BY DARREN REESE
JOHNSON CITY - Greeneville native Allen Johnson returned from the west coast earlier this week as a champion, and Wednesday afternoon Bristol Dragway celebrated him as such.
Thunder Valley hosted Johnson, his father and engine builder, Roy, and a large contingent of family members, friends, and media in a gathering at Logan's Roadhouse restaurant.
Johnson wrapped up the 2012 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Pro Stock world championship title at this past weekend's season-ending event at Pomona, California.
"We are so proud to have our hometown hero come out," Bristol Executive Vice President and General Manager Jerry Caldwell said in a presentation of a framed photo to Johnson.
"You are a great friend to the speedway, (and) we are so proud of you. Not only did you compete in one of the most competitive forms of motor sports, but you dominated."
Johnson had qualified for the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship postseason each of the past six years, but his previous best finish was fourth (in 2007 and 2011).
This season was finally his breakout year, though.
Johnson won the season finale at Pomona, just a day after his qualifying effort sealed up the series title.
The victory was his seventh of the season, which almost matched the nine career wins he entered 2012 with.
"We got to where we learned how to win," Johnson said. "We (had) lacked that."
"When we learned, not only me, but dad, the car guys, we learned what it took and we got used to it. Hopefully we can continue that next year."
The championship is a culmination of a 17-year journey for the Johnson & Johnson racing team.
Roy's wife and Allen's mother, Revonda, and Allen's wife, Pam, have offered unwavering support over the years.
Johnson is also quick to credit his crew and the Mopar organization.
"It's a family success," the driver said. "That's what we work for. That's what we dreamed of."
"It's a success for our family and for our crew."
Bristol Dragway is considered Johnson's home track, but it was also the site of his most heartbreaking setback in 2012.
Back in June at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, Johnson finished runner-up to Mike Edwards in what has been tabbed as "the closest Pro Stock final round in NHRA history".
Johnson was the No. 1 qualifier at Bristol for the third consecutive year, but lost out to Edwards in a virtual dead heat. The official margin of victory was .000.
Caldwell said during his presentation Wednesday that Johnson's next accomplishment "needs to be to win at Bristol on Fathers Day".
Roy quickly quipped back, "We won this year and you gave it (to someone else)."
That exchange drew a big laugh from the crowd.