(Photo courtesy NHRA)

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


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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Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans

LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.