Make-A-Wish Dodge team kicks off 2017 season at Pomona, Johnson eager to improve on last year's runner-up finish

BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Feb. 7, 2017) - After a short three-month break from racing, Tommy Johnson is ready to get back into his Make-A-Wish Dodge 2017 Charger R/T Funny Car, funded by Terry Chandler, and head to Pomona, Calif., for the 56th annual NHRA Winternationals.

"We feel pretty confident going into Pomona coming off of the win at the Finals," Johnson said of his win in November at the NHRA Finals when he defeated John Force in the final round of eliminations and finished second in championship points.

"Not a lot has changed on our team. We're bringing back the same combination we ran at the Finals so we should roll out of the trailer and be competitive right from the get-go."

Johnson and crew chief John Collins with assistant Rip Reynolds have finished in the top-three in the NHRA championship standings each of the past three years. With 2017 just right around the corner, the team looks for its first championship title.

"You hope every year is the year," said Johnson, who won three titles in six final rounds last season. "You just do your best and hope it works out. Certainly, we have a good shot at it.

"The guys did such a good job last season. To finish third for two years and then second last year, really shows the direction John and the guys are going.

"The team has been very consistent and has been on the verge of pulling it off. I think if a few things go your way at the right times, and if we keep doing what we've been doing, I think we can do it."

Many of the NHRA nitro teams made a stop last week on their way to Pomona at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park for pre-season testing.

"We had some good and some bad at testing," Johnson said. "Overall, it was a good test session. We learned a lot. We weren't trying to run the quickest numbers, we were just trying to get down the track and test parts. I think we did that very well.

"The only setback was the wheelstand (on Friday) and damaging the chassis, but it didn't faze the guys. We got back to work and it's like they never missed a beat."

On Friday, Johnson's Make-A-Wish car went into a wheelstand which resulted in the chassis needing to be repaired. The team was able to use their back up car for the remainder of testing while the chassis was sent back to DSR near Indianapolis for repair.

The team will continue to be sponsored by Chandler, who funds both Johnson's team and his teammate, Jack Beckman and the Infinite Hero Dodge Funny Car.

Chandler, a New Mexico philanthropist and drag racing enthusiast, has funded the Make-A-Wish and Infinite Hero Funny Cars at DSR for the past three seasons. During that time, the teams have combined to win a remarkable 15 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events and 16 No. 1 qualifying spots.

TOMMY JOHNSON JR., Make-A-Wish 2017 Dodge Charger R/T - won 2016 Pomona Finals
Pts Events Wins Rup Semi Qtr 1st rd Poles DNQ W/L

2016 2nd 24 3 3 4 9 5 1 0 38-21
CAREER 398 15 24 52 98 163 14 44 336-339

Best Time, Speed: 3.847 sec. (2016, Dallas); 328.46 mph (Seattle, 2016)
Last event (Nov. 11-13, 2016, at Pomona): Qualified No. 3, won in championship round over John Force
2016 Pomona 1: Qualified No. 14, lost in first round to Robert Hight
Career at Pomona 1: Wins 1 (2005); Runner-ups 0; Poles 1 (2001)
Career at Pomona: Wins 2; Runner-ups 2; Poles 1

NHRA Winternationals Event Schedule (All times PT)
Friday: 1, 4 p.m., nitro qualifying
Saturday: 1, 4 p.m., nitro qualifying
Sunday: 11 a.m., championship eliminations

Friday: 7-8 p.m. ET, qualifying
Saturday: 1-2 p.m. ET, live qualifying on FS1
Sunday: 4-7 p.m. ET, live eliminations on FOX

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