Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Steve Johnson of Irondale, Alabama knew there’d be days like this – but that doesn’t make ‘em any easier to take. Johnson lost in the second round of the O’Reilly Auto Parts Nationals at Zmax Dragway in Charlotte in a very uncharacteristic manner – he was late off the starting line and never made up the lost ground. The loss was particularly difficult to swallow because the race was the second of six in NHRA’s Countdown to 1 championship format, and it will be tough to claw back into the fight with just four races remaining.
“I have no excuses,” a chastened Johnson said from the pit area of the track. “We’ve had good Reaction Times all season long, but when I got up there on the starting line and saw yellow I just didn’t let go of the clutch. I can’t explain it, I don’t know why it happened, but it did. The only thing we can do now is move on to Dallas next weekend and try to get back on the right track.”
Johnson’s Reaction Time of 0.239 seconds negated a very competitive elapsed time of 6.990 seconds, which went for naught when opponent Michael Philips crossed the finish line first, in 7.074 seconds.
Johnson remains in seventh place in the NHRA Full Throttle series standings, some 187 points out of first place. “There’s still enough time for us to win this thing,” he added. “But, in order for that to happen everything we do, from prepping our Suzuki for the Dallas race next weekend, to how we work on it at the track, and how we race it, has to be perfect. I have complete confidence in Tim Kulungian, Anthony Lum and Rick Elmore. They do an excellent job with our Suzuki.
“The guy I’m worried about is the rider. I’m going to approach this the way the Alabama and Auburn football teams do. When they have a bad play the forget it and go on to the next one. That’s my plan for the rest of today – forget what happened here. Next weekend, it’s an all new deal!”
Johnson’s team will be competing this Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Texas Motorplex in Ennis, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. Exclusive television coverage of the O’Reilly Auto Parts Super Start Batteries NHRA Nationals will be on ESPN2. Check local listings for exact broadcast times of qualifying on Saturday, and final eliminations on Sunday.