LAS VEGAS – Only two events remain in Allen Johnson’s standout career and the Pro Stock veteran is determined to go out with a bang. While that may not mean a second career world championship, a late-season victory would certainly provide a worthy consolation prize.
Johnson, who announced his retirement before the start of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship, gets that chance at this weekend’s NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Johnson is a three-time winner in Vegas and a fourth victory at the facility would make for a near-perfect send-off to finish a marvelous career.
“We won the last race with carburetors (in 2014) and I would love to go out and kick some butt these last two races and give my dad one last victory,” said Johnson, who has 27 career wins. “In Reading we were right there, running with the front cars and we lost that the last couple races in St. Louis and Dallas. We think we know why and hopefully we can jump right back up there.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car), Shane Gray (Pro Stock) and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1 (FS1), including live final eliminations coverage starting at 4:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Oct. 29. It is the 23rd of 24 races during the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, and seeing the finish line in sight has allowed Johnson a chance to reflect on his years of Pro Stock success.
He has been equally blown away by the outpouring of kind words and support from fans since announcing his retirement, allowing him to look back on the incredible journey he has been on with his family and most notably his father, Roy Johnson, with a smile. The 22-year ride has included many thrilling moments, including winning a Pro Stock world championship in 2012, and visiting with fans during the Countdown to the Championship has allowed Johnson to relive many of them.
“It’s been very humbling actually,” Johnson said. “My family has been very blessed with the way people, fans, competitors and even sponsors received the news. It makes me proud that we’ve been able to have such a great career with all these fans, especially the Mopar fans. It’s going to be a life-changing experience. We’ve done this for so long as a family.”
Johnson’s wife, Pam, and mother, Revonda, have been there every step of the journey as well, and it’s one Johnson hopes has one last shining moment. His Marathon Petroleum/J&J Racing Dodge Dart has shown potential late in the season, qualifying third in Brainerd and then fourth in Reading during the Countdown to the Championship, where he advanced to the semifinals. But getting one last final round appearance or victory would be the ultimate capper to Johnson’s career. Getting it against the likes of points leader Greg Anderson, who leads Bo Butner by 15 points and reigning champ Jason Line by 30, won’t be easy, but if success is going to come Johnson’s way over the final two events, he’s excited to once again experience it with his family.
“I love Vegas, and it’s always been real fun and special,” Johnson said. “The thing that’s been the most satisfying to me is all 22 years we’ve done it as a family. It’s kept my dad young and that’s the most important thing to me. I’m proud of that and what we’ve been able to accomplish together. That’s the way I’ve tried to think about it and we’re determined to finish up on a good note.”
Defending Top Fuel event winner Torrence has his sights on his first world championship. The eight-time 2017 winner leads Brittany Force and Doug Kalitta by 57 and 76 points, respectively.
In Funny Car, Ron Capps is trying to track down his second straight world title, but holds a slim 24-points lead against Robert Hight, who won the most recent event.
Pro Stock Motorcycle points behind leader Eddie Krawiec will try to inch closer to a fourth world title in Vegas, and currently leads LE Tonglet by 107 points.
The NHRA Toyota Nationals will also feature thrilling competition in the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series as well as the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. After Nitro qualifying, watch the spectacular Muy Caliente Racing jet dragsters sponsored by Lucas Oil, along with the eye lighting Black Pearl Jet Funny Car from Douthit Motorsports. Known for their exciting pre-run flame shows and after burner pops, jet cars are thrust driven vehicles propelled by jet engines.
As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers. Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 1:45 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 27, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Oct. 28, at 1:15 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 29.