Allen Johnson's streak on Thunder Mountain is at four and counting. That's four consecutive final rounds, for those who are keeping score.
Bandimere Speedway has long been a perplexing puzzle for NHRA's greatest Pro Stock teams. The high altitude and warm summertime conditions typically combine to make even the sharpest crew chiefs do plenty of second guessing when it comes to tuning the naturally aspirated engines that power the fan-favorite factory hot rods. But Johnson, who drives the event sponsor's flagship Team Mopar/J&J Racing Dodge Avenger, has his machine dialed in for the one race each season where Pro Stock teams need to break out an entirely different book of tuning notes. He's won three of the last four final rounds at the dragstrip located west of downtown Denver, including the last two. The Tennessee native will try to make it three wins in a row at the 32nd annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, July 22-24.
Johnson says his edge at the kick-off for the NHRA's grueling Western swing all comes down to docking plenty of track time.
“For years we have tested and tested there with our Mopar Dodge, and we seem to have developed a combination that is superior,” Johnson said. “I feel like all that testing has led to our success at Mopar's big race. And also, when you've done well at a track, you go back there with confidence, and we've definitely excelled at Thunder Mountain.”
Johnson comes into this year's event riding high from a victory at Englishtown, N.J., and a No. 1 qualifying performance at his home track in Bristol, Tenn., along with a semifinal appearance. He's ready to get back on the winning track after early round exits at the last two races in Norwalk and Chicago. He says heading to Bandimere Speedway is a great way for his team to get back in the winning groove.
“I feel good about the Mopar/J&J Racing team's chances of winning again at Bandimere Speedway,” Johnson said. “We have a really good racecar, and our Mopar HEMI engines are performing at a high level. I really believe our success should continue.”
He's currently sitting in eighth place in the Pro Stock point standings and knows that he'll need a strong performance if he's going to stabilize his top 10 points position and qualify for the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship playoffs. The competition has been strong this year with series leader Jason Line scoring three victories and defending world champ Greg Anderson, '09 champ Mike Edwards and rookie Vincent Nobile taking two wins apiece.
“I feel good about the Countdown as it draws near,” Johnson said. “I think we had a little more momentum prior to the last two races, but we've still got some of our mojo left after our New Jersey win, and we're heading to our favorite track on the circuit. We've got five races before the Countdown, and we're going to go all-in starting at the Mopar Mile-High Nationals.”
In Top Fuel, longtime Funny Car ace Del Worsham switched categories this season and is leading the point standings behind the wheel of the Al-Anabi Racing dragster. He's raced to five victories and seems poised to maintain his top spot for the Countdown playoffs. His teammate, defending world champ Larry Dixon, is holding firm in third place with one victory, while Spencer Massey has scored two victories in his FRAM/Prestone dragster and sits second in the standings. Although he hasn't won a race this season, seven-time world champ Tony Schumacher is a two-time winner at Bandimere and is hungry to win some races in his U.S. Army dragster before the regular season ends.
Mike Neff has been pulling double-duty as both driver and crew chief for his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang in Funny Car and the combination has been working as he has raced to four victories in seven final rounds and holds a commanding series lead over his rivals. Neff's top challengers this season are Jack Beckman, defending event winner Hight, Cruz Pedregon, Matt Hagan, Jeff Arend and Ron Capps. Defending class champ John Force, who has yet to win a race this season and sits eighth in points, is a five-time winner at Denver and can never be counted out.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, past champ Eddie Krawiec holds the series lead on his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson with two victories this season. Defending world champ LE Tonglet has posted two victories on his Nitro Fish Suzuki and 2008 world champ Matt Smith has emerged as a serious contender for the title this season on his Buell. Others to watch in the two-wheel category include the Lucas Oil Buell duo of Hector Arana Sr. and Hector Arana Jr., Jim Underdahl, Michael Phillips, Steve Johnson, Jerry Savoie and defending event winner Hines.
• Full Throttle Drag Racing Series qualifying sessions at Bandimere are scheduled for 4:45 and 7:15 p.m. on Friday, July 22 and at 1:45 and 4:15 p.m. on Saturday, July 23. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 24.