Marketing at Full Speed
Jonathan Johnson has been racing since 1992 when the NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) introduced the Jr. Drag Racing League. This was a program built around half-scale dragsters that ran on a 5 hp Briggs & Stratton engine for children ages 8-17. It was then when Jonathan’s father purchased the seventh car built by Half Scale Dragsters Incorporated that he was ready to hit the track. During the inaugural race for the class, Jonathan recorded a Runner-Up finish at the Winston Drag Racing Series event at Houston Raceway Park in September 1992.
Over the next 6 years, Jonathan collected nearly 30 victories in Jr. Dragster competition, including a Division 4 Championship in 1996. This instilled a desire that would carry him into full-size race cars. He continued to race juniors through the end of the 1998 season, when he made the decision to enter the Stock Eliminator category at 16 years of age.
Jonathan would start the 1999 season in a 1969 Camaro, with the help of the famed Emmons family of Pasadena, Texas. While winning many bracket racing events, he also managed late round finishes at the handful of divisional and national event he attended while finishing high school. After three seasons with the Stock Eliminator ride, Jonathan moved to the family's Super Street 1969 Camaro for the 2001 season. In his first outing, he won the IHRA Holley Pro-Am at Lone Star Raceway Park in Sealy, Texas. This was the first of many victories in the "old faithful" Camaro. While Jonathan had taken over the driving of the Camaro, his older brother, Chris, had taken delivery of a 2001 Pontiac Firebird for Super Gas (9.90) competition. Chris spent a great deal of time getting the former Top Sportsman car competitive in Super Gas trim, and it was not long after that his school commitments would begin to take over. Towards the end of 2004, because of Chris' scholastic requirements, Jonathan would take over the driving duties of the Firebird.
Jonathan would go on to have great success with the Super Gas ride. He would score a victory at the NHRA Division 4 Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Event in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 2004. After a Runner-Up finish at the 2005 O’Reilly Spring Nationals at Houston Raceway Park, Jonathan attended Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School to fulfill a lifelong dream of driving a Top Alcohol Funny Car. With the nod of approval from Frank, Jonathan teamed with Owasso, Oklahoma's Brad McWilliams and his Top Alcohol Funny Car team. The two would go on to score a semi-final finish at their first event, the O’Reilly Fall Nationals in Ennis, Texas. At the end of 2005, a phone call from longtime Top Alcohol Funny Car owners George and Jane Etterman paved the way for Jonathan to drive their Bar's Leaks entry for 2006.
Jonathan would race to a Runner-Up finish at the first event, directly followed by a Number 1 Qualifying position and semi-final finish at the second event. By the end of the year, Jonathan had one event win, two runner-ups, three Number 1 qualifiers, a fourth place finish in Division 4, and an 18th place national finish. He recorded career best numbers of 5.610 seconds at 257.60 mph. Unfortunately, at the end of the 2006 season, the Ettermans elected to retire from drag racing and Jonathan chose to concentrate on his graduation from Texas A&M University’s College of Architecture the following May (2007). However, not surprisingly, Jonathan found a way to continue racing.
For 2007, Jonathan decided to join some friends in the dirt modified scene. He retained a few marketing partners from the alcohol funny car, as well acquired new ones and set out for some fun on the dirt. While he did not take any feature win accolades, he did establish himself among fellow drivers. Along the way, conversations with Bar’s Leaks rekindled and a partnership was agreed upon for 2008 and beyond.
As the 2008 season approached, along with their wedding, Jonathan and Katie decided to form JKJ Motorsports. This, in addition to a new modified ensured some success on the dirt in 2008. As the season drew to a close, success was had with numerous top 3 finishes, as well as nearly a dozen top fives. However, the time demands on the car proved to be a bit much for the newlyweds and they elected to do some mini sprint racing, as well as drag racing with long time supporter Corky Wheeler from Beaumont, Texas.
