Andrew “Andy” Johnson gained a certain amount of viral-video notoriety this fall when his “Black Knight” ’57 Chevy briefly took flight off the launch of a qualifying pass for the No Mercy 8 event at South Georgia Motorsports Park. The all-four-wheels-off-the-ground incident was spectacular enough, complete with a sparks-flying return to earth, but the fact that it came in Johnson’s first-ever attempt at radial racing made it that much more memorable.
Johnson obtained his Jerry Haas-built ride early this year and promptly swapped the ProCharger-boosted BAE Hemi and transmission from his Top Dragster into the doorslammer in order to make his Top Sportsman debut with it in the PDRA event at Indianapolis this summer. He made it all the way to the semis that weekend, performing well enough to convince him a trip to South Georgia was called for.
“I didn’t even have any radial tires with me when I got to the track,” says the 28-year-old, who normally campaigns in Top Sportsman trim alongside his father Lester’s similar ProCharger-equipped ’55 Bowtie. “I’d decided to go to the race only a week earlier, so I bought a spare set of wheels and got radial tires for them when I got to the track. But I didn’t know how to set up for radials, didn’t have a clue what I was doing. When I got there, I had brand-new shocks on the car and I couldn’t loosen them up enough to make the car work, so I ended up taking them off and putting the old, wore-out ones back on and that worked out a lot better.”
After going 3.90s in Top Sportsman trim, Johnson eventually ran a best of 4.01 seconds on radials in a second-round loss to eventual No Mercy winner Dewayne Mills, but vows a return to SGMP for the Lights Out event next February to break into the threes.
With his dad, Johnson co-owns Total Performance Solutions, an industrial automation company in Cynthiana, Kentucky, and says they both gain a certain amount of satisfaction in going their own way when it comes to racing. “We’ve always liked to be just a little bit different,” he explains. “We’ve been running EFI and ProChargers for about six years now, making us one of the first in the country to run them. I think that’s what I’m most proud of so far in racing, just being a little different.”
This story originally appeared in DI #127, the 30 Under 30 Issue, in December of 2017.