National Hot Rod Association Media Conference
June 5, 2013
THE MODERATOR: Thank you all, members of the media for joining us today. We are nine races into the 2013 season and we have some incredibly spectacular racing. We have got some great tight points battles going on in all of our classes. Today we are joined by four racer who is have enjoyed success thus far this season, Pro Stock racer Allen Johnson; Funny Car racer Cruz Pedregon; Johnny Gray and then Top Fuel racer, Shawn Langdon.
Talking about next weekend, the series will enter into a four‑race stretch, what some in the drag racing community have been calling the East Coast Swing, comparing it a little bit to the West Coast swing that comes up later in the year.
This four‑race stretch will go a long way to let drivers amass championship points and we'll start to see some contenders come out of this stretch. Joining us first today will be 2012 Pro Stock world champion, Allen Johnson who will be racing at his hometown track at Bristol Dragway. First off, thank you very much for joining us today, Allen.
ALLEN JOHNSON: No problem. Always glad to.
THE MODERATOR: You raced at Bristol Dragway in the past, runner‑up finish in 2012. This season overall, Johnson has two wins, spent time atop the points standings and is currently third in points.
Starting this four‑race stretch at your home track, does that give you a bit of extra boost of confidence going into that event?
ALLEN JOHNSON: Well, we always like to come home and gives us an opportunity to sort of give back to all the people that let us go and do what we do all year, all our employees, friends and family and all that in itself lends to a little extra motivation here at Bristol.
THE MODERATOR: Does it lead to a busy cell phone during the course of the week, as well?
ALLEN JOHNSON: Yeah, busy e‑mail, cell phone, everything. Everybody wants to come out and be a part of it, just one race. We try our best to not leave anyone out, and that takes a lot of our time.
Q. Could you compare what your expectations were at the beginning of the season to now after you've had this opportunity to go racing with teammates?
ALLEN JOHNSON: Well, you know, we've had two teammates before and one teammate the last couple of years.
So you know, Jeg is a very class act. His family is a class act and him coming on more allowed us to have extra opportunities for R&D and testing time. I think our expectations were high right from the beginning and I think we've lived up to them.
Q. And I remember taking a photo of you two guys doing a mock thing in Redington (ph) with boxing gloves on, have you done anything like that since?
ALLEN JOHNSON: Well, we duked it out in two or three finals this year. I think we are about even Steven on that.
So him and Vince have both made me a better driver because they are both exceptional drivers, and if I'm going to have a chance, I'm going to have to do as good as they do. In one way, it's uplifting for me and a challenge.
THE MODERATOR: Earlier this year you were recognized by the Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit sports Hall of Fame as your team was sports team of the year coming off your championship season last year. What was that honor like for you guys?
ALLEN JOHNSON: Oh, that was just an awesome award. To be in the same room with a lot of those people that are not only from Tennessee, but they are national champions, too, in basketball and football, and Vince, and people, Brandt Snedeker in golf, just to be in the same room with them as awesome. It's pretty big deal to be an athlete in Tennessee.
THE MODERATOR: Talk about Tennessee, Bristol Dragway, you raced to a runner‑up finish there last year. What would it mean for you guys to come away victorious at that event?
ALLEN JOHNSON: Well, you know, it would be huge for two reasons. One, you know, for your family and employees and all the people like I said that allow you to do this all year and take care of you while you're gone.
Another one, it's Father's Day and me racing with my father and close to my father, it's been an exceptional deal. Also, we were here last year in just a dead heat. We almost got it done last year and that fueled us for the remainder of the year and we are hoping to do the same thing this year but come away with a win and fuel us for the championship race.
THE MODERATOR: We were talking about it is Father's Day weekend in Bristol, and you touched upon your dad. He's been such an integral part of your racing career, you guys have done a lot of things together? Is there one memory that really sticks out that you and your dad both have as you've been racing over the years?
ALLEN JOHNSON: It would have to be the first one in Richmond together in '99, and then the championship last year at the bank when I brought him on stage and it was pretty emotional for both of us. That's just something you'll never forget.
The MODERATOR: Pro Stock has been known as an ultra‑competitive category out here. What do you think we're going to see going forward the rest of the season in this category?
ALLEN JOHNSON: Well, I think you're going to see more of the same. It's tight after the last couple of races but Mike came out really strong the first of the year, but we've been able to make up a little bit of ground on him.
The Summit team has been struggling a little bit but I expect them to be back. The great teams made some strides here lately and I'm part of the mix now, as is Erica and a couple others.
So I think you're going to see a knock‑down, drag‑out just like we did last year, and the person that can be most consistent in the countdown is going to be the man.
THE MODERATOR: Has your team been testing very much this season so far?
ALLEN JOHNSON: You know, I think we have seen some good results and we are testing‑‑ I'm at Bristol right now, probably heard one of the guys come to the door and say we are ready for another run. So I'm going to leave this phone call and go jump in the car for another run. But we've tested a lot this year.
Q. Is there some point in the season like last season when you felt it was all starting to come together; do you feel that at all this year yet?
ALLEN JOHNSON: I mean, we have‑‑ you know, the first of the season, we brought out a new car, and we struggled with it to be honest just a little bit. And you know, the three teammates, a lot of extra work, making sure we've got motors readily available.
But I think we are starting to gel right now, and the 3 car we're in, six‑valve or nine‑‑ so our team is right there.
THE MODERATOR: Talk real quick about Bristol, a unique track and surroundings. What's it like to race there down in the Thunder Valley as it has become known?
ALLEN JOHNSON: Well, you know, this is the mountains and this is where I live, so I'm very familiar with it. But just to be at home and all the friendly surroundings and the mountains and everything we enjoy every day just makes this place such a unique place.
I won one of my first major races here in 1981 as a teenager, and it's got a lot of special memories. My dad won a lot of races here in the old stock days and the people here are just really good people and just love coming home.
THE MODERATOR: Does it present any challenges with the atmosphere and conditions you'll see next weekend?
ALLEN JOHNSON: It can. This place can get really humid and hot and that's probably why we do real good in humid and hot weather. We do all our engine work here.
Just to have all the people and camaraderie with family and friends, it has a little bit of drama, but able to block that out and go race when the time comes.
Q. I can't imagine you've inform been in a closer race than the final last year, just give me your thoughts of what you remember from that race and that final and how close that was.
ALLEN JOHNSON: Well, you know, the next week racing, was very cautious, because you can get yourself behind in a hurry, but you can also do well and come out of this thing with a big lead, too.
So we've got to keep stuff healthy. We've got to race smart. Got to be good to our employees; they wear out, and give them days off. Got to get our stuff to race in a very safe fashion, so it can be very draining to do what we are doing.
The race last year was just‑‑ how do you explain it; it was the closest race in the NHRA history I think and it was the final and we were just on the wrong side of the bullet there. It was a great race and we knew it would be and we worked very hard and I'm sure we're going to do that a lot more this year.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Allen.
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