Steve Johnson sacrificed everything for 18 years to achieve a dream
2004 was the year of broken curses for the Boston Red Sox and Steve Johnson. The Sox won its first World Series title in 86 years and Johnson took his first trip to the NHRA winner’s circle since first going pro back in 1987.
Johnson best summed up the price of the win on a t-shirt – 18 years of trying, 0 broken Snap-On Tools, 191 rounds of racing, 26 red lights, six million dollars, 32 destroyed engines, 1,996,845 Delta Sky Miles, 2 broken feet, 3 bad checks, 41 sponsors, a thrashed hotel room, 2 divorces, a dead dog, and lots of McDonalds.
Boston fans believe its curse started when the Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees. Johnson’s curse may have started back in his rookie year of 1987 when he threw away a sure win against the legendary Terry Vance.
“I had a .420 to his .715,” exclaimed Johnson. “I had such a lead I didn’t even hear his bike leave. I was so shocked I decided to shift into third, forth, and fifth, all at the same time. He passed me and I slowed down three tenths.”
After 18 tumultuous, steadfast years Johnson at last tasted an event victory, using a .025 holeshot and a 7.22 to defeat Craig Treble’s 7.12 to win the NHRA Sears/Craftsman Nationals in St. Louis, MO.
“I saw my win light come on in the final and it just hit me. 18 years and we finally did it. When I hit the first turnoff I was getting really emotional. I was shaking my head, I wanted to get off my bike, I wanted to do a burnout, I wanted to do doughnuts. I whipped around the corner screaming and hollering and grabbed the trophy.”
Johnson had no idea of the terrible buzz kill that lie ahead. Johnson was yet to be informed his friend and Top Fuel racer Darrell Russell had been killed in an on-track accident just hours before.
“I was ready to give my interview and Bill Stephens looked at me and said make sure you keep it down because of what happened to Darrell. My brain froze,” Johnson said. “It went from the most awesome high to the terrible feeling of losing a friend.”
All of the usual post race festivities were cancelled.
“To wait 18 year’s and not get a winner’s circle was a bummer but in the big scheme of things I am lucky that God gave me another day to try to come back and win another one,” Johnson said.
After snapping his winless streak, Johnson went onto win four more races in the next five seasons. He’s pleased with the success but still Johnson realizes the price of his first win was quite costly.
“I sacrificed kids and a marriage. Those are my two deepest regrets,” Johnson said. “Times got pretty tough, but I stayed positive. When Larry Dixon and I shared a room together I would stare at his 7 Wallys everyday and it was instant motivation.”