newcomer, Jonnie Lindberg of Head Racing.
Johnson got off the starting line first and ran a 3.933 (323.66) over Lindberg's 4.016 for the final win light of the day.
"Today was a pretty trying day too because it was pretty hot," Johnson said "It's probably the hottest track we've seen this season yet and we're at a little bit of altitude so it changes the tune-up and it kind of changes the clutch curve so the guys really have to work at it and the guys did a great job.
"When we come out first round and were low E.T. by three-hundredths I thought, 'oh it's gonna be a good day.' Then dropped the hole second round, ran decent semis and then they figured it out and made some changes again for the final."
"I love racing here in Vegas. It's a great facility, you can't deny, it's such a great facility and great people that come watch this race."
Aside from winning their first win of the 2017 Mello Yello Drag Racing series season, the Make-A-Wish team earned win No. 299 for the Don Schumacher Racing organization. Johnson later congratulated his DSR teammate and reigning Top Fuel world champion, Antron Brown, who won win No. 300.
"It was definitely pretty cool to win this one for Don and everyone at DSR. It's pretty interesting that this team was part of the 200th win for DSR (with driver Johnny Gray). It was just another milestone for DSR and we'll just keep going this year."
TOMMY JOHNSON JR., Make-A-Wish 2017 Dodge Charger R/T
Crew chief: John Collins; assistant: Rip Reynolds
Qualified: No. 6
First round: JOHNSON (3.943 sec., 320.97) def. Jim Campbell (4.71, 181.
Second round: JOHNSON (4.068, 268.71) def. Robert Hight (redlight)
Semifinals: JOHNSON (3.997, 319.45) def. John Force (4.128, 282.13)
Final: JOHNSON (3.933, 323.66) def. Jonnie Lindberg (4.016, 320.14)
FRIDAY: 8.874 sec., 77.44 mph, (Session 1); 8.939, 76.60, (Session 2)
SATURDAY: 3.972, 321.27, (Session 3); 3.887, 328.46, (Session 4)
2016 Las Vegas 1: Qualified No.11, lost in first round to Alexis event winner DeJoria
2016 Las Vegas 2: Qualified No.10, lost in first round to Del Worsham
Career at Las Vegas 1: Wins 2 (2001, 2017); Runner-ups 1 (2002); Poles 0
2017 NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES STANDINGS
(Official after Las Vegas 1; 4 of 24 events; wins in parenthesis; DSR drivers in CAPS)
1. MATT HAGAN (2) 368 -----
2. TOMMY JOHNSON JR. (1) 324 -44
3 John Force (1) 314 -54
4. RON CAPPS 275 -93
5. Courtney Force 218 -150
6. JACK BECKMAN 205 -163
7. Robert Hight 201 -167
8. Jonnie Lindberg 183 -185
9. Jim Campbell 180 -188
10. J.R. Todd 170 -198
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