Explosive Final Goes Johnson’s Way At Route 66

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Johnson's Way
The Route 66 NHRA Nationals will again headline the major event schedule at Route 66 Raceway. (Dodge photo)

JOLIET, Ill. – Tommy Johnson Jr. piloted his Make-A-Wish Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car to victory for his first win since the 2017 Auto Club NHRA Finals on Sunday.

Johnson’s victory came as part of an explosive final round during the 22nd annual Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway.

Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Deric Kramer (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also winners in their respective categories at the ninth of 24 events during the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

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.

On his way to victory, Johnson secured round wins against Paul Lee, teammate Matt Hagan and John Force.

“It felt good coming here,” said Johnson. “This is a track where we’ve had a lot of success. I think we’ve been in the finals four out of the last six years here. I’m not superstitious, but the way the weekend went, things just kept pointing to it. I felt good about it. I went up there for the final and really wasn’t even nervous.”

Hight defeated Jim Campbell, Cruz Pedregon and Jack Beckman before facing Johnson in the finals.

S. 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.

The defending champion defeated Terry McMillen, Richie Crampton and Antron Brown en route to his 31st career win in Top Fuel and second at Route 66 Raceway.

“These are the kind of conditions that we really do well in,” said Torrence. “(Crew Chiefs) Richard (Hogan) and Bobby (Lagana) excel in track conditions that are not the best. This place is great, but it was hot; it was humid. It was a little tricky to navigate and they did an exceptional job. I’ve got a really good team, a really great group of guys. I know I say it time and time again, but they really are the reason for the success that we have.”

Top Fuel No. 1 qualifier Salinas beat Scott Palmer, TJ Zizzo and Doug Kalitta to reach the finals.

In Pro Stock, 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.

Kramer is only the third different winner in Pro Stock so far this season. He also turned on the win light against Rodger Brogdon, Matt Hartford and Alex Laughlin before facing Enders in the finals.

“It came down to not making any mistakes,” said Kramer. “That’s been our detriment basically ever since Brainerd last year. In Indy, through the countdown and even at the start of this year, we had more little mistakes. When you make mistakes, in this class, it’s so close, that you just can’t win.”

Enders defeated Val Smeland, team owner Richard Freeman and Greg Anderson.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, M. Smith became the third different category winner on the season with his run of 6.807 at 198.88 on his Elite Performance/DENSO Auto Parts/Stockseth EBR.

Smith overcame Karen Stoffer’s .002 reaction time and run of 6.885 at 193.71 for his first win of the season.

“Our Red Rocket showed up,” said M. Smith. “This DENSO Spark Plugs motorcycle was on kill today. We made a little blooper second round and slowed up just a little bit, but all in all, we were the quickest bike every round today. I can’t say enough about my guys, my crew, Angie, everybody who helps us. We had a good day.”

Smith beat Steve Johnson (in a bye run), Angelle Sampey and his wife, Angie Smith, to secure his second consecutive win at Route 66 Raceway.

Stoffer defeated Ryan Oehler, No. 1 qualifier Eddie Krawiec and Hector Arana Jr. on the way to her first final round since 2015.