National Hot Rod Association Media Conference
November 14, 2012
THE MODERATOR: Next up we're joined by our Pro Stock world champion Allen Johnson. This is Allen's first championship title after competing in the category for 17 years. It's the first Pro Stock championship for Dodge since 1994 and the manufacturer Pro Stock title overall.
Allen raced to seven victories and 10 No.1 qualifying positions in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger. Do you still feel like you're in a dream right now?
ALLEN JOHNSON: Yeah, guys, this has been such a satisfying season for me and my family, and to be able to do it with your dad and have this success is just a dream come true.
THE MODERATOR: Today you guys had a little press event in Bristol. How was that?
ALLEN JOHNSON: Yeah, we just came from that, and I'm sitting in the TV station lot right now. Got to go in and do this next. It's been a media frenzy, and I'm going to enjoy the highs because the low far outweigh them. Bristol Motor Speedway and Dragway is a really good friend of mine, and we do a lot of stuff together for charity and the media around this area.
They had a huge media press conference luncheon turnout, presented me with some plaques and a picture, and I think we had 30 media members from around the area there. Great turnout.
THE MODERATOR: You said earlier in your year that your team needed to learn to win consistently to make a championship happen. It looks like you guys figured that out.
ALLEN JOHNSON: Yeah, that was the key to our deal is what we've lacked in the past was consistency. We brought on some really talented people in the off‑season or toward the end of last season that really we tried to treat it like an engineering effort, a scientific effort this year instead of from a gut, and it really paid dividends.
Q. My question for you is after your misstep in Vegas, what looked like it was going to be a championship season, do you feel vindicated, just kind of powering through the entire season and really making it count in the Countdown this year and making the championship just that much sweeter?
ALLEN JOHNSON: Yes, sir. You're always‑‑ and this team now is operating more like a business than it was before. Each mistake you make, each problem you have, you go test and learn how to overcome that problem and eliminate it. And that's what this team has done. Through the first part of the season we made some of those, and we just tested our butts off and really worked on problems, and when it got about mid‑year, we were just so consistent and we eliminated all those mistakes, and Countdown time we were really on the points and just really learned from what you do wrong and don't do it again.
Q. Back in '94 when Darrell Alderman won the championship, the Pro Stock championship, I'm wondering what‑‑ I'm assuming you were Sportsman racing back then with your dad. I'm wondering what was your situation like, what kind of car were you racing, and did it seem like Darrell Alderman and NHRA Pro Stock were like on a different planet?
ALLEN JOHNSON: Oh, you know, we weren't racing from '80 to '95. We took a step back and got in business and da, da, da. But we did start in '95, and went and got us a Super Comp dragster, and actually Darrell and Scott and that team was the team we was following around trying to see if we wanted to go Pro Stock racing. We even talked with them about maybe getting an engine to start with.
Yeah, that‑‑ Warren and Darrell and everybody in Pro Stock, when you're just a Sportsman racer, they did, they seemed like they were untouchables.
Q. How much of a budget did you have back then?
ALLEN JOHNSON: You know, I was fortunate in business and able to get dad and I a start. He was the crew chief and the engine builder, I was the driver and the clutch guy, and we had one truck driver, I think. We had no money. Amoco, my supplier and my business at that time was able to throw me a few crumbs, but for the most part we was on our own nickel, and I don't know how much we spent that first year, but we tested a lot and we qualified one time. So wasn't very good.
Q. I saw where Greg Anderson paid you a lot of compliments after the race, and I'm just wondering what it feels like to get those kind of compliments from a four‑time champion, one of your toughest competitors.
ALLEN JOHNSON: Well, it's very appreciative, and Greg and Jason, they certainly‑‑ Greg especially knows the tough times. He started way back, had a lot of success with Warren, but when he first started his own program, I think he was five or six years before he won his first championship. He definitely knows the pains.
And Jason grew up Sportsman racing. He definitely knows what it feels like to work your hind end off to get where he's at. Those comments were well taken and appreciated.
Q. Those of us who have followed you all the way through the tour, we noticed right around Topeka time, you became like a nuisance to the KB Racing empire, and as the season went on you transformed from nuisance to nightmare. Was that your plan all along?
ALLEN JOHNSON: Well, it had to be if we was going to win the championship because those boys are the ones that are tough to beat, along with Eric and others. But we set out on a plan personally, and we set out on a plan team‑wise that if we're going to win this thing, we've got to out‑perform and beat these guys. We've got to be No.1 down the track every single time and go to a lot of those little things, I think the total count was 180 or 90 little points we got, and that's two full race wins.
We took personal satisfaction in outdoing them but also were very cautious that, like the Japs said after Pearl Harbor, I'm afraid we awakened a sleeping giant, and we'll work hard this winter to make sure we can stay ahead of them because I'll guarantee you they're working hard right now.
Q. As a follow‑up, one of the things about the KB Racing team is that they had three cars. Is there a chance we might see an expansion in the upcoming season?
ALLEN JOHNSON: Oh, you know, the upcoming season is going to be a great one, and we're working on a couple of things right now for that season. I don't know how many cars they're going to have, but I think there's a good chance you might see an addition to our deal. I'm not ready to announce anything yet, but we're going to be a little stronger.
Q. I wanted to ask you about the rule book. Pretty happy with the performance of these cars; is there any part of that rule book you wish they would open up a little bit more and give you more performance latitude?
ALLEN JOHNSON: Well, there's a couple of things that actually NHRA has in their grasp that we've all wanted for several years, and one of them is the addition of lasers that allow us to measure the right heights all over the car. You can put a laser on the rear end housing, you can put it on the frame, you can put it on the front end. You can do that, and it just tells you the attitude of the car a little bit.
I feel pretty confident that that tuning tool is probably one of the most important ones to the crew chiefs, and I think NHRA is going to see fit to let us do that.
The engines, we've got pretty strict rules there on weights and tolerances, but that keeps the cost down a little bit, and it's for a good reason, because one person goes out and spends a hundred grand to develop a super‑duper lightweight valve, we're all going to have it right down the road and then we're going to be right back to where we was at. So they put those rules in place to save costs, and I like those types of rules. But those are the two big areas.
Q. Are you content with the factory hotrods, or is there any fuel in your future?
ALLEN JOHNSON: No, I'm a natural aspirated guy and real car guy. Those fuel guys are crazy. They ride in a bomb there. But I enjoy watching them. They're a real show for the fans. But that's something‑‑ Don Schumacher asked me a while back if I wanted to do a burnout or two in one, and I said one day maybe I might take you up on that. Right now I'm just going to try to stick to what I've got and keep all my body parts.
Q. As far as having a season like that, that just keeps getting better and better, was there any point where it was gloomy for you, and could you kind of share your feeling with the fans about what it's like when you keep performing so well? Did you shake your head along the way, or just kind of give a mood what it's like to have a great season like that.
ALLEN JOHNSON: Well, it's so satisfying when you test and work so hard and spend so much time and money trying to achieve a pinnacle, and when you finally feel confident with that car under you as a driver, you drive better. When you finally feel confident that the car is going to get off the starting line every time, you feel more confident in your decisions as a crew chief. When you make runs after runs as an engine guy and no breakage and the performance is awesome, you feel more confident.
So all of that confidence breeds confidence, and we start learning as a team how to win, and that in itself is just such a satisfying feeling when everybody high fives and you know you've reached that spot to where you know you can win every single race.
THE MODERATOR: That wraps up our segment with our 2012 NHRA Pro Stock world champ Allen Johnson.
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