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Tommy Johnson, Jr. Ready For Funny Car Battle In Phoenix (1 Viewer)

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PHOENIX – The Monster Energy Funny Car team has been hard at work testing prior to the Checker Schuck’s Kragen Nationals Feb. 22-24 at Firebird International Raceway.

The Kenny Bernstein-owned team is leaving no stone unturned to try to head into the second race of the season with a winning tune-up combination.

“I’m optimistic and pumped up,” said driver Tommy Johnson, Jr. “We’ve addressed the issues that plagued us at the season opener in Pomona , and we’ve made a 180-degree turnaround.

“I think we’ll rebound not only in qualifying, but I think we’ll have a good shot at winning, the car is running so well. I predict we’ll be a strong competitor right out of the box.”

Johnson won in Phoenix in 2006. Firebird International Raceway is the site of the first Top Fuel victory for Kenny Bernstein (1991) and his son Brandon, driver of the Budweiser/Lucas Oil dragster.

Brandon won in his 2003 rookie season and answered back in ’04 with a second victory.

“Firebird has always been a good track for me,” said Johnson. “It would be neat if I could score the first victory for the team in Phoenix to keep the tradition going.

“I’m plenty comfortable with winner’s circle there,” Johnson joked.

Johnson has a total of nine career nitro victories, two in Top Fuel and seven in Funny Car.

“I felt very fortunate to get the ride with the Monster Energy team,” said Johnson. “Kenny runs his team and business like a machine. I’m proud to be associated with that.”

Kenny Bernstein retired from driving at the end of 2002, but drove a good portion of ’03 after his son, Brandon, suffered season-ending injuries in a race in Englishtown , N.J. In 2007, an opportunity to field a team for Monster Energy arose, and Bernstein jumped into a Dodge Charger Funny Car to compete in a category which he dominated with four-in-a-row NHRA championships from 1985-1988.

Bernstein scored two runner-up finishes in ’07, but when Tommy Johnson became available at the end of the year, Bernstein made the decision to step out of the cockpit and named Johnson as his successor.

“He’s a good driver and a good person, and I just felt the timing was right,” said Bernstein.

Nitro (Top Fuel and Funny Car) qualifying for the Checker Schuck’s Kragen Nationals begins Friday at 2 p.m. with a second session at 4:30 p.m. There are two qualifying rounds Saturday, 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m., with final eliminations getting underway at 11 a.m. on Sunday.
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