POMONA — Alan Johnson has a new mission.
The Santa Marian with 16 National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) national championships is working to make San Jose’s Mike Salinas into his next title winning driver.
After the 2018 season ended, Johnson left John Force Racing (JFR), where he guided Brittany Force to the 2017 Mello Yello Top Fuel championship, moving to Mike Salinas’ independent Scrappers Racing team.
Johnson is now Scrappers’ consultant and tuner.
And he didn’t go alone.
He brought his longtime crew chief, Brian Husen, and most of his JFR crew with him.
The Scrappers crew joined the rest of the NHRA family Friday, kicking off the 2019 season with the first two rounds of qualifying at the 59th annual Lucas Oil Winternationals at Pomona’s Auto Club Raceway.
In the opening round, things didn’t work out the way the team planned as Salinas had to shut down early and coasted across the 1,000 foot finish line in 6.842 seconds at 83.51 miles per hour.
But his crew worked out many of the bugs and Salinas righted the ship in the second round with a 3.809 second/324.44 mph pass that moved him up from 15th to fourth in the early ladder.
Meanwhile, 2018 Top Fuel national champion Steve Torrence didn’t miss a beat.
Picking up where he left off, when he swept the season-ending, six race Countdown to the Championship, Torrence blasted his way to a 3.716/330.076 pass in the opening round, picking up right where he left off when the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) last visited Pomona’s Auto Club Raceway in November’s season-ending Auto Club Finals.
Billy Torrence, Steve’s father, had the fastest early time but was bumped to second by Steve.
In the second round, Doug Kalitta matched Torrence’s time but sits second because Torrence had a higher top speed.
Scott Palmer sits third, with Salinas fourth and Billy Torrence fifth.
San Luis Obispo native Ron Capps, in his new Dodge Hellcat Funny Car, was quickest in the first round with a 3.915-second/304.87 mph pass.
Robert Hight beat that in the second round with a 3.871/329.67 run, dropping Capps into second with former Alan Johnson Top Fuel pilot Shawn Langdon third.
J.R. Todd, the 2018 Funny Car champion sits sixth after day one wrapped up.
Former Pro Stock national champion Erica Enders set the bar early in her division with a 6.528/212.09 run in her Chevrolet Camaro.
Bob Butner, the 2017 Pro Stock champion, finished the day in second place with Roger Brogdon third.
And in the something old, something new department, Frank Pedregon returned to racing after taking several years off. The brother of current Funny Car pilot Cruz Pedregon and former Pro Stock racer turned TV announcer Tony Pedregon is 15th after opening day.
As for something new, rookie Austin Prock made his professional debut with a 3.771 second/326.62 mph pass in Top Fuel.
Prock’s father Jimmy was on hand and took time from his job as crew chief for John Force’s Funny Car team to catch his son’s first NHRA action.
The final two rounds of qualifying are scheduled for Saturday with live eliminations on Sunday but weather could put a damper on those plans.
Rain is forecast overnight in the Pomona area but, as of press time, forecasters said it should end fairly early in the morning.
Sunday may be more problematic as a day-long rainstorm is in the forecast.
If necessary, the NHRA will move the final eliminations to Monday.