In late May 2003, Alan Johnson was at the center of the biggest story in NHRA Drag Racing when it was announced that he would immediately take over crew chief duties for Top Fuel racer Tony Schumacher and the then-floundering U.S. Army team. Crew chief changes are a relatively common fact of life at NHRA's top level, but Johnson's stunning declaration at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals of his intention to leave the U.S. Army camp to again become a team owner was no ordinary "so-and-so is replacing so-and-so" announcement.
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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