It may be premature to anoint Mike Salinas as the 2019 Top Fuel champion, but he’ll certainly have a lot of championship-winning help to get him there.
Entering just his second full-time season in NHRA Top Fuel competition, the 57-year-old San Jose, California native will have noted engine tuner and 16-time championship team owner, crew chief and consultant Alan Johnson serving as a consultant and tuner in 2019.
But that’s not all.
Also joining Salinas’ Scrappers Racing team will be crew chief Brian Husen, who served as crew chief for Brittany Force the past two seasons.
With Husen working alongside Johnson, the duo led Force to win the 2017 NHRA Top Fuel championship, but Force slipped to a fifth-place showing in 2018.
Husen and Johnson also collaborated on leading Shawn Langdon to the 2013 Top Fuel title, as well as Del Worsham’s Top Fuel crown in 2011.
“We’ve worked together for 15 years now,” Husen said of his relationship with Johnson to Fox Sports. “Throughout that, I’ve learned a lot and Alan has taught me pretty much everything I know. So, we both go into the day and runs with the same mindset with a common goal. It works pretty well.”
Husen is also bringing several members of his crew from the John Force Racing camp along with him into the Salinas fold.
“They decided to take a different direction at JFR, which I understand,” Husen told Fox Sports. “They have to make the decisions that they make, and so the opportunity became available with Mike Salinas to come over here and work.
“I started talking to Mike and seeing the direction that he wanted to go, a lot of the guys from Brittany’s force team showed interest, so we knew we had a good group of people. The best case for us was to stick together and try to build on what we had. … It’s not that normal low-key winter for us. We have our plate full with work we’ve got to do.”
Bringing Johnson and Husen onboard is a huge step up for Salinas and his Scrappers Racing team. To date, he’s yet to win a race in Top Fuel and has only reached one final round in 31 races over 1 1/3 seasons (7 in 2017, 24 in 2018) on the NHRA national event circuit.
“Mike’s a great driver and we have the championship team from Brittany’s team and we have all the right parts,” Husen told Fox Sports. “It’s just going to come down to decision making on Alan’s and my part, Mike doing a good job driving and these doing the great job they’ve always done.”
In his first full season in Top Fuel in 2018, Salinas qualified for the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs and finished the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season tied for seventh in the points standings with veteran driver Doug Kalitta.
It’s believed that much of the crew from Funny Car driver and Brittany’s sister, Courtney Force’s team will move to Brittany’s team, while several members of an unnamed Top Fuel team are reportedly headed to join Courtney Force’s team.
However, a JFR source told NBC Sports Friday afternoon, “I can’t confirm anything about our team lineup yet but I will say those rumors are not quite correct and we still have some things moving around.”
NOTES: Steve Torrence, who Alan Johnson also worked as a consultant for in the 2017 season, laying the groundwork for Torrence’s 2018 Top Fuel championship, will have company on the drag strip more frequently in 2019. His father, Billy, who won his first career NHRA race at Brainerd, Minnesota last August, is expected to run in between 12 and 14 NHRA national events in 2019.