NHRA: 6-time Top Fuel champion owner Alan Johnson, John Force unite

(Photo courtesy NHRA)

Alan Johnson knows a few things about winning NHRA Top Fuel championships.

He’s done so six different times in his tenure as a team owner – 1997, 1998, 2000, 2010, 2011 and 2013 – with five different drivers: Gary Scelzi, Tony Schumacher, Larry Dixon, Del Worsham and most recently Shawn Langdon.

John Force also knows a few things about winning NHRA championships. He’s won a record 16 Funny Car titles.

The duo has teamed for the 2016 season where Johnson will serve as both a consultant and tuner for the Monster Energy-sponsored Top Fuel dragster driven by Force’s daughter, Brittany.

“(John Force Racing Funny Car crew chief Mike Neff) asked me if I might be interested in helping them this year,” Johnson told NHRA.com (see video). “Then, John and Robert (JFR president Robert Hight) called and kind of pressed the issue further. We talked for a while, went out to dinner and came to some sort of an agreement that should work. I think we’re all excited to get Brittany that first win.”

It’s Johnson’s return to the sport after a very difficult season in 2015, when primary sponsor Al-Anabi Racing pulled its funding just weeks before the season began.

While Johnson tried to piecemeal funding to keep his team running, he finally had to cease operations just as the six-race Countdown to the Championship began.

Langdon, meanwhile, has moved on to drive for Don Schumacher Racing.

With Johnson free of team ownership responsibilities now, he’s decided to help Brittany upgrade her own dragster.

“She’s really responsive to everything,” Johnson said of Brittany Force to NHRA.com. “She’s really excited and I think it’s going to end up working really well.”

In addition, long known as a technical innovator in the sport, Johnson will provide the majority of parts that will make up Brittany’s dragster.

“Probably the biggest thing is they will allow us to come in with our own parts,” Johnson told NHRA.com. “All the things we’ve built here at AJPE (Alan Johnson Performance Engineering) and have been so successful with, to bring those into their team and replace the stuff.

“… Had we gone in and tried to just work with what they had, it would have been a much more difficult task. But when we got the agreement to bring our stuff in, change everything out and we want to win, that was the ticket there.”

Johnson will work hand-in-hand with crew chief Brian Husen, according to a JFR spokesman. It will be a reunion for the two men, as Husen and Johnson spent several years together on the Al-Anabi team. Johnson is considered by many as the best tuner in Top Fuel racing.

Johnson will also serve as a consultant to Steve Torrence Racing during the season, as well.

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Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023; leaves open possibility of returning at Ganassi

Jimmie Johnson race 2023
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Though he remains uncertain of his plans for next year, Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023, scaling back his schedule after running a full 17-race NTT IndyCar Series season.

“This was a difficult choice for me, but in my heart, I know it’s the right one,” Johnson said in a statement Monday morning. “I’m not exactly sure what the next chapter holds, but if an opportunity comes along that makes sense, I will consider it. I still have a bucket list of racing events I would like to take part in. Competing at this level in IndyCar has been such a great experience.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better team to race for than Chip Ganassi and Chip Ganassi Racing. Everyone worked extremely hard for the last two seasons, pushing to get the best performances out of me every single week. The support from my crew and teammates Dario (Franchitti), Scott (Dixon), Tony (Kanaan), Marcus (Ericsson) and Alex (Palou) went above and beyond anything I could have ever asked for.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR JIMMIE JOHNSON: An analysis of his racing options for the 2023 season

Driving the No. 48 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, Johnson ranked 21st in the 2022 points standings with a career-best fifth place July 24 at Iowa Speedway.

After running only road and street courses for Ganassi in 2021, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion added ovals this year. In his Indy 500 debut, he qualified 12th and finished 28th after a late crash.

“I do have a desire to go back (to IndyCar), it’s just at this point, I know what’s required to do a full schedule, and I don’t have that in me,” Johnson told AP. “I don’t have that passion that I need for myself to commit myself to a full season.”

That leaves open the concept of Johnson returning part time with Ganassi, perhaps exclusively on ovals.

“We are fully supportive of Jimmie,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a statement. “He has been a valued member of our team and if we can find a way to continue working together, we would like to do so.”

During IndyCar’s season finale race weekend, Johnson told reporters Sept. 9 that he planned to explore his options with wife Chandra and daughters Evie and Lydia. Johnson told the Associated Press that his family is considering living abroad for a year or two, and he has toyed with the idea of running in the World Endurance Championship sports car series because of its international locales.

Johnson hasn’t ruled out IndyCar, IMSA sports cars or even a cameo in NASCAR next year. Since retiring from full-time NASCAR after the 2020 season, he has entered the endurance races of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac (including Saturday’s Petit Le Mans season finale). Johnson also wants to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and is a prime candidate for the Garage 56 entry (a joint project of NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports).

Johnson told the AP he is interested in becoming the latest driver to try “The Double” and run both the Coca-Cola 600 and Indy 500 on the same day (the most recent was Kurt Busch in 2014).

“You know me and endurance sports, and ‘The Double’ sounds awesome,” Johnson, a four-time Coke 600 winner, told AP. “I’ve always had this respect for the guys who have done ‘The Double.’ I would say it is more of a respect thing than a bucket-list item, and I’d love to put some energy into that idea and see if I can pull it off.”

It is less likely that he would return to IMSA’s endurance events because its top prototype series is being overhauled, limiting the amount of inventory available for the new LMDh cars in the rebranded GTP division.

Johnson has confirmed that he would retain primary sponsor Carvana, which has backed him in IndyCar the past two years. He revealed his decision Monday during the last episode of “Reinventing the Wheel,” Carvana Racing’s eight-part docuseries about his 2023 season.

“I’m thankful for the partnership with a company like Carvana for allowing me to take this journey in IndyCar, for seeing the value in our partnership and being open to future opportunities together,” Johnson said. “They have truly showed me that there are no finish lines in life. Along with Carvana, The American Legion, Ally, cbdMD and Frank August were there every step of the way, and I couldn’t have done it without all of them. Most importantly — and the true rockstars in all of this –my family, Chani, Evie and Lydia. They have always allowed me to chase my dreams, and we are all just really excited about what the future holds for all of us. I have enjoyed every minute of these last two years.”

Said Carvana co-founder Ryan Keeton: “During the past two years, Jimmie Johnson has been so amazing to collaborate with. Our team admires his passion, hard work and commitment to continuous improvement while also having fun, and we look forward to continuing to support him next year in this new chapter.”