Brainerd: Warren Johnson back home

According to novelist Thomas Wolfe, you can never go home again. According to drag racer Warren Johnson, you've got no choice when an NHRA national event is scheduled in your old home state. Johnson will return to his native Minnesota for...

According to novelist Thomas Wolfe, you can never go home again. According to drag racer Warren Johnson, you've got no choice when an NHRA national event is scheduled in your old home state.

Johnson will return to his native Minnesota for the Colonel's Truck Accessories NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway on August 18-20. He has a perfect attendance record at BIR, having competed in all 18 previous editions of the event. Johnson scored four of his 80 career NHRA victories in Brainerd. He posted his first runner-up finish at BIR in last year's race, falling to Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the final round after qualifying in the top spot for the third time in his career.

Minnesota's Iron Range still exerts a magnetic force on W.J., drawing him back to his former home. "I started racing at Brainerd in 1969," Johnson recalled. "I'll see people there I haven't seen for over 30 years. I expect them to look exactly the same, but my eyes are 30 years older, too!

"The track improved dramatically after it was resurfaced several years ago," Warren reported, "but it still doesn't yield the performance that you would expect based on its altitude and the atmospheric conditions.

"Brainerd and Columbus are the two tracks on the circuit that are real anomalies," W.J. continued. "You can look at the track surface, read the atmospheric conditions, and go through all of your records, but the time slip never matches your predictions. The first time that happens, you stand there scratching your head. The next year you scratch some more. Finally you just accept that Brainerd is a bit of a mystery and get on with setting up the car for whatever the track will give you."

One indication of BIR's unique nature is the fact that the track has yet to see its first 200 mph run in Pro Stock. Warren holds the track speed record at 197.59 mph, nearly 5 mph slower than his 202.36 mph national speed record.

WESTERN ROUND-UP

Warren was certainly consistent on the recently completed three-race Western Swing through Denver, Seattle, and Sonoma, Calif. He qualified second, fourth, and first respectively at the three stops, and lost in the second round of eliminations at all three races. He started the westward trek in third place in the championship, and finished it in the same position.

Now Johnson relishes the Winston Drag Racing Series' imminent return to the Midwest. After dealing with high altitude in Denver, bumps in Seattle, and a problematic starting line in Sonoma, the upcoming races promise a return to normalcy.

"You can't make enough horsepower in Brainerd to get the car in trouble," Warren explained. "Indy is Indy - it's likely to be hot and humid, but its altitude is high enough that you can't hurt yourself. Reading and Englishtown will be fine, and Topeka is never a problem - if anything, Topeka has too much traction."

With Jeg Coughlin Jr. enjoying a 299-point lead over Johnson in the championship race, W.J.'s thoughts are naturally turning to next season. "I have a lot of projects on the table," Johnson revealed. "We have new cars and new engine components on the way. We'll be ready for 2001. The question is, will the competition be ready for us?"

<pre> WARREN JOHNSON BRAINERD INTL. RACEWAY RESULTS Year Qual. Result 1982 3 Second Round 1983 4 Semi-final 1984 3 Winner (over Shepherd) 1985 3 Semi-final 1986 3 First Round 1987 7 Semi-final 1988 2 Semi-final 1989 16 First Round 1990 3 Semi-final 1991 1 Second Round 1992 2 Semi-final 1993 2 Winner (over Morgan) 1994 2 Second Round 1995 2 Winner (over Yates) 1996 2 Winner (over Schmidt) 1997 1 Semi-final 1998 2 Semi-final 1999 1 Runner-up (to J. Coughlin)

Total           18
Wins             4
Runners-up       1
Semi-Finals      8
Second Round     3
First Round      2
No. 1 Qualifier  3

POINTS RACE: (After 14 of 23 events) Driver Wins Points 1. Jeg Coughlin Jr. 6 1,195 2. Ron Krisher 2 953 3. Warren Johnson 1 896 4. Kurt Johnson 2 893 5. Troy Coughlin 0 772

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Troy Coughlin , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Ron Krisher , Thomas Wolf