Chandler's Make-A-Wish team, Johnson eager to return home after another early loss in NHRA Southern Nationals near Atlanta

COMMERCE, Ga. (May 7, 2017) - Tommy Johnson Jr. and Terry Chandler's Make-A-Wish Funny Car team couldn't be happier to see the "southern swing" end Sunday near Atlanta after three races in three weeks.

The Make-A-Wish crew hasn't since the swing started in Houston then stopped at Charlotte before ending with the NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Ga.

The team won the event title at Las Vegas and moved up to second in the standings before the swing began in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series standings. But since then, one gremlin after another has bit the team and contributed to it contributed to the team losing the first round for the third race in three weeks.

"It wasn't the best three-race swing we've had," Johnson said.

The Mello Yello Drag Racing series concluded a three-race swing through the South with stops at Houston and Charlotte before heading to Atlanta.

Johnson and the team, led by crew chief John Collins and assistant Rip Reynolds, entered race day as the No. 3 qualifier with a qualifying time of 3.937 seconds at 319.29 mph in the last session Saturday. They faced their Don Schumacher Racing teammate and Chandler's other Dodge driven by Jack Beckman and the Infinite Hero Foundation team.

Johnson went into tire smoke and coasted to a 4.928 (159.61) as Beckman drove to a 3.958.

"It's showing signs of encouragement," Johnson said of the car's performance.

"It hit the bump out there and the tires came loose. We're confident that we're close to running really well again. It's just a matter of a few more runs and we'll be there."

In two weeks, the NHRA circuit travels to Topeka, Kan., for the NHRA Heartland Nationals.  

"I like racing Topeka. It's always been a good track for me.

"The guys will go back to the shop. It'll give them some time to look at the data we've gathered. So, we'll come out to Topeka with the right calls and hopefully go right down through there. I think the car is right on the verge of performing where it had been and we weren't that bad off to begin with."

Event winner:
No. 1 qualifier: Courtney Force (John Force Racing), 3.893 sec.-track record, 322.65 mph
TOMMY JOHNSON JR., Terry Chandler's Make-A-Wish 2017 Dodge Charger R/T
Crew chief: John Collins; assistant: Rip Reynolds
Qualified: No. 3
First round: Jack Beckman (3.958 sec., 312.93) def. JOHNSON (4.928, 159.61)
FRIDAY: rained out
SATURDAY: 4.731 sec., 169.85, (Session 3); 3.937, 319.29, (Session 4)
Best Time, Speed: 3.825 sec.-second quickest ever, (2016 Pomona 2); 334.15 mph (Seattle 2016)
Last event (April 28-30, Charlotte Four-Wide): Qualified No. 10, runner-up to event winner and DSR teammate Ron Capps
Career at Atlanta: Wins 2 (2011, 2009); Runner-ups 1 (2016); Poles 1 (2016)
2017 NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES STANDINGS                                                       
(Official after Atlanta; 7th of 24 events; wins in parenthesis; DSR drivers in CAPS)
Funny Car                                                                   
  1. RON CAPPS (3)                     633     -----
  2. MATT HAGAN (2)                539         -94
  3. John Force (1)                       490       -143
  4. Robert Hight                          437       -196
  5. TOMMY JOHNSON JR. (1)  427         -206
  6. JACK BECKMAN                    426     -207
  7. Courtney Force                     405        -228
  8. Tim Wilkerson                       329        -304
  9. J.R. Todd                                326      -307
 10. Jonnie Lindberg                   318         -315

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