NHRA: Alan Johnson Racing moves forward without Al-Anabi

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Despite losing its top sponsor and benefactor, Alan Johnson Racing plans on going forward in the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

The drag racing world was shocked when it was announced in early January that primary sponsor and team owner Al-Anabi Racing had ceased all funding for the two-car Top Fuel dragster team, effective immediately.

MORE: NHRA shocker: Qatar Racing Club suspends sponsorship, Al-Anabi plans TBD

Johnson will apparently run the team – a one-car operation for now with 2013 Top Fuel champion Shawn Langdon behind the wheel – out of his own pocket, but is continuing to seek sponsorship, according to National Dragster magazine. Khalid alBalooshi, who drove the second Al-Anabi dragster, will not return for 2015 – at least not with AJR.

“We enjoyed our six years with Al-Anabi Racing, and we experienced great success,” Johnson said in a team media release. “We appreciate the opportunity to compete for Al-Anabi Racing and thank Sheikh Khalid [Al-Anabi Racing team owner, Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Thani] for everything he did for us. We had a great run, but now we must move on and focus on the future.”

Brian Husen and Jason McCulloch will serve as co-crew chiefs on Langdon’s dragster.

The team fully intends on taking part in the season-opening 55th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals, Feb. 6-8, in Pomona, Calif. It is also entered in the following race in Phoenix, but it’s unclear how long AJR will be able to sustain without additional sponsorship.

“We are going to Pomona with every intention of winning the Winternationals,” Johnson said. “We are in discussions with multiple entities about sponsoring our race team, and part of that process is showing the level of excellence at which our team competes.

“We won the Winternationals last year, and our goal is to repeat as Winternationals champions next weekend.”

AJR won NHRA Top Fuel world championships in 1997, 1998 and 2000, as well as in 2010, 2011 and 2013 with the Al-Anabi partnership. The team won 42 races in the last six seasons with drivers Larry Dixon, Del Worsham, Langdon, and alBalooshi.

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Travis Pastrana leads flag-to-flag in Nitro Rallycross as the series returns to America

Pastrana Nitro Rallycross
Barry Chin / Getty Images
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Travis Pastrana waited until the final trip around ERX Motor Park to take his Joker Lap – a longer way around the course that all drivers must do at least once in a race – and came out cleanly to win his first Nitro Rallycross race of 2022. With this win, Pastrana is the third driver to visit Victory Lane in the first three rounds of the 2022-23 season.

“This is the closest to a motocross track,” Pastrana told Katie Osborne on Peacock. “Thank you so much for a beautiful facility. It’s been a rough start to the season and I’m so thankful to be back out here. We had a good run in the side-by-side and now for this. This is much needed.”

Another thing needed was the sense of improvement. And Pastrana earned that affirmation each time he completed a lap around the course.

“I get my lap times read out and they said ‘fastest time of the week,’ ‘fastest time of the week’ (each time around) ” Pastrana said. “This is really special. We’re a long way behind in the championship, but welcome to America.”

In a pre-race press conference, Pastrana said that as Nitro Rallycross heads back to America, it was time for an American to win and he made good on his promise. Pastrana took the early lead over Robin Larsson and let the back of his Subaru hang out, taking risks he might not otherwise take if not for his need to win.

How to Watch Nitro Rallycross

Larsson’s second-place finish completed a perfect sweep of the podium in three rounds. In fact, he has not yet finished worse than second after winning the opening round at Lydden Hill in the United Kingdom and finishing second at Strangnas in Sweeden.

Fraser McConnel rounded out the podium for his best result of the season. He finished fourth in each of the first two rounds.

Last year, Pastrana finished second in this race to Scott Speed before narrowly edging his teammate for the championship.

Andreas Bakkerud crashed in prelims, but rebounded to finish just off the block in fourth. Bakkerud won the second round ahead of his teammate Larsson.

Oliver Bennett completed the top five.

Minneapolis is the first of three rounds scheduled in the United States. Next on the schedule is Glen Helen, Calif. on Octo 30 and then Phoenix at Wild Horse Pass on November 12th. Nitro Rallycross will then head to Saudi Arabia in December to continue their 2022-23 season.