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April 13, 2016

Alan Johnson

Glendora, California

SCOTT SPEED: Thank to members of the media for calling in today. We are four races into the 2016 season, have already seen some incredible racing thus far, and the next event coming up is the very unique NHRA Four-Wide Nationals April 22nd through the 24th at zMax Dragway.

During the call today we'll be joined by Alan Johnson, who is a Top Fuel tuning consultant for both Brittany Force and Steve Torrence. Brittany Force will join us, Top Fuel racer, as well as Alexis DeJoria, Funny Car racer, is scheduled to join us during the course of this afternoon's call. Alan Johnson is the tuning consultant this season for Brittany Force and Steve Torrence. The two teams have created an informal strategic alliance with Johnson to help them increase their on-track performance and consistency. Brittany Force won the event in Gainesville and is the sixth driver to claim a first career victory with Johnson's assistance. The others were Blaine Johnson, Gary Scelzi, Bruce Sarver, Shawn Langdon and Khalid alBalooshi. Johnson has 11 NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel world titles to his name with five different drivers.

Alan, we'll start, first off, thank you for your time, and we'll start with the partnership with Torrence and Brittany that's paid dividends with both combining to win this season; Brittany in the points lead for the first time in her career and Steven fourth. Would you categorize this strong start, is this kind of where you thought everything would be this early in the season?

ALAN JOHNSON: Well, I fully expected the performance to be on par with where we've been. I think that Brittany has exceeded my expectations in her ability to drive and adapt to our procedures, which is certainly to my delight and everyone on the team.

So yeah, we're pleased with the performance, and I think we're on track to be where we want to be.

SCOTT SPEED: Brittany talked about her win in Gainesville about you had a lot of suggestions and ideas what to do, and she even bought into that as much as she started a new workout routine to help her do some different things in the car. How important is that for Brittany or Torrence or Langdon or any of the drivers you've worked with for them to have as in buy-in as possible to get them to where you need them to be?

ALAN JOHNSON: You know, I think that for one thing, like for example, Brittany's workout program, the fact that she's a woman and races against men, it's not necessarily a mental problem as much as it can be physical, because reaction for them is basically an explosion after they see the light, and they have to react.

So our efforts is just to make sure that she doesn't have to give up anything to the guys, so she started that program, which I think is going to help her. It will take time.

And then the mental part of it is just a matter of her continuing to make all of her staging consistent from run to run, whether it's qualifying or eliminations, so she doesn't have to think of anything, it's just driving. So far it's working well, but you know, it's a long season, and we plan to grow and get better.

Q. Alan, in making the decision to put Brittany under your hands and work with her, what was it about her that made you believe you could get her into victory lane and you could improve her performance?
ALAN JOHNSON: Well, okay, so Brittany of all my drivers that I've had in the past is probably near the top as far as her passion to want to do this, so she's fully committed to driving a dragster and winning. So that part makes it easy.

There's certainly things that she's going to have to do and adapt to and buy into, but as long as she has that passion, which it appears that she does, it's going to be -- she's going to end up being a great driver.

Q. When we go to Charlotte in a couple of weeks, what is the difference from a Top Fuel standpoint in having four cars going down the track at one time versus just having two?
ALAN JOHNSON: From a driver's standpoint?

Q. And from an owner's standpoint.
ALAN JOHNSON: Oh, from a driver's standpoint, certainly the difference is staging. You've got four lanes to keep track of versus just two, so there's an added element there. The other probably thing that some people don't think about is in a normal drag race when there's just two cars, if you smoke the tires and you don't see the other car, you're certainly going to pedal on it, right? So in four cars, if you're in the outside lane, it's very difficult for you to know anything that's going on in the inside lane. It creates a completely different dynamic when it comes to actually trying to save the run for the driver. I think that's probably one of the biggest challenges that they see.

As far as tuning the race car, there's really not much difference there. We're just -- you don't have to be the fastest in the first couple of heats, you just have to finish second and try and get yourself into the final, and then obviously that's where you want to win.

But it's still just a matter of racing the racetrack and making your car perform at its best.

Q. What traits have you seen in Steve and Brittany that you've seen in other drivers that you've tuned to championships?
ALAN JOHNSON: You know, like I said about Brittany, it's the passion, which that's going to get her a long ways. And Steve, as well; he's passionate about it. It's going to take some time to really be able to see each driver's strengths and weaknesses as we go along here. We're still pretty new into the season.

