Tommy Johnson, Jr
The Ottumwa, Iowa product was born into a family of straight-line racers, thus it’s only natural that his dream was to follow in his father’s footsteps and compete professionally on the quarter-mile track.
T.J.’s racing career started at the age of eight-years-old competing on motorcycles at a local track in Iowa. He raced motorcycles until the age of 14, where he then strapped into his first race car.
Moving to the NHRA Tommy started out well. In 1990 Tommy became the 14th member of the Crager 4 second club. In 1994 he became the 15th Slick 50 member of the 300 mph club. That made him 1 of 5 to be a member of both the 4 second and 300 mph club.
At the age of 15, Johnson became the youngest person to ever hold a NHRA competition license. His driving career began in the sportsmen ranks as he piloted vehicles in the Super Gas, Super Comp and Top Alcohol Funny Car categories. He broke through for his first NHRA victory at the 1988 NHRA event near Columbus, Ohio, beating Pat Austin in the final round to collect his first career "Wally" trophy.
Johnson earned his NHRA Top Fuel license in 1989. The next season, he powered his dragster to a run of 4.964-seconds becoming the 14th member of the exclusive Cragar 4-Second Club, edging drag racing icons Don "the Snake" Prudhomme and Kenny Bernstein, who went on to claim the final two spots in the four-second fraternity.
"That is one of the most important accomplishments in my racing career," Johnson said.
"Your first win is always important," Johnson said.
The next season, Johnson joined another elite club, becoming the 15th member of the Slick 50 300-mph Club after clocking a speed of 302.01-mph at Houston Raceway Park. He joined Eddie Hill, Amato, Prudhomme and Bernstein as the only members in both the four-second and 300-mph clubs. Later that season, Johnson set the NHRA speed record at 306.64-mph in Topeka, Kan.
"My biggest accomplishment in racing, to date, is being a member of both of those special clubs," Johnson said. "To join that group of drag racing legends is a special feeling. You can’t go back and change history."
After serving as a television commentator for the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA), Helen Hofmann tabbed Johnson to pilot her Funny Car for the final 11 races of the 2000 season. Johnson stunned the drag racing community by grabbing the No. 1 qualifying spot at the prestigious U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.
After scoring two victories in 99’ and success in 00’, Johnson received a phone call from Prudhomme offering something he had been without for nearly half a decade, job security. Prudhomme, a drag racing legend and four-time NHRA Funny Car champion, hired Johnson to drive a second Skoal Racing Chevy Funny Car in 2001.
In his first event driving for the Snake, T.J. powered his blue Skoal Racing flopper to the top qualifying spot at the season-opening Winternationals in 2001. He went on to claim his fifth career win when he bested the field at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in April. "I was proud to get the first win for the Skoal brand when they entered drag racing again in 2001," Johnson said.
In 2008, Johnson piloted the Monster Energy Funny Car for racing legend and six-time NHRA champion Kenny Bernstein. Johnson has raced for three of the biggest names in auto racing in Gibbs, Prudhomme and Bernstein gaining valuable experience on owning and operating a successful motor sports team.
Johnson joined NHRA mega team Don Schumacher Racing in the winter of 2009 as the lead driver for the Yas Marina Circuit Top Fuel dragsters. Johnson and Rod Fuller christened the Yas Drag Centre in Abu Dhabi, March 18-20, as part of the Yas Drag Festival at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. Johnson had an impressive Middle East debut by making all six runs from a 3.89 to 3.93 seconds and just missing the 500 kilometer mark when he ran 499.76 kilometers per hour. The teams are planning a December return to Abu Dhabi to compete in front of the Emirate fans again.
In 2015 driving for Don Schumacher Tommy has two wins and is qualified for the Countdown to the Championship currently in 3rd in season points.