Johnson, Torrence, Kramer and Smith are Joliet winners

Tommy Johnson Jr. piloted his Make-A-Wish Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car to victory for his first win since the Auto Club NHRA Finals in 2017 in an explosive final round Sunday, June 2, at the 22nd annual Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway.


Johnson experienced an engine explosion just before crossing the finish line with a pass of 4.175 seconds at 229.86 mph. He defeated Robert Hight’s 4.438 at 202.55 to secure his 16th Funny Car win and second at Route 66 Raceway.


“It makes your heart stop for a second because you’re sitting there coasting and you know he’s got to be there somewhere,” said Johnson of his nail-biter of a final round. “It’s the longest coasting you’ve ever done in your life. You’re thinking ‘come on, get there,’ and then I saw the light come on and I was just so thrilled for the guys and (team sponsor) Doug Chandler. He continued this program in his wife, Terry Chandler’s, honor so I’m happy we could get this win for him. We’ve been close a lot – six times we were there in the final and couldn’t get it done, so it was nice to finally do that.”

Steve Torrence drove his Capco Contractors dragster to a fourth consecutive victory this season defeating Mike Salinas with a pass of 3.763 at 326.32 in the finals. Salinas was slow off the line with a .112 RT and could only manage a 4.102 at 213.74 mph.


After a slow start to the season, a resurgent Torrence now leads with 256 more points towards the championship than second-place Doug Kalitta.

In Pro Stock, Deric Kramer powered his American Ethanol Chevrolet Camaro to his first win of the season and third of his career when his pass of 6.532 at 210.70 defeated Erica Enders as she turned on the red light in the final round. He is only the third different winner in Pro Stock so far this season.

In the semifinal, Matt Smith lined up against his wife, Angie, who had a .112 RT to her husband’s .048.


Matt Smith became the third different PSM winner this season with his run of 6.807 at 198.88 on his Elite Performance/DENSO Auto Parts/Stockseth EBR. He overcame Karen Stoffer’s .002 reaction time and run of 6.885 at 193.71 for his first win of the season. Stoffer had a series of almost perfect Reaction Times leading to the final (.009, .006 and .001), but her bike just didn’t have the power to hold off Smith.   

Flames and smoke

With night-time qualifying adding drama to the Route 66 event, we thought we’d bring you a special look at some of the “light show.” Above, Shawn Langdon gets the concept half right.

Cox and Pluchino win at PDRA…twice

Jay Cox 


The Professional Drag Racers Association North-South Shootout presented by Line-X at Maryland International Raceway concluded early Sunday morning (June 2) when Jay Cox defeated Lizzy Musi in a rerun of the Switzer Dynamics Pro Nitrous final round. The original final round had to be rerun after debris blew through the sensors, tripping the eighth-mile beams in Cox’s lane.


In the Pro Outlaw 632 class, Johnny Pluchino also had to re-play his win because of beam interference, and again got the win. See all the results at ****INSERT LINK****

Novotny tries out new front-motor dragster

It’s been a few years since Lou Novotny sat in the cockpit of a front-engine dragster and he chose this year’s Gasser Reunion at Thompson Raceway Park to take a trip back into his drag racing career. While he was on hand to sign autographs with other Ohio drag racing legends, the 82-year-old Novotny also made some passes in a new toy for the first time.


Lou’s drag racing career started in 1960 and he has raced in Top Fuel in the Garlits era and plenty of alcohol dragsters as well, but it was 1970 when he grabbed a seat behind the engine of a front-engine dragster. There are some newer components to the 200” wheelbase S&W dragster with a 438 small block Chevy that are taking some getting used to, but the idea with most new toys is to have fun and Lou definitely seemed to be doing that this weekend.


We’ll have more from the Gasser Reunion coming in the June issue of DRO. 

It’s time for breakfast

DRO’s own Chicago Jon took some time on Saturday morning at the Route 66 Nationals to check out TJ Zizzo’s famous Nitro Cakes. Now was he helping to make the pancakes, or just waiting for his plate?


Chicago native Zizzo drove his Rust-oleum Top Fuel dragster to a first-round win over Leah Pritchett, but fell to Mike Salinas in the second. 

Johnson maintains small Rocky Mtn. Superchargers points lead

Nick Johnson drives the “Prairie Fire.” 


The Rocky Mountain Superchargers closed out the month of May with Nick Johnson maintaining a small points lead in their Competition Products Funny Car Rampage championship series. Johnson, driving the "Prairie Fire" Mustang of the Texas-based Wayne's World team, is just ahead of Bismarck, North Dakota's Jim Chase, driver of the Wetsch and Chase "Wicked Quick" '57 Chevrolet.

Jim Chase's win at Thunder Valley Dragways during the Memorial Day celebration put him within one round of Johnson.

Top Supercharged Thunder took on an international flavor when Canadians Ken and Scott Murray moved into first place with their rear engine dragster winning at Marion, South Dakota. 


Minnesota's Ernie Lipinski is on top in Pro Supercharged/All Stars having the quick elapsed times in his first outing with the Superchargers.


Next event for the group is July 6-7 at Oahe Speedway in Pierre, South Dakota.

Cleveland leads way at Lancaster

Keith Cleveland (shown) of Cheektowaga, NY, took top honors in Mallare Trucking Top ET on Friday night, May 31, at Lancaster Dragway @ New York International Raceway Park. The second-generation driver beat 12-time track champion Dale Eckert in the final round when Eckert left the starting line too soon.


In Gianna Mazia’s Mod ET, Reid Ricketson of Darien Center, NY, took advantage of a red light by Russell Morris in final round to earn his first win of 2019. Last week’s Mod ET final that was postponed due to curfew also ran in a meeting between two track champions from last season. The 2018 Street ET champ, Mason Fix, got the win over defending Mod champ Jeff Kerl in a double breakout run. Fix ran just one one-hundredth of a second under his dial-in.


The Hebeler’s Sales Bikes & Sleds final was a rematch of the opening night final pair as Lucas Salemi faced off against former track champion Alan Fletcher. Salemi got revenge for his loss a week ago as Fletcher red lighted the race away to give Salemi the win.


Russell Morris made it to his second final round of the night in Tread City Tire. Unfortunately, Morris finished the night 0-for-2 as he lost to Cody Winkowski after Winkowski beat Morris at top end with a .550 RT, 8.27 dial and an 8.644 ET to a .650 RT and 9.019 ET on a 9.01 dial for Morris. 



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