After five championship seasons, Johnson leaves U.S. Army team by ProQuest


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									After five championship seasons, Johnson leaves U.S. Army team
                         Johnson was at the center
In late May 2003, Alanwould immediately take over
 of the biggest story in NHRA Drag Racing when it
was announced that he
                                                             Sheikh Khalid Bin Hamad Al
                                                             Thani, of Qatar, a country rapidly
                                                             taking an interest in drag racing
                                                                                                                                         announced he was leaving Roger
                                                                                                                                         Burgess’ Funny Car team to become
                                                                                                                                         crew chief for Johnson’s Funny Car
crew chief duties for Top Fuel racer Tony                    both at home and abroad. Johnson                                            entry. Three days later, a driver for
Schumacher and the then-floundering U.S. Army                announced that he would be                                                  that car was determined: Del
team. A little more than five years later, Johnson           leading the Qatar-based Al-Anabi                                            Worsham, a 22-time national event
again found himself in the eye of a media storm,             race team, which would field                                                winner who was losing his longtime
only this time with a bit of a twist: It was Johnson’s       entries in both Top Fuel and                                                Checker Schuck’s Kragen
announcement that he was leaving that same U.S.              Funny Car in the 2009 season.                                               sponsorship at the end of the
Army team that sent racing journalists, fans, and                Once the shock lessened and                                             season, was a popular choice to slide
followers into a frenzy.                                     the news settled in that one of                                             into the seat of the Al-Anabi Funny
    Crew chief changes are a relatively common fact          drag racing’s most successful                                               Car. The word soon began to spread
of life at NHRA’s top level, but Johnson’s stunning          partnerships was breaking up,                                               that many members of the U.S.
declaration at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals of his           speculation became the name of                                              Army crew would follow Johnson to
intention to leave the U.S. Army camp to again               the game during much of the fall.                                           his new organization.
become a team owner was no ordinary “so-and-so is            Who would Johnson hire as                                                       The exact makeup of the
replacing so-and-so” announcement. Since that                drivers? Would the U.S. Army                                                Al-Anabi Top Fuel team remained
fateful May day in 2003, the Johnson-Schumacher              crew, an integral part of the                                               undetermined as the 2008 season
combination had put together one of the most                 team’s success during its                                                   came to a close, including which
dominant runs in the history of NHRA Drag Racing,            championship-winning seasons,                                               driver would land one of the most
winning five straight Top Fuel championships from            follow Johnson or stay put?                                                 coveted rides in all of racing (with
2004 to 2008 and transforming an operation that              Where would Johnson establish                                               the rumor mill producing the likes
owner Don Schumacher described in 2003 as                    the team’s shop? Who would be the next crew chief        of Doug Kalitta, Tommy Johnson Jr., Larry Dixon, and
“struggling” into the most feared team in the class.         for the five-time defending Top Fuel champion? And       others). Whichever driver eventually earns the seat
    For all of his many successes with the U.S. Army         would Don Schumacher make any other changes to           will find himself in the middle of an interesting
team, though, Johnson found himself with a desire to         his vast racing operation?                               combination of the new (a Middle East-backed race
return to team ownership. What he described as his               The answers began appearing later in September       team) and the familiar (Alan Johnson calling the
“best opportunity” materialized in the 2008 season in        when the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series                shots). One thing seems certain, though: Johnson is
the form of Middle Eastern royalty, His Highness             entered its Countdown to 1 phase. First, Aaron Brooks    poised to keep making news in 2009 and beyond. ND

Friends we lost
                                                                                                                         • veteran Comp racer Doug Stewart, 52, a two-
                                                                                                                           time national event winner (April 23, of
                                                                                                                           heart attack)
                                                                                                                         • Al Eckstrand, 79, who campaigned the Lawman
                            and victories
For all of the celebrationscompetitors andonfriends of
  racetrack this season, the NHRA
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