“The Biggest Boomer I’ve Ever Had.”

Tommy Johnson Jr’s run of bad luck in his Funny Car continued during qualifying at the 50th Amalie Oil Gatornationals when he rode out a massive explosion.

While many eyes were on opponent John Force as he crossed the center line in the final qualifying session, all attention was soon on Johnson Jr as the Make-A-Wish car blew the body off in spectacular fashion at near 250mph.

Johnson Jr was engulfed in flames for a brief second but the heat quickly subsided and he was able to bring the car to a safe stop.

The explosion was the third such incident in six runs for Johnson Jr, who rode out two explosions in Phoenix just weeks ago.

Moment of ignition: The explosion tears through the Dodge body on Johnson Jr's car.


Air gets underneath the body, which is designed to break apart in an explosion.
Flames engulf the cockpit.
A cropped version of the photo above, showing the supercharger tilted forward off the motor and the flames surrounding Tommy in the driver's seat.
As the body departs the car the parachutes are pulled loose, while the flames intensify.


Another cropped in photo, showing the wall of flames. Meanwhile John Force is wrestling his Funny Car away just behind!
All of these photos happen about a tenth of a second apart. I was still trained on John when Tommy's accident happened. Here he got out of frame as the flames turned to sparks and embers.
You can see the back tyres off the ground just slightly as the car bounces from the intensity of the explosion. Fuel gushes from the motor on the right.
The parachutes catch air and aid in bringing Tommy Johnson Jr to a stop.


The flames, though spectacular, lasted only briefly and Johnson Jr was able to bring the car to a safe stop.

“That was probably the biggest boomer I’ve ever had,” Johnson Jr said after the spectacular moment. 

“There was no warning whatsoever. The car was running really good and just before the finish line, kaboom! Unexpected for sure. I hate it for the crew guys, all the extra work it’s going to cause. They went through that enough already in Phoenix. I don’t think any of (these explosions) are related, and that’s what’s unfortunate. I don’t think it’s a problem we have, it’s just maybe a run of bad luck.”

  • Story and photos by Luke Nieuwhof.
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