Mon, 8 Dec 2003, 12:57 PM
Either The Motorcycle Or The Dragster…Make Up Your Mind!!
By Bob Frey
Brian Johnson (near lane) defeated Ricky Cook
Brian Johnson won the Summit Racing E/T Series in the motorcycle class at Pomona. Based on what
he’s done in his racing career he could have won it in Super Pro, too. “I race the bike at
Brainerd and my dragster at Rock Falls,” Brian said. “I enjoy them both but this year was a very
good one for me on the bike.” Now there’s an understatement.
The trip to Pomona wasn’t a first for Brian like it was for so many of the other competitors
since he came to the Summit finals a couple of years ago with his friend, Jeff Lanoue, but he
admitted that this time was different. “When you’re actually part of the race it’s pretty
impressive,” he said. “The folks at Summit couldn’t have been nicer, they really do go all out
for you. When I was here with Jeff I didn’t go to the dinner or take part in any of the
activities, but this time I did and it was unbelievable.” Brian said that he enjoyed everything
from the special dinner that Summit had for the competitors to being introduced with the pro
racers on Sunday morning. “It was all pretty exciting and I hope to do it again next year.”
Well, based on his performance in the bike class in Division 5 over the past few years, he just
might. Brian has won either the divisional title or the Summit Racing Series Finals in seven of
the last eight seasons.
One of the advantages that Brian may have brought with him to Pomona was the fact that he has
competed in several national events in recent years. “I think racing at Brainerd and at Rt. 66
gave me a little edge,” he said. “The crowds didn’t bother me and I was used to racing against
really tough competition.” Of course when you get to the Summit E/T finals, everyone is tough,
and that’s why it was so important to Brian to get off to a good start. When he put an “03”
reaction time on the board on his first time trial run in Pomona he knew that he was headed in
the right direction. “It was a real plus to find the tree right away,” he said, “instead of
having to make adjustments to the bike. That was a real advantage for me.” It must have been
since Brian threw out reaction times of .007, .017 and .023 in his three rounds of competition
on Sunday at the Finals. That, coupled with a couple of runs that were within a tenth of his
dial-in and a final round that featured a double-breakout was all he needed to take the bike
title back to Division 5. “We take a lot of pride in the bikes up here and it’s nice to bring
the title back home.” Division 5 riders have won the Summit E/T Finals in the motorcycle
class in three of the four years that the race has been contested.
Like so many racers, Brian Johnson began racing right out of high school in 1986. He started
with a bike that was basically street legal and then, gradually, moved up the performance
ladder. “You know how it is, you start with a bike that runs well and then you want to go
faster, so you add some wheelie bars, get the engine done and stuff like that,” Brian said. Rick
Ward, a fellow Minnesotan and friend of Brian is the guy who does the engine on the bike. And
being from Minnesota, Brian may have had one little experience that none of the other racers at
Pomona did. “It was funny, we had a little snow the day I was leaving for California and I
actually had to get the broom out and clean the truck and trailer before heading west,” he said.
When he did finally head out, Brian and his friend Lance Larson took their time on the drive
west, stopping off at Las Vegas to catch some of the action at the Lucas Oil divisional race
there and then stayed for another day before completing the trip. When he got to California,
Brian joked that going into Pomona was a lot like going into one of his home tracks, Rock Falls
Raceway. “Yeah, its’ pretty easy to get the two of them confused,” he said, because the tracks
are so much alike.” Be that as it may, Brian credits the competition at both Brainerd and Rock
Falls for making him so good. “The bike program around home is very good and between the
divisional races and the special Kerker Shootout that we have for the motorcycles, it’s not easy
to be the bike champ. And the regular program for the Super Pro cars, well, that’s brutal.
Everyone in that class can win at any time.” This year, though, only one of them was able to win
the big race and that’s thirty-five year old Brian Johnson.
Johnson in his Super Comp.
Brian would like to thank his sponsors, National Lending Source and Ward Performance as well as
his wife, Chris, and daughters Erin and Sarah. “Chris usually drives to the races with me but it
was a little too much to travel that far with the girls, so she stayed home for a couple of days
and then she flew out to be with me at the race. It was great having her there.” He also wanted
to thank everyone at Summit for the way they treated the racers and he mentioned the NHRA
liaison for the event, Jill Caliendo, and how helpful she was. “Jill even gave us her cell phone
number in case we had any questions. Like I said, we couldn’t have been treated any better.”
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