by darren reese
sun sports editor
GREENEVILLE - This time of year affords Allen Johnson little time to relax with his family.
So when he does have such an opportunity, he takes advantage of it.
The 2012 NHRA Pro Stock world champion was at Pioneer Park Tuesday night to throw out the first pitch before the Greeneville Astros' game against Johnson City.
Once the game began, Johnson retreated to his suite to enjoy the company of family and friends before he prepared to fly out this Thursday for the NHRA Sonoma Nationals in Sonoma, California.
"I don't have a lot of time to do things like this this time of year," Johnson said. "So whenever I can get away, it's very special. We like to enjoy it."
Johnson and the rest of the NHRA Mello Yellow Drag Racing Series is currently in its "West Coast Swing". Last weekend had them at Bandimere Speedway in Denver. After Sonoma, it will be off to Seattle for the O'Reilly Auto Parts Northwest Nationals.
Johnson had a rare weekend off prior to Denver, which allowed him and his family to spend some time at their house on Douglas Lake.
"It was great," Johnson said. "We took the grandsons fishing, we went tubing. It was a good chance for us to relax before we went to Denver. Now we are doing the same tonight, enjoying a little baseball, before we go back out west."
The relaxation proved to be just what the doctor ordered for Johnson last week as he rolled to the Mopar Mile-High Nationals title, his fifth win at Bandimere in the last seven years.
Johnson said the track is special to him for a number of reasons. In addition to all of the victories, it was also the place where Johnson first qualified for an NHRA sanctioned event back in 1996.
He also puts the Denver race high on his priority list each season, due to the fact that event sponsor Mopar has been the main sponsor for the Johnson & Johnson Racing Team from the very beginning.
"Mopar has been so good to us, and it's always important that I go out there and perform well," Johnson said. "It's good to see a lot of the Mopar people who help us throughout the year, who we usually just get to talk to on the phone."
"It's a special thing for me to come out here and do well and excite those guys."
Johnson has been red hot since a disappointing finish at his home track of Bristol back in mid June.
In addition to last week's win, he also captured the inaugural Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals in Epping, New Hampshire on June 23.
"It's not really anything that we are doing different," Johnson said of recent stretch. "We've really just hit our stride here. We are getting that push toward the Countdown."
"We are working hard to catch Mike Edwards and take over that No. 1 spot."
Prior to the trip to Denver, Johnson lost in the finals to Edwards - the current Pro Stock points leader - at the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio.
Johnson shook his tires at the start of the showdown and never gave himself a chance.
"We gave that one away," Johnson said. "I should have beat him and been 40 points behind."
Instead, Johnson is 79 points behind Edwards with three races remaining before the Countdown To The Championship begins September 13-15 at Charlotte.