Tommy Johnson Jr.
Six-time NHRA champion and motorsports icon Kenny Bernstein made a surprise announcement Tuesday that he is stepping out of the cockpit of the Monster Energy/Lucas Oil Funny Car effective immediately and has hired well-known Funny Car shoe Tommy Johnson Jr. as his successor.
"I was only contemplating driving one more year," said Bernstein, "but when Tommy became available at the end of the '07 season, we started to give the situation a lot of thought. We've been fortunate to win six championships and 69 races, and we have some milestone performance marks, chief among them becoming the first to crack the 300-mph barrier.
"I guess we can always look to win one more race or one more championship, but in reality, I've had a great career and many talented crewmembers who have helped mold my success through the years. For me at this stage of my life, the right decision is to step away from the cockpit.
"We chose Tommy because he is a quality driver, likeable person, and he understands the corporate nature of our business. He also has ties to Lucas Oil and Mac Tools, which certainly fit right into our sponsor alignment."
"I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to be on the track next year, especially with the caliber of Funny Car team Kenny fields with Monster Energy/Lucas Oil," Johnson said. "Kenny runs a professional operation and is an icon of our sport. It's an honor to be named as his successor and the first full-time driver he's named outside the family.
"We do have a bit of a history, though. I did some preseason testing for him in 2000 when he was recuperating from shoulder surgery. Kenny and I have been friends for a number of years.
"I am definitely excited about the season to come, but I want to thank Don Prudhomme for the opportunities he gave me the past seven years."
"We're excited to welcome Tommy to our team," said Bernstein. "And I want to also thank Don for working with us to release Tommy to drive for KBR.
"We know with Tommy onboard we won't miss a beat. We plan to do a lot of testing in January at Phoenix, and we'll be ready to attack the '08 season with a seasoned team.
"Jimmy Walsh and Danny DeGennaro will continue to lead the tune-up team for the Monster Energy/Lucas Oil Funny Car, and I will continue to travel to the races and oversee not only our Monster Energy/Lucas Oil Funny Car operation, but also the Budweiser/Lucas Oil Top Fuel team. We have multiple seasons left on sponsorship contracts with both teams."