What makes a good funny car driver? Solid reaction time? Getting the parachutes out on time? Keeping the car in the groove? All important but we think that the single most important attribute a funny car driver can have is the ability to drive a car when it has exploded, drown the driver in hellfire, and started to shed minor parts..like a rear tire. By this descriptions out pal Tommy Johnson Jr is one bad flipping mo-fo. We already knew that he was but this moment last weekend in Phoenix sealed it for us. In the realm of “ain’t never seen that before” this whole scene ranks high.
What you are going to see is TJ’s first round matchup with Jim Campbell. A couple hundred feet into the run, a rear axle shreds, allows the engine to instantly over rev, and that’s where things just start to get bad. Johnson did an amazing job of keeping the now three wheeled car from hitting anything or crossing the center line. he hauled it to a violent, bucking stop on the race track and little did he know it, but the man was in for a second shock in just a couple minutes.
See, TJ had no idea that Jim Campbell had mowed down the blocks in the center of the track and because he himself had not cross or hit anything, he was the winner of the round. When informed of this by tv reporter Amanda Busick, he kind of cocked his head to the side and said, “Really?!”
Then the thrash was on. His crew removed the backup car but ultimately did not use it. A new rear end was slung under the same chassis that he drove in round one and the fellows dropped a new body on it while making the necessary mechanical repairs.
The result? The car went off the starting line in round two, traveled a few hundred feet and violently exploded in TJ’s face. This time there was no mistake in the other lane.
Another day in the life of a funny car driver.