2009 saw five Mini-Sprint races that garnered A-Main qualifying and a couple of top ten finishes. It also marked a return to drag racing on a full-time basis for Johnson. He and partner, Corky Wheeler, attended five events with a couple of late round finishes toward the end of the season. Additionally, the two purchased a new dragster and will once again sport the Bar’s Leaks Rear Main Seal livery for 2010.
In 2010, the duo was stout. Routinely in the quart and semi-final rounds, the team finished inside the Top 5 in Super Pro points at Houston Raceway Park.
The 2011-2013 seasons saw similar success. Continuing their partnership with Bar's Products the team not only attended races throughout Division 4 series, but also several different tracks for the local bracket scene. Jonathan recorded and couple of runner-up finishes, more than a dozen semi-finals and countless quarter-final finishes.
At the end of 2013. Jonathan sold his automotive repair business and moved to Oklahoma for a job with a major oil and gas company in early 2014. While driving both dirt and drag cars on occasion during 2014 and 2015, he never really felt like he could get away as a result of the uncertainty of the oil market, and would eventually return to Texas and his entrepreneurial ways.
At the end of 2016, Jonathan received a call from long-time friend Bryan Brown about heading to Las Vegas to help crew on his Top Alcohol Funny Car. It was that weekend, that all the feelings, emotions and desire to drive Top Alcohol Funny Car would return. Mid-way through the 2017 season, Bryan restructured his team, and Jonathan would continue on with the team for the rest of the year.
For 2018, Jonathan has worked full-time with Bryan Brown's Empire Iron Works team and enjoyed every minute of it. The team has a very strong bond, and while they race hard, and work hard, the time that they get to enjoy together as a team after hours is always fun and makes for some good laughs.
The future is bright for the 36 year-old business owner, husband and father-of-two. And as Robert Earl Keen was know to say and Jonathan has learned to appreciate even more than past couple of years "the road goes on forever, and the party never ends."
Jonathan Johnson, recognized as one of the friendliest, most well-known drivers within the South Central Division of the NHRA, as well as other racing facets, inspires the next generation by his hard work, sportsmanship and overall mannerisms.
Jonathan’s long-time achievements and deep aspirations span away from the track and originate with his education and continuous community involvement. As a graduate of Texas A&M University, Jonathan excels in his work within the automotive industry as an entrepreneur of multiple businesses surrounding the automotive supply and repair businesses.
Amidst the numerous hours devoted to his racing program, Jonathan volunteers at various Boy Scouting events, high school assemblies, men and women’s organizations, as well as with the Race Against Drugs programs. Speaking on the importance of goal setting, sound decision making, achieving goals and overcoming obstacles, Jonathan encourages others to strive for personal triumphs and victories. Due to his volunteering efforts, the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation awarded Jonathan the President’s Volunteer Service Award in 2004, 2005 and 2006. As a result, Jonathan joins an elite group of Americans who continue to volunteer their time to help others build a culture of citizenship, service and responsibility throughout the United States. Jonathan’s qualities continue to attract broadcast media attention for local news channels at the events that he attends and races.
Hometown – Beaumont, Texas
Current Residence – Woodway, Texas
Birthday – June 27
Family – (wife) Katie Johnson, (son) Ward, (daughter) Paige
Height – 6’-2”
Weight – 185 lb.
Began racing at the age of 10
Career Wins/Finals Rounds within the NHRA– 30/49
Best Appearing Crew Award Winner in 1999
Best Appearing Car Award Winner in 2000
Winner of over 30 sanctioned races to date within NHRA Events
Division 4 Champion 1996
Eliminator Wins in the following classes: Jr. Dragsters, Stock, Super Street, Super Gas, and Top Alcohol Funny Car
Dirt Car Wins: Street Stock and Limited Modified
Jonathan enjoys spending time with his family away from the track. Tinkering on items around the house and even taking on large construction projects. He has an affinity for tackling projects that involve home improvement.