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Tue, 5 Dec 2000, 08:06 AM

Veteran Driver Tommy Johnson Jr. Inks Long Term Deal
Courtesy of Skip Allum

With Don Prudhomme Racing to Drive Second Funny Car

VISTA, Calif. -- Veteran driver Tommy Johnson Jr. has reached a long-term agreement with Don Prudhomme Racing to drive a second funny car for Snake Racing during the 2001 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series, Prudhomme Racing General Manager, Cory Watkins announced today.

With his previous plans for the 2001 season not formally finalized, Johnson Jr. has decided to join Prudhomme’s two Funny Car team where he will be paired with his new teammate, U.S. Tobacco Funny Car driver Ron Capps.

"Tommy was our first choice all along, so we were pretty happy when we heard that he was still unsigned late in the season," said Prudhomme. "Because of his talent on the track and his skills with the fans, sponsors and media, we felt he was the best available driver out there to step in the car and we are excited about him becoming part of the team."

"When I was a kid, there was Don Garlits and Don "The Snake" Prudhomme, so for Snake to even offer me the chance to drive for him is an honor," said Johnson Jr. "The biggest factor for me though was being able to sign a multi-year agreement, especially after several half-year stints with other teams. To have signed a three-year contract with the biggest name in drag racing, as well as joining a team with guys like Ron Capps and Larry Dixon, it just makes for a foundation that is as solid as it gets."

"I have known Snake as a competitor when we raced against each other his first year back in Top Fuel in 1990," said Johnson Jr. "I didn’t really appreciate his intensity when we competed against each other. It seemed that all he was interested in was winning and I wasn’t sure that I liked his personality. But since then I have realized what that intensity to win is all about and I think that is something that I learned from him and hopefully he sees that in me."

The 2001 season will mark the Ottumwa, Iowa native’s tenth year behind the wheel of a Nitro-powered machine since making his debut in the Nitro class in 1990. He was the youngest driver in history to get an NHRA competition license at age 15. He competed in the Top Fuel class from 1990-1996, including a career-best eighth-place finish in the Winston Championship in 1995. For his career, Johnson Jr. has two wins in five Top Fuel finals, as well as two wins in four Funny Car final round appearances.

"Having Tommy join the team is wonderful," said Capps. "I would rank Tommy as one of the best Funny Car drivers out there right now. To have someone that savvy and who has driven both Top Fuel and Funny Car like I have will make for a great teammate. Seldom do you find a guy who is as easy going, is easy to talk to and is a great driver all rolled in to one. I’m really excited about the two-car team because I still believe that no one has done it the way it should be done with both cars set up identically and with both drivers having a chance to contend for the Winston Championship."

Capps, who finished second in the Winston Funny Car Championship last year, returns to Prudhomme Racing for his fifth season and will pilot the U.S. Tobacco Funny Car next season. Teammate Larry Dixon, coming off a career-best third place finish in the Winston Top Fuel Championship, will be behind the wheel of the Miller Lite Dragster in 2001, his seventh year driving for Prudhomme.

Details regarding sponsorship and staffing of Prudhomme’s second Funny Car driven by Johnson Jr. will be announced in the near future.

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