Pro Stock rivalry heats up in Topeka

Team Mopar / J&J Racing's Allen Johnson is doing everything in his power not to let Greg Anderson and KB / Summit Pontiac teammate Jason Line run away with all the NHRA Pro Stock spoils this season. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA)


Who doesn't love a juicy fight?

NHRA Pro Stock driver Allen Johnson doesn't mind one, especially when he has the ammo to win.

The Greeneville, Tenn., veteran fired all he had at points leader and final-round opponent Greg Anderson this weekend at the Dollar General Summernationals at Heartland Park Topeka.

With a 6.587-second pass at 210.54 mph, Johnson served notice Sunday that his Team Mopar / J&J Racing Dodge Avenger means serious business in its effort to dethrone the KB / Summit Pontiac team of Anderson and Jason Line.

Anderson offered a nearly perfect .004-second reaction time (perfect is .000) and a 6.696-second elapsed time at 210.21 mph in his defense in the final round. But Johnson, the No. 1 qualifier, was determined to seize that second victory of the season and second in three final-round appearances in the Kansas capital.

"I'm so darn tired of those Summit cars winning that I could just, you know . . . Grrrrrrr," Johnson said after notching his 11th career triumph. "We've been after them the last two or three races. We finally got this win and gave 'em a run for their money.

"We've had a big rivalry over the years," he said, "He's got the upper hand at this point, but we may just have something for him with these Hemis. This Pro Stock battle for the rest of the year will be a knock-down drag out."

Johnson had lost to Greg Anderson four times in the first seven races this season. And he entered the Dollar General Summernationals at Heartland Park Topeka in third place in the standings, behind Anderson and Line.

So now that Johnson has momentum heading into the Englishtown, N.J., race, he landed a stinging jab at the KB / Summit team. "The Mopars and the off-brand cars have a little rivalry going," he said. "It's a rivalry that I'm sure their sponsors are noticing also."

He knows his backers are noticing.

"My boss at Mopar, [Mopar CEO] Pietro Gorlier, has told me that he's tired of seeing those Pontiacs out front," Johnson said. "That's our deal -- to keep this momentum going, keep our consistency going, to put this Mopar Dodge Avenger out in front of them two cars."

He said, without the slightest hint of a joke, "We're going after them with a vengeance."

Johnson got his chance Sunday, advancing to his second final round with a Las Vegas victory already in his pocket. And he took advantage of the chance.

One of the newest weapons in Johnson's arsenal is two-time series champion Jim Yates, whom he hired to take some of the load off longtime crew chief Mark Ingersoll.

"Mark has been fighting the Pro Stock battle. He's been with me for 10 or 11 years. But take those Summit cars. They've got three crew chiefs over there. Everybody in the Pro Stock pits will tell you Mark's the best crew chief in Pro Stock. But come Sunday he's been fighting unfair odds," Johnson said.

"I had to get him an engineering-type person to help him think and keep all the data straight. Jim has done that for Mark, and Mark relies on him to feed him data to make decisions with and help keep him calm," he said. "That's the reason I got him, and it's paying dividends.

"Today our mission was to be consistent and maintain lane choice," Johnson said Sunday. "We did that until the final round, and it just so happened that in the final the right lane turned out to be better than the left, and Greg shook the tires a little bit. So it worked right into the palm of our hands."

Johnson said after qualifying No. 1, tying the late Lee Shepherd in top starts for the class,

"We are friends, but this is turning into [a rivalry] and it's getting a little heated. They make a few comments about us, and we make a few about them. It's going to be a knockdown drag-out for the rest of the season."

And you can count on that, as Allen Johnson would say, "ever dad-jim time."

 

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