Matthew Johnson was chosen as Ford Racing’s Sportsman of the Week after celebrating his return to RallyCar racing with a US Rallycross victory at New Jersey Motorsports Park this past weekend – Johnson drove the Nitro Circus 1978 Ford Fairmont station wagon during a two-day battle against nearly a dozen two-wheel drive competitors in the 2nd of three US Rallycross events.

The 1978 Nitro Circus Ford Fairmont station wagon was a clear underdog at the start of the event. “This car is so Nitro Circus,” said Johnson. “It looks a little sketchy and pretty funny, but it’s got some talent hidden under the skin. I had a blast driving it – even in the wet when it was a handful.”

This was Johnson’s first Rallycross event, “It took me a little time to get the rules down. I backed off in one heat race to let other cars catch up so we could play some, then I remembered I was supposed to be going fast for lap times – not dicing with other drivers!” Much of the team’s time between heats was working to set the Fairmont up for Rallycross. This included raising the car two inches and using softer springs, but the car was still too stiff for the dirt. Additionally, Johnson dreaded the rain due to the car’s powerful front brakes, “It tends to lock up the fronts a little more than you’d like – especially when you are pointed at tire barriers very close to the race line.”

As a repeat production class rally national champion and also a competitor at ESPN’s X Games Rally competition in 2008 and 2009, Johnson is a critical component of American rally racing. His entry, however, had people wondering whether his deep competition and driving experience would prove advantageous in the Rallycross format. “I always like to stir up the pot,” said Johnson. “I had a lot of encouragement coming into the event – people wanting to see what I could do. Thanks to them, my Nitro Circus team, and my sponsors, I was able to deliver a win – it feels good to go home after this kind of weekend,” he reflected.

Johnson plans to return to the 3rd and final round of the championship in New Jersey on November 6th & 7th. “I plan to come back, but we have to make sure Fairmont can take it. The transitions between dirt and pavement sections were pretty rough, so we’ll inspect the car and make changes to improve it, or we’ll pick a different Nitro Circus car to use.”

Johnson’s Nitro wagon is borrowed from Dave Blum, a friend he met at his first autocross in 1995. Ford Racing’s press echoed Johnson’s humor, ending their press release with Johnson’s quote: “Dave has quite a sense of humor. He built a track car to run with Porsche’s out of a 1978 Ford Fairmont station wagon,” and adding, “Who’s laughing now?”

Matthew Johnson Motorsport is supported by: Nitro Circus (www.nitrocircus.com), Checkpoint Racing (www.cp-racing.com), Stickerdude Designs (www.stickerdudedesigns.com), Joe Gibbs Driven Racing Oil (www.joegibbsdriven.com), and Giant Bikes (http://www.giant-bicycles.com/en-us/)

Matthew Johnson’s Facebook is http://www.facebook.com/pages/Matthew-Johnson/236209644668.

All Photos: Matthew Johnson steals the hearts of rally fans, again, in the Nitro Circus Ford Fairmont. By Bill Lockwood – WeKickAssets

About Rallycross
Americans have seldom seen the speed, power, intensity and overall competition of a Rallycross event. New to America in 2010, the sport sits at the intersection of rally, drifting, and road racing disciplines and features stars from each respective autosport. Five drivers line up to start at once, piloting high-horsepower compact cars through race traffic over a challenging short course that features jumps, unbanked turns, hills and transitions between pavement and gravel. Each car must also take a “Joker” lap at some point during their heat. A Joker Lap is a small detour – normally over a jump – that adds a level of unpredictability to the heat’s outcome by changing a driver’s strategy in an instant. The sport is debuting this year in the US with a three-event series at the New Jersey Motorsports Park. For 2011, the calendar will feature a full, US championship series with events held nationwide.

About RallyCar, Inc.
Based in Golden Valley, Minn., RallyCar sanctions the premier performance rally series in the United States, the Rally America National Championship Series. In 2010, RallyCar is conducting six National Championship events at venues across the country, from Olympia, Washington to Newry, Maine. RallyCar competitors reach speeds of well over 100 mph in modified street cars on natural-terrain courses consisting of gravel, dirt or snow. Additionally, through a partnership with ESPN, qualifying RallyCar drivers are invited to compete in ESPN’s Summer X Games 16, the annual leading action-sports event that’s broadcast live on ESPN.

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