Greeneville driver Allen Johnson didn’t rest on his laurels after winning a first career Pro Stock championship last season.
Instead he joined forces with four-time Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. during the offseason to create a Dodge superteam. Along with second-year driver Vincent Nobile, Johnson believes it’s a formidable trio to compete with the sport’s other multi-car teams.
“We have three cars now to gather information from, expanded our team somewhat with some personnel that can add value,” Johnson said during a recent NHRA teleconference. “I think we’ve got a very professional, very well-thought-out, laid-out team to go to combat with this year against the KB (Ken Black-owned) cars, (Mike) Edwards, Erica (Enders-Stevens) and the Cagnazzi bunch.”
Johnson began the quest to defend his championship Thursday afternoon with first-round qualifying for the NHRA Winternationals. There is another round of qualifying today and two on Saturday before the season-opening event at Pomona, Calif. wraps up with eliminations on Sunday.
It’s a different experience for the 53-year-old Johnson to bring his Dodge Avenger to the track as defending champion. While there was plenty of time celebrating last season’s bounty of his seven wins, 11 final-round appearances and 10 No. 1 qualifying efforts, being an NHRA champion also enabled him to share his good fortune with others.
“It’s been a very satisfying time off to get to do a lot of things the spotlight brings you,” Johnson said. “Like all the other champions, we all like to help in projects, needy projects, the unfortunate folks that need help. I’ve utilized the spotlight to do quite a bit of that in the off-season. That really makes you feel good.”
Johnson has long been a supporter of the Free Will Baptist Children’s Home in Greeneville, and has enjoyed much success as the owner of Greeneville Oil. His company operates 37 Quick Stop Market convenience stores and three Lube X-Press oil change facilities throughout the area.
Still, he’s better known as a race car driver and recently took some time to reflect on an 18-year Pro Stock career which has produced 15 wins and 35 career final rounds.
He’s been there every step of the way with his father Roy, who serves as the team’s engine builder. While Roy Johnson joined in some of the post-season celebrations, it wasn’t long before he was itching to get back in the shop.
“You know, my dad, he’s pretty much all business,” Allen Johnson said. “For him, there’s no time to reflect on anything; it’s time to get back to work. As a family, it’s been a very gratifying, humbling experience that we have savored. We’ve taken our time to sit back and talk about it, pat each other on the back, cry together, laugh together, all kinds of things. But, we’re back to work now. We want to be that competitive spirit again this year.”
Allen Johnson believes the team has to be scientific in their approach and from an engineering standpoint to be precise with their calculations. With former champions Greg Anderson, Jason Line and Mike Edwards all ready to reclaim the championship, it also puts the pressure on the driver to consistently crank out great reaction times.
“I probably see it as the most competitive season in Pro Stock ever,” Johnson said. “You have three people on my team, you’re going to have three people on the KB team, you’re going to have Edwards, Erica, and Dave (Connolly) at times with Cagnazzi. Those eight, nine cars right there going to be pretty darn equal. It’s going to come down to decision making, lane choice, and can the driver get his foot off the clutch.”