In this photo provided by NHRA, Pro Stock racer Allen Johnson launches from the starting line during qualifying Saturday at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals drag races at Bristol Dragway. Associated Press photo.
BRISTOL, Tenn. — Greeneville’s Allen Johnson came as close as he’s ever come to winning an NHRA Full Throttle Series race on his home track of Bristol Dragway on Sunday.
But after coming out on the wrong end of one of the closest finishes in NHRA history, Johnson didn’t find much comfort in a runner-up finish to Mike Edwards in the Pro Stock final at the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.
“We’d rather shake the tires, hit the wall, do anything than lose like that,” Johnson said. “We all thought we had it there. We done what we needed to today. He just did a better job in the final.”
In the end, the margin between victory and defeat was a scant thirteen-thousandths of a second, making the race a virtual tie. The difference came at the starting line, where Edwards bested Johnson’s .018 reaction time with a .005 RT of his own.
That was enough to give Edwards his fourth straight Pro Stock victory in Thunder Valley.
“How do you describe something like that? That was just unbelievable,” Edwards said. “Sometimes it’s your day. We’ve struggled all year a little bit. It just seems like we come to this place and get healed up.
“I love this old mountain. I could race them all right here.”
For the third year in a row, Johnson entered final eliminations as the top qualifier only to come up short of a victory. He lost to Erica Enders in the semifinals last year before making it one round closer to his goal this year.
Despite the disappointing loss, Johnson still believes he consistently has the best car in Pro Stock right now. His main regret Sunday was that he couldn’t bring home a trophy for his father and engine builder, Roy.
“That’s Pro Stock racing at its best,” Johnson said. “I really wanted to give that to my dad for Father’s Day. We’ll come back next year and keep clawing.
“We’re going to run into a chainsaw every now and then like we did with Mike in the final. It just wasn’t our day.”
In Top Fuel, Tony Schumacher finally broke a winless streak that stretched back to the end of the 2010 season by beating Doug Kalitta in the finals.
Schumacher beat Kalitta off the line and used a 3.819 ET to get the monkey off his back after 32 races. After dominating the division for the better part of the last decade, Schumacher said his winless streak was simply a sign of how far the division has come in recent years.
“We won 15 races in a year. We’re just not used to that,” Schumacher said of the streak. “For a long time, we had a car that was a tenth of a second quicker than everybody, and it’s not out there anymore. You’ve got to go out and do your job.”
For most of the weekend, Schumacher seemed to be on a collision course with Don Schumacher Racing teammate Antron Brown. Brown won the pole, but Schumacher ran neck and neck with him during qualifying en route to locking up the No. 2 position.
Kalitta was able to knock off Brown in the semifinals, setting up a final between a pair of old rivals. Schumacher handled his business, extending Kalitta’s own winless streak in the process.
“He’s a great driver,” Schumacher said. “It is unbelievable that two really good teams like we have went that long (between wins).”
In Funny Car, Ron Capps made it to his sixth straight final round. Once he got there, he slammed the door on Alexis DeJoria’s fairytale run to score his second win of the season.
DeJoria’s first appearance in a Funny Car final ended when her car lost traction about halfway down the track, allowing Capps to cruise to victory.
Capps has been on a tear since switching crew chiefs after failing to make a race on April 1. New crew chief Rahn Tobler has helped Capps make a serious charge at points leader Robert Hight.
Hight led Capps by 330 points when the switch was made, and the lead was down to 97 points heading into the weekend.
After Hight bowed out in the first round and Capps won, the lead shrank even further.
“It’s just a great weekend all around,” Capps said. “It’s not out of the question for us to catch Robert. That’s our carrot out in front of us.”