Down Time

Sprint to the Finish

An artistic rendering of Thomas Johnson and his Johnson Logging sprint car.

How do you make a small fortune in racing? Start with a large fortune, as the old joke goes.

Although logger Thomas Johnson, co-owner of Thomas Johnson Logging in DeRidder, Louisiana, doesn’t compete at the highest levels of stock-car or open-wheel racing, he wouldn’t call it an inexpensive hobby. “But we do work on a shoestring compared to other teams,” he says. “We haven’t invested half of what many other drivers invest. I don’t always have the nicest equipment, but we run pretty respectably for our budget.”

Johnson races sprint cars in the RaceSaver® Sprint Series, one of the fastest growing sprint car series in the country, with over 1,000 drivers. The series strives to keep entry costs affordable so working folks like Johnson can compete. Purses are kept at a reasonable level so people don’t overinvest in order to win.

Johnson races with his father Thomas Sr. twice a month across the South Central U.S., from Dallas, Texas, to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to Little Rock, Arkansas. “Not only do we work together, we play together,” says Johnson. “Dad has the championships and the big wins, but that’s where his age and experience pay off.” Johnson has won a few races himself and is always a threat to run up front. To stay competitive, he spends from two to four hours a night in the shop turning wrenches. “It’s like having a second job,” he says.

The sprint car’s 305-cubic-inch V8 engine produces 400 horsepower. That’s roughly half the horsepower of a NASCAR™ stock car, but at 1,575 pounds, the sprint car only weighs about half as much. “It delivers around 400 foot-pounds of torque, which is a lot,” says Johnson. “It’s quite an adrenaline rush.” The car’s wings add downforce, making them easier to control, but the racing is fast and exciting. On a quarter-mile track, Johnson typically turns 13-second laps. After eight lap qualifiers, feature races are usually 20 to 25 laps. “Time goes by pretty quickly,” says Johnson. “It’s a lot of work for a little bit of play. But I get to spend more time with my dad, which is a blessing.”