By Lee Elder
CONCORD, N.C. (April 27, 2018) – Steve Johnson was replaced by L.E. Tonglet on the White Alligator Racing NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle team two weeks ago. That was then.
Now Johnson has probably qualified for the NHRA’s NGK Spark Plug Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Raceway on his own motorcycle. Johnson’s first qualifying pass of 6.866 seconds and 193.63 mph knocked Tonglet off the provisional pole during round one. Johnson did not run in the second qualifying session and goes into Saturday’s final rounds of qualifying in the sixth position.
“Hey, that was the final, right,” Johnson joked. “We can go home now?”
Cory Reed completed the day with the provisional PSM top spot. Drew Skillman finished the day with the top spot in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock category, Brittany Force led Top Fuel and Courtney Force led Funny Car with two more sessions planned for Saturday.
When Johnson’s deal with WAR was ended after the first PSM race of the season at the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla., he confirmed to RPMHD.com that he would race his own entry at the Four-Wide. After posting the best elapsed time of the first session, Johnson joked about the size of his trailer and budget with public address announcer Joe Castello. As there are 18 bikes entered for Sunday’s 16-bike eliminations field, Johnson seems likely to make the starting field.
Johnson was bumped to the sixth position during the second round of qualifying, largely because he did not make a run in the second session. Tonglet, the former series champion, posted a best run of the day at 6.882 seconds and 194.91 mph and ended the day in tenth.
Reed’s best in PSM was 6.8 38 seconds and 193.54 mph. Skillman’s best pass lasted 6.534 seconds and he was clocked at 210.01 mph. Courtney Force posted her Funny Car best 3.873-second, 332.92 mph pass during the first session Friday. Brittany Force topped the Top Fuel category at 3.689 seconds and 318.39 mph.
The event will be the second of the season in the four-lane format. The Mello Yello Series raced in the newly configured four-lane track at Las Vegas two races ago. The teams seem to be accustomed to the format now.
Top Fuel driver Tony Schumacher said, “I think we are definitely more comfortable in the four-wide racing than we were before, coming off the Las Vegas event. A few weeks back … it’s almost to the point where I’ve gotten used to it.”
Saturday’s schedule has two more qualifying sessions for the pro categories.
NOTES: Every pro category will eliminate at least one entry in qualifying this weekend. The nitro classes each have 17 entries, Pro Stock has 18 and Pro Stock Motorcycle has 21. Pro Mod has 35 cars entered … Pro Stock ace Jason Line is racing a new car this weekend … Rick Hord became the first NHRA Pro Mod driver to surpass 260 mph in Round 2 when he was caught at 260.91 mph … John Force, the 16-time Funny Car champion who failed to make the field a week ago seems likely to be in the starting field Sunday. He posted a solid 3.938-second pass during the night session Friday and is unlikely to be bumped out of the field.