Alan Johnson is certainly one of the very best engineers, innovators and tuners in the history of drag racing. He was a star tuner in the NHRA Alcohol Dragster class long before he moved into the Top Fuel/Funny Car classes. His record of national event wins and World Championships places him among the best nitro tuners in the sport’s history. He is also a fairly private individual, rarely giving the press interviews or issuing quotes. DRO was fortunate that he decided to give us this exclusive interview, which was conducted at his shop in Northern California. DRO Editor Jeff Burk submitted his questions and West Coast Editor Darr Hawthorne added a few of his own.
Make sure to check out Part 1 of the interview here.
:So you believe spec tires, engine, and gear ratio have helped or hurt drag racing?
AJ: Spec tire?
: The new tire that Goodyear made this year.
AJ: Mm-hmm. Has it hurt drag racing? The tire itself? I don’t think so.
: No we’re asking if the combination of a spec tire, engine and gear ratio specifically has hurt the classses.
AJ: Oh. No. In this day and age, those components, rear ends and stuff are so expensive you can’t have multiple types of gear ratios out there. It would make it even harder to run these cars if you had a buffet of rear end gears, and tires sizes., The nice thing about what we do here is that all cylinder heads are exactly the same, everybody gets the same cylinder head, so everyone’s kind of running the same parts. They’re interchangeable, you could sell them to teams, but when you start with bastard (unique) parts , like Cup teams, or IRL teams, that have their own things, well, they don’t wear that part out and then sell it to somebody that’s down the line, it just goes away. Our sport relies on the funded teams buy brand new parts, and they run them for a while, and they sell them to the underfunded teams, and that’s what keeps us going. If you spread it out, and had this gear ratio, and that gear ratio, it wouldn’t work. The spec parts haven’t hurt us.
: Okay, lets talk a little more about the NHRA management team. Why do you suppose Graham Light chose to publicly embarrass your team and your sponsor over the nitro deal at Vegas?
AJ: I don’t think that its fair to comment on that subject
: Okay. Do you believe that Top Fuel cars, under the current rules, will ever run quicker then a 4.42, or faster then 337 mph?
AJ: I really doubt they’ll go faster than 337 with a rev limiter. It’s very difficult to get it to go. There’s been some 334s, might have even been a 335 but that extra two mph is hard to come by with a rev limiter in place.
: How about ET?
AJ: ET? Possibly. Probably won’t happen this year, because the added weight Fifty pounds… you’ve got to figure, the rule of thumb’s always been a hundred pounds is a tenth, so fifty pounds is a half a tenth. So when we try to run a 4.42 and it ends up being a 4.47, so we pound it to try and make it to sub-4.40s.
: Could we see lots of 16 car fields with the top nine in 4.50s in that kind of cluster, rather then a standout run that’s all of a sudden going to be in the 40s?
AJ: Yeah. Guys are running their cars just as hard as they were last year, but the numbers aren’t there. It’s just the extra weight. It puts more pressure on everything; more pressure on the rim, more pressure on the tire, more pressure on the clutch, obviously more pressure on the engine.