Tommy Johnson Jr. keeps his Funny Car title hopes alive with Houston victory

October 27, 2020

When it comes to the 2020 Camping World Funny Car title, don’t count out Tommy Johnson Jr. In danger of falling hopelessly behind teamamtes, Matt Hagan and Jack Beckman, Johnson put together a timley effort to win for the third time this season. In the final, Johnson drove the MD Anderson Cancer Center Dodge to a 3.929, sealing the win over teammate Ron Capps, who ran a 3.952 in his NAPA Dodge and was just three-thousandths of a second behind at the finish line.

Following the 22nd win of his career, Johnson has moved to second place in the standings with only the Las Vegas event remaining next week. He is 42-points behind leader Hagan while Jack Beckman is 43-points back making it a three-way battle for the title.

“It was a must-win,” said Johnson. “We get close and then we stumble and I think we’re out of it and then the next race here we come again. I think we’ve been a bit of a thorn in their side a little bit. It’s like a heavyweight battle. We get knocked to the turf and then we get back up and here we come again and keep swinging. It’s been a weird year, but it’s been a good year for our team. I hate it because maybe we could have won a bunch more if we had more races. This has got drama written all over it for Las Vegas.

“I saw what [Capps] did in Gainesville so you can’t think too much about it. They are a great team. They struggled and hadn’t quite hit it. I actually screwed up and put on both bulbs in the final. That aggravated me a little but maybe that was a good thing. This is probably our best shot [at a championship]. This time, we’re there with one to go.”

Johnson won the second event of the season in Phoenix, and later scored two weeks ago in St. Louis, opened Sunday’s final eliminations by beating Jim Campbell. He then followed with a close 3.934 to 3.979 win over J.R. Todd’s DHL Toyota in the quarterfinals. Johnson’s biggest win, by far, came in the semifinals when he defeated Hagan’s Mopar/Pennzoil Dodge. In what might easily be a season-saving win, Johnson held on for a 3.941 to 3.981 victory to reach the final for the 56th time in his long career.

As for Capps, he was attempting to become just the fifth driver to win from the No. 16 qualifying spot and it was far from easy. Capps struggled in qualifying when he didn’t get down the track on either of Sunday’s qualifying runs. The NAPA team made a dramatic turn around on Sunday and scored wins against low qualifier Beckman, as well as Cruz Pedregon and Alexis DeJoria. In a scene reminiscent of his win in Gainesville last month, Capps went to a back-up car for the final after his primary entry was damaged in an engine explosion in the semifinals.