I worked with Steve a little bit last year, and there's some work that we need to do there to get him up to the level that he needs to be, but like I said, they're both passionate drivers, and they want to do this, so it makes my job a little bit easier.

Q. Has there been anything that's happened so far this season that's been maybe the biggest learning curve for you in terms of having two cars on two different teams?
ALAN JOHNSON: You know, not really, and it sounds like it could be a lot harder than it is. But the biggest thing is just to make sure that we maintain good performances in each car. It could be -- it could get a little sticky if one car falls into a little bit of a slump where the other car is doing well. That could create some issues between the two teams. But hopefully we'll never get to that situation. Hopefully both cars will maintain that high level of performance that they've had so far this year and we can avoid any of those traps along the way.

Q. When you join a new team, is it with the understanding that the current crew chiefs will defer to you? In other words, you have control of the program from a tuning standpoint?
ALAN JOHNSON: Not necessarily. We don't have anything that cut-and-dry. It's not structured that way. What we do is we meet with -- we actually talk between races. We meet before we begin qualifying. We create kind of a roadmap to how we plan to address the weekend. There's different track conditions everywhere we go, different air atmosphere conditions, so we review those things. We get together. We talk about it, and we decide how we're going to approach the weekend, and then we kind of go from there. After every run, then we get together and decide what we're going to change, how we're going to adapt.

But there's no -- certainly I would have probably the final say if there was some disagreement along the way somewhere, but generally we're just keeping the ship headed in the right direction.

Q. As a follow-up, when you join a team, is there a specific list of parts that you bring that you want to use on the car that maybe they don't have? What is different about what you bring to the team parts-wise?
ALAN JOHNSON: Well, that's a good question, and yes, there is. There's Alan Johnson Performance Engineering, which manufactures a large amount of parts for Top Fuel dragsters. We certainly want to use those components because that's what we're used to. That's what we've designed specifically for this type of racing, so that's what we're going to use. John Force's program, they build a lot of the same parts for their Funny Cars, but they may not necessarily be designed for a Top Fuel dragster but more for a Funny Car. We've kind of pushed some of that stuff aside and come in with the products that we have designed. So both cars, Brittany's and Steve's, both have exactly the same engine components and clutch components.

Q. What's the feeling of seeing -- you now have six drivers that have claimed their first victory with your assistance. What's the feeling of seeing the first win and then a lot of those drivers going on to have some great success under your tutelage?
ALAN JOHNSON: I think probably my brother's first win was -- that was obviously the most gratifying one of all of them. But I think a close second to that would be Brittany because she's -- like I said, she's got so much passion for it, and she's been out here for three years, been in a number of finals, just haven't got it done. To see her finally break through and get a win was very gratifying, and I'm just happy for her and her family that she was able to get it done.

And as far as going on and doing well and winning championships, that's why we're here. That's why we do this. That's why I do it is to get out there and mix it up and get some wins, and to have the drivers be able to experience that, that just adds a whole element of fun to it, as well.

Q. And I guess the other question is one of the big stories this week, Bob Vandergriff closing his doors. Do you have a reaction to that?
ALAN JOHNSON: Well, you know, other than that it's unfortunate, I don't know -- I'm not privy to any details other than what we all read in the press release. It's unfortunate.

Q. Is this a new career path, being advisor, for Alan Johnson, or is the ultimate goal still to be back having your own cars with your own drivers?
ALAN JOHNSON: Well, we're confidently working to that end. Our marketing team is still out there, and we're entertaining people as we speak. Hopefully our goal is to still have our team back out there in 2017.

Yeah, this is -- this just keeps us out there. It keeps my involvement in the sport fresh, so hopefully if everything goes our way, we'll have three teams out there next year.

Q. In your relationship with Brian Husen in the past, did it just kind of move forward, because it always seemed as though you guys were seamless in your approach to putting the car down the track. Still work that way?
ALAN JOHNSON: Yeah. I mean, Brian has been -- he worked for me back in probably 2001 on one of my Funny Cars back then, and then I rejoined them when I went to the U.S. Army team in 2003, so we've been together ever since. He's just a good, talented individual who loves the sport, and he's committed to what he's doing. We've done quite well together, and I'm really excited to see how well he's grown as a crew chief. I think he's got a lot of potential going forward, as well.

SCOTT SPEED: Alan, thank you very much for your time. We will let you get back to a busy afternoon. Thank you very much for joining us, and we look forward to watching both of these partnerships grow when we get to zMax Dragway next week for the Four-Wide Nationals.

ALAN JOHNSON: Great. Thanks for having me, and I'll see you all out at Charlotte.

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