In the early stages of the 2004 NHRA season, five-time NHRA winner Tommy Johnson Jr. and his blue Skoal RacingSM Chevy Funny Car were plagued by consistency problems, culminating with Johnson?s 25th career DNQ at the Las Vegas event. After the Las Vegas race, the blue Skoal Racing crew stayed in the Nevada desert to test. What they discovered was a problem in the clutch, and since mid-April Johnson?s flopper has been one of the most consistent cars in the ultra-competitive Funny Car category. ?After Vegas we made some changes to the car, and with the timing changes that Garry ?Skippy? Kennedy brought into the mix, I think it?s a culmination of all of those things that has made the car more consistent,? said Mike Green, Johnson?s co-crew chief. ?With the consistency, you can tune the car to make it go quicker and faster. It?s a great benefit to have the car go down the track most every run.? With his Chevy making full quarter-mile passes just about every time it leaves the starting line, Johnson?s focus is now tunneled towards winning rounds with the ultimate prize being a trip to the winner?s circle. Johnson, who was runner-up at the spring Joliet, Ill. event last year, aims to return to the money round when the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series makes the first of two visits to the Chicago area, May 20-23, for the seventh annual Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway. ?It?s one of the best facilities we race at all year long,? Johnson said. ?The weather always seems to accommodate us with cool temperatures, which produce great elapsed times and speeds. ?As good as we?ve been running, I think it?s the best thing for our car to really show everyone how strong our car is. Even though we?ve run some big numbers recently, I think there are bigger numbers to come from the Skoal Racing Chevys.? The next big number to fall in the Funny Car category is the 330-mph mark. Gary Scelzi ran 329.18 last fall at Route 66 Raceway and this past weekend, Tony Pedregon drove his Chevy to a speed of 329.83 mph. ?(Gary) Scelzi went 329 mph at Chicago last year and Tony Pedregon did it last weekend in Atlanta,? Johnson said. ?The Monte Carlo is a way better piece than what we were running. Instead of a Dodge or Ford, there are some Chevy?s that might get that 330 speed first. I also wouldn?t be surprised if both Ron (Capps) and I set career bests at Joliet.? 2004 NHRA Funny Car Point Standings 1. Del Worsham (2) 513 - - - 2. Whit Bazemore (1) 462 51 out 3. John Force (1) 450 63 out 4. Tim Wilkerson (1) 427 86 out 5. Gary Scelzi 416 97 out 6. Gary Densham 406 107 out 7 Eric Medlen 400 113 out 8 Phil Burkart Jr. (1) 397 116 out 9. Jerry Toliver (1) 369 144 out 10. Tony Pedregon 337 176 out 12. TOMMY JOHNSON 252 261 out Tommy Johnson?s Career Results at Route 66 Raceway (spring event) Year Qualified Finish & Winning Driver 1999 DNQ 2001 DNQ 2002 No. 12 First round?Del Worsham 2003 No. 7 Runner-up?Whit Bazemore Tommy Johnson?s Joliet Schedule Date & Time Location Thurs., 5-20 6-8 p.m. Buffalo Wild Wings (777 E. Broughton Rd., Bolingbrook, IL 60440, 630-739-2999) Fri., 5-21 5 and 8 p.m. FC qualifying sessions 1 & 2 Sat., 5-22 1 and 4 p.m. FC qualifying sessions 3 & 4 Sun., 5-23 10 a.m. Pre-race ceremonies 11 a.m. Final eliminations
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