2016 NHRA season in review: Funny Car driver Tommy Johnson Jr.

(Photos courtesy NHRA)
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Over the next three-plus weeks, MotorSportsTalk will feature season-ending reviews of the top drivers of the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

Each day, we’ll have one in-depth review of a driver that finished in the top-five in each of the four professional classes (Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle), as well as a compendium of select other drivers that did not finish in the top-five.

The list of drivers we’ve already posted is below. Today, we feature Funny Car driver Tommy Johnson Jr.

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Driver: Tommy Johnson Jr.

Age: 48

Hometown: Avon, Indiana

Team: Don Schumacher Racing

Sponsor/car: Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T

Crew chief: John Collins

2016 season finish: Second in Top Fuel.

2016 season statistics: 24 races, 3 wins, 3 runner-up, 4 semifinals, 9 quarterfinals. No. 1 qualifier one time. Round-by-round record: 38 wins, 21 losses.

Career statistics: 398 races, 15 wins (13 Funny Car, 2 Top Fuel), 26 runner-up (21 Funny Car, 5 Top Fuel), 53 semifinals, 98 quarterfinals. No. 1 qualifier 14 times. Round-by-round record: 336 wins, 339 losses. 44 DNQ.

What went right in 2016: Johnson enjoyed the best season of his career with his best overall single-season finish (second place) and wins (three). … He keeps getting better, having finished third in both 2014 and 2015. … Has become one of the stalwarts of the DSR Funny Car stable.

What went wrong in 2016: While Johnson had a strong season, it could have been a bit stronger if he hadn’t suffered five first-round losses. He was closing in on teammate Ron Capps during the Countdown to the Championship but saw his title hopes fade after losing in the quarterfinals at Dallas and in the first round at Las Vegas. Ironically, Johnson rallied back to win the season-ending race at Pomona, but it was just a bit too little, too late.

What to look for in 2017: Johnson is a veteran racer, so it’s somewhat strange to say he came into his own in 2016, but that was certainly the case. He’s driving for one of the best organizations in drag racing, and has great teammates in 2016 Funny Car champ Ron Capps, Jack Beckman and Matt Hagan. There’s plenty of reason for optimism that it could very well be Johnson’s turn at winning the Funny Car championship in 2017, as he has all the tools in place to do so.

Season reviews already posted:

— Antron Brown (12/12)

— Ron Capps (12/13)

— Jason Line (12/14)

Jerry Savoie (12/15)

Doug Kalitta (12/16)

Tommy Johnson Jr. (12/17)

Greg Anderson (12/18)

Eddie Krawiec (12/19)

Steve Torrence (12/20)

— Matt Hagan (12/21)

— Shane Gray (12/22)

— Andrew Hines (12/23)

— J.R. Todd (12/24)

— John Force (12/25)

— Bo Butner (12/26)

— Angelle Sampey (12/27)

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

Roczen Progressive Ecstar Suzuki
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ANAHEIM, California – Ken Roczen will make the move from HRC Honda to H.E.P. Motorsports with the Progressive Ecstar Suzuki team, ending a long and eventful offseason that saw his split from his longstanding team after he committed to running World Supercross (WSX).

“H.E.P. Motorsports is thrilled to announce that the team has signed Ken Roczen as its premier rider for the 2023 season,” the team announced on Instagram. “Former AMA Motocross champion Roczen will be aboard a Suzuki RM-Z450. Roczen, who won his most recent championship on a Suzuki, will be reunited with the brand and bring his exciting style, determination, and grit back to the RM Army.

“Ken Roczen will compete in the upcoming 2023 Supercross and Motocross Championship series which is set to start on January 7 at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California.”

For Roczen, it is a return to the bike of his youth and on which he had some of his greatest professional success.

“This thing has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks in the making, but there was so much uncertainty,” Roczen told NBC Sports during Monster Energy Supercross Media Sessions. “It was a very unique situation. I just finally signed two nights ago, so it’s really only legit once the ink hits the paper. It’s been in the works for a long time, but there were just a lot of questions and a lot of input from a lot of other teams too.

“Good things take time, and I’m okay with that. I grew up riding Suzuki. Ot’s like a homecoming. It’s a special feeling”

Roczen won the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on a Suzuki before making the move to Honda. That year he won nine of 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second as he easily outpaced Eli Tomac by 86 points. He finished third in his next Pro Motocross outing in 2018 after sitting out the outdoor season in 2017.

“I am beyond excited to reconnect with Suzuki for the 3rd time in my career. We’ve had a lot of success in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in our future.” Roczen said in the Instagram post.