Tommy Johnson Jr., driver of the Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car sponsored by Doug and the late Terry Chandler, enters 2019 teeming with confidence and looking like the squad to beat coming off of a strong showing in 2018.
It was in the second-half of the 2018 season that the Make-A-Wish team, which remains under the leadership of John C ollins with assistance from Rip Reynolds, really caught their stride. Johnson and his team qualified in the top half of the field at all 12 events of the back-half of the schedule, including a hot streak of three consecutive No. 1 qualifiers during the Countdown to the Championship playoff chase. It was the first time in Johnson’s career to secure consecutive poles.
At seven of the final ten events, Johnson powered the Make-A-Wish Dodge to the semifinals or better, including two of his three 2018 final round appearances during that stretch.
Closing out the year with consistency and a proven combination fuels Johnson’s belief that the success the Make-A-Wish team enjoyed at the latter part of the 2018 season will carry into 2019. Couple the setup with the introduction of the new Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat body at the start of the year, and Johnson’s 2018 accomplishments, which include 31 round wins and a third-place finish which awarded him a free Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat to use as his ‘daily driver’ in 2019, are certain to be upstaged.
• Date of birth: April 6, 1968
• Hometown: Ottumwa, Iowa
• Residence: Avon, Ind.
• Height/weight: 5-10, 165
• Hobbies: Computers, electronic tech, golf, bicycle riding, candle making
• On the Internet: Twitter/Instagram: @TommyJohnson_JR, Facebook.com/TommyJohnsonJr TommyJohnsonJr.com
• Category: NHRA Funny Car
• Sponsor/car: Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat sponsored by Doug and the late Terry Chandler
• Crew chief: John Collins; assistant Rip Reynolds
• Career best points finish: 2nd (2016)
• Career event titles: 18 (Funny Car: 16; Top Fuel: 2)
• Career final rounds: 51 (Funny Car: 46; Top Fuel: 5)
• Career No. 1 qualifying positions: 18 (Funny Car: 17; Top Fuel: 1)
• Career best elapsed time: 3.834-seconds (Phoenix, 2018)
• Career best speed: 332.02-mph (Sonoma, 2017)
• One of 16 drivers who have won NHRA events in Funny Car (15) and Top Fuel (2)
• Driven for three motorsports hall-of-fame team owners (Don Schumacher, Don Prudhomme, Kenny Bernstein, and NFL Hall-of-Fame member Joe Gibbs)
• Has won drag racing events in six countries: United States, England, Finland, Sweden, Australia and United Arab Emirates
• At the age of 15 became the youngest person to hold an NHRA competition license
• Has competed in seven NHRA categories: Top Fuel, Funny Car, Nostalgia Funny Car, Top Alcohol Funny Car, Top Alcohol Dragster, Super Gas and Super Comp
• First NHRA national event trophy was for winning Top Alcohol Funny Car in 1988 near Columbus, Ohio
• Became a member of the Slick 50 300-mph Club as one of the first 16 nitro drivers to reach 300 mph (302.01, 1994)
• Became a member of the Cragar 4-second Club as one of the first 16 nitro drivers to complete a quarter-mile run in less than 5 seconds (4.964, 1990)
The native of Ottumwa, Iowa, and longtime resident of Avon, Ind., also recorded a career-best time (3.837-seconds) and speed (332.02-mph).
When the late Terry Chandler opted to fund the fourth DSR Dodge Charger team for the 2014 season and devote marketing exposure to Make-A-Wish, Johnson, a native of Ottumwa, Iowa, and longtime resident of Avon, Ind., 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.
Johnson 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 – United States, Canada, England, Finland, Sweden, Australia and United Arab Emirates – he is one of only 16 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 track 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 Sportsman 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. He joined Bernstein’s Monster Funny Car team in 2008.