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InnerView: Alan Johnson

Photos by Jeff Burk


In just six years time, Alan Johnson has risen to the top of the heap as a Top Fuel crew chief. In 1996, he and his late brother Blaine all but had the Winston Top Fuel title in the bag when Blaine was killed in a qualifying wreck at the NHRA U.S. Nationals. In a shrewd and unexpected move, the following year Alan hired Alcohol Dragster/Funny Car standout Gary Scelzi to replace his younger brother and the Fresno, Calif., driver responded with back-to-back Winston Top Fuel titles. Last year, Tony Schumacher's Exide Batteries title cut Johnson off at the pass, but only momentarily. Alan Johnson and "Big Red," Team Winston clinched the 2000 NHRA Winston champions. Outside of Tim Richards in the 1980s, it would be hard to find anybody who's risen to the top of his profession like Johnson.

As some know, Johnson and his brother ruled Alcohol Dragster just before their Top Fuel days when Blaine won a record four straight Winston Alcohol Dragster titles (1990-1993), taking a then 26 record NHRA national events in the process. To some, Alan's success may not be all that amazing, but as anyone will tell you drag racing history is littered with former Alcohol teams that made the jump to nitro racing and ran into some trouble.

We sat down with Alan at the O'Reilly Fallnationals at the Texas Motorplex when the rain gave us an opportunity to talk to him. Not so much about his life story, but how he was able to tune his way to the top in Top Fuel and how his and his brother's Alcohol successes helped get them rolling in the quickest and fastest of all classes. A roll that, so far, has made him and his team the ones to beat in NHRA Top Fuel competition.

DRO: You and Blaine got started in sand racing if we're not mistaken.

A.J.: Yes, we began in 1977 and enjoyed some decent success, but we're both competitive and thought that asphalt drag racing more fit our needs. So in 1982, we came out with the Johnson Racing Alcohol Dragster.

I remember that you guys went with the Rodeck rather than the Brad Anderson-type hemi engines that were so popular.

We met [engine manufacturer] John Rodeck in sand racing. We had cracked a block on our sand car at this one event and he hooked us up with one of his aluminum engines. We'd known him for awhile and were friends so it was natural for us to get together.


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