BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Sept. 4, 2017) - It seems to take longer to recover from losing to a teammate and the weekend at the NHRA U.S. Nationals was even tougher for Don Schumacher Racing's Tommy Johnson Jr. to get past.
The driver of Terry and Doug Chandler's Riley Hospital for Children Dodge Charger R/T lost to teammate Jack Beckman, whose Funny Car also is funded by the Chandlers, on Sunday in the first round of the Traxxas Nitro Shootout all-star race and he endured the same fate when they met to open eliminations Monday during the 63
rd U.S. Nationals eliminations.
While Johnson was doubly disappointment, the veteran driver who has won one Mello Yello Series title this season, knows the main goal of the year still lies ahead.
"Hopefully, it builds a fire under us and we come out swinging at Charlotte," he said of the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoff that begins in two weeks near where most of his family resides.
Johnson, who finished second in the championship standings a year ago and third the two before that, earned the No. 5 seed with crew chief John Collins and assistant Rip Reynolds for the Countdown. Entering the U.S. Nationals, Johnson trailed points leader and teammate Ron Capps by 203 points but will be 50 points out of first for the Countdown when points are reset.
The Make-A-Wish team was one of the best leading up to Indy after advancing to four of the five previous final rounds.
"Indy was really frustrating, very disappointing," he said of qualifying 12th and the first-round losses. "We came in here on a real hot streak and tested well. We felt confident in our chances for this weekend.
"We had problems in the first three runs of the qualifying that set us back and put is in a hole. We did our best to climb out of it, but it was just too big of a task to try to get back on base to run well.
"It's just very frustrating. I really expected to do well here. We're very disappointed.
"It's not how you want to go into the Countdown. We're going to start fifth, which is better than last year (seventh), but this is not what we expected. We're going to stay and test (on Monday), and get ourselves back to where we need to be to go to Charlotte.
"But this is the biggest drag race of the year, and one of our biggest disappointments of the year."
TOMMY JOHNSON JR., Terry and Doug Chandler's Riley Kids Dodge Charger R/T
Crew chief: John Collins; assistant crew chief: Rip Reynolds
MONDAY CHAMPIONSHIP ELIMINATIONS
First round: Jack Beckman (3.890 sec., 327.03 mph) def. JOHNSON (3.925, 329.34)
Qualified: No. 12
FRIDAY: 9.922 sec., 76.00 mph, (Session 1 of 5)
SATURDAY: 10.777, 79.36, (Session 2 of 5);11.027, 84.08, (Session 3 of 5)
SUNDAY: 4.000, 324.98, (Session 4 of 5); 3.988, 324.20, (Session 5 of 5)
Pts Events Wins Rup Semi Qtr 1st rd Poles DNQ W/L
2017 5th 178 1 4 5 3 5 1 0 29-17
CAREER 416 16* 28 58 101 169 15 44 365-355
* 14 FC/2 TF
Career best time, speed: 3.837 sec. (Phoenix 2017); 332.02 mph (Sonoma 2017)
INDY BY THE NUMBERS
A year ago at Indy: Qualified No. 5, lost in semifinals to Matt Hagan
Career at Indy: Wins 0; Runner-ups 1 (2002); Poles 2 (2000, 1999)
FUNNY CAR STANDINGS
2017 COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP
1. RON CAPPS (6) 2,100 -----
2. Robert Hight (2) 2,080 -20
3. MATT HAGAN (3) 2,070 -30
4. JACK BECKMAN (2) 2,060 -40
5. TOMMY JOHNSON JR. 2,050 -50
6. Courtney Force 2,040 -60
7. John Force (1) 2,030 -70
8. J.R. Todd (2) 2,000 -80
9. Tim Wilkerson 2,010 -90
10. Cruz Pedregon 2,000 -100
FINAL 2017 NHRA MELLO YELLO REGULAR SEASON
1. RON CAPPS (6) 1,530
2. Robert Hight (2) 1,344
3. MATT HAGAN (3) 1,280
4. JACK BECKMAN (2) 1,275
5. TOMMY JOHNSON JR. (1) 1,229
6. Courtney Force 1,072
7. John Force (1) 1,007
8. J.R. Todd (2) 959
9. Tim Wilkerson 902
10. Cruz Pedregon 730