Winternationals Notes

By Susan Wade


Alan Johnson, Tony Schumacher's crew chief, should have received the Wally for Best Supporting Actor at the Winternationals Feb. 29, the same day as the Academy Awards down the freeway.

Johnson tuned the U.S. Army Dragster to the Top Fuel victory. He's also heavily involved in Toyota's Funny Car program.

Johnson owns the Toyota sponsorship and has supplied the Celica bodies to Jerry Toliver and driver Jim Head (who failed to qualify). Alan Johnson Performance Engineering, his Santa Maria, Calif., company that's known for its cylinder heads but designs and develops new products for all forms of motorsports, owns the mold and all the technology behind the development of the Celica race-car body.

Of the Toyota sponsorship, the first in an NHRA pro class by a foreign manufacturer, Johnson said, "That money is going toward body development, which is still my thing. I want to build that program, while I'm helping make the Army Dragster run good and hopefully win the championship. I want that to blossom.

"It's certainly a difficult position to be in: two Funny Cars here (at Don Schumacher Racing), two Funny Cars over there (Toliver's and Head's) and a dragster in the middle," he said. "But the No. 1 goal is to run the Army Dragster, and that's what I'm going to do. I'm not going to come out here and race a season with a Top Fuel Dragster without the intention to win a championship."

Tony Schumacher pledged to do his part. He perturbed Johnson in 1999 by interrupting the crew chief's championship streak with Gary Scelzi and his team's Winston Dragster. But since Johnson hired on last May as Schumacher's crew chief, they share a goal.

Schumacher said he's "good at taking orders" and said after his Winternationals conquest that he won't deviate from Johnson's game plan, even if he has the chance to take a risk that might work. "We can't. We're a team. I'm going to stick to the plan," he said. "Besides that, I'm not going to be the one to get out and have Alan Johnson say . . . 'You're making me look like an a------.' He's a monster, and I'm simply going to do what he says. I'm his servant right now."


Toliver said that one time he used the word "destiny" to explain a victory and John Force chided him. He said Force told him, "That's my word. I use that all the time." Toliver laughed. "He thought he owned it," the Funny Car winner said. "When the drag-racing gods are with you, they're with you."

Toliver's victory was a perfect introduction for Schick Quattro, a new sponsor for both him and drag racing. "I'm so proud that Schick Quattro believed in what we're doing. In today's world, with advertising money, there are so many places to spend your money. For them to spend it with us is a treat."

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