Brainerd: Warren Johnson pre-race notes

WJ's Wrap Sheet - Brainerd International Raceway Edition 1. WJ's First Brainerd Race -- 1982 Race Car: 1981 Olds Starfire Performance: WJ Qualified Third, 7.890 seconds, 174.75 mph Defeated John Lingenfelter ...

WJ's Wrap Sheet - Brainerd International Raceway Edition

1.  WJ's First Brainerd Race -- 1982

Race Car: 1981 Olds Starfire
Performance:  WJ Qualified Third, 7.890 seconds, 174.75 mph

Defeated John Lingenfelter
Lost to Frank Iaconio

In Warren's Words:

"I remember we were running a big-block Chevy engine in that Olds Starfire, which by today's standards was not a very sophisticated powerplant. The NHRA had just started to implement the 500 cubic-inch engine program, and I didn't get as comfortable with the format as I would like to be until the next year with the Oldsmobile engine.

"Ironically, the track was pretty similar to what you see today, with the exception of some extra paving in the pits and the office building that was put up a couple years ago. The fuel cars were pitted along the road course, and we were in the dirt. Other than that, it was about the same."

Notes of the time:

* This was the 43rd NHRA Pro Stock national event of WJ's career, and seventh of the 1982 season.

* This was the first year that Brainerd International Raceway hosted an NHRA national event

* This was also the first NHRA national event to have a major sponsor, and was known as the Quaker State NorthStar Nationals.

* Bob Glidden was the No. 1 qualifier with a 7.870-second elapsed time, while Brian Stewart anchored the eight-car Pro Stock field with a 8.044-second time.

* John Lingenfelter red-light in his first round match-up against WJ, who then left the starting line early in the second round against Frank Iaconio.

* The field consisted of six Chevrolet Camaros, WJ's Oldsmobile Starfire and Bob Glidden's Ford EXP.

* In the Pro Stock final, Lee Shepherd in the Reher-Morrison Camaro defeated Iaconio for his sixth win of the season, locking up the Pro Stock championship.

* Winners in the other professional categories that weekend included Shirley Muldowney over Gary Beck in Top Fuel and Frank Hawley eliminating Al Segrini in the Funny Car final.

2. WJ's First Brainerd Win -- 1984
Race Car: 1984 Hurst/Olds Oldsmobile Cutlass

Performance: WJ Qualified Third, 7.761 seconds, 181.08 mph
Defeated Jerry Eckman, Don Coonce, Bob Glidden and Lee Shepherd

In Warren's Words:

"For some reason, I had an unusually good track record against Lee (Shepherd). I can't say I tried any harder against him, because I put forth the same effort every time. I just was fortunate to win as many finals against him as I did.

"I had actually tried to work qualifying in my favor in order to meet him in the earlier rounds but it didn't work out. It was an unusual tactic I had used to win a championship in the IHRA, so I thought I'd give it a shot in the NHRA."

Notes of the time:

* This win was the eighth of Warren's Pro Stock career, and came in his 12th final round.

* This was the second time that WJ had won consecutive races in his career, having won in Fremont and Irvine in 1982.

* W.J. defeated Pro Stock stalwart Lee Shepherd in the final, who he was chasing for the Winston Pro Stock championship.

* Of Warren's eight national event wins to that point in his career, six had come from his defeating Shepherd in the final.

* This was Johnson's fourth win in 1984, as he would finish with five national event wins and a runner-up finish in that year's Winston championship standings.

* Bob Glidden was the No.1 qualifier with a 7.709-second elapsed time, while Mark Yuill was the 16th qualifier with an 7.977-second e.t.

* WJ had employed some unusual strategy in the preliminary qualifying sessions, slowing down in order to set-up an early encounter with Shepherd in order to maximize his potential points gain.

* Warren's 181.08 mph speed in qualifying ended up as Top Speed of the Meet.

* The field consisted of WJ's Olds Cutlass, Chevy Camaros, Pontiac Trans Ams, a Mercury Capri (driven by current Pro Mod team owner Roy Hill) and a Ford Thunderbird.

* In other professional categories that weekend, the Top Fuel final saw Joe Amato defeat Gary Ormsby, while Mark Oswald defeated Frank Hawley to win in Funny Car.

3. WJ's Most Recent Brainerd Win -- 1996
Race Car: 1996 GM Performance Parts Pontiac Firebird

Performance: WJ Qualified Second, 7.265 seconds, 190.67 mph
Defeated Bruce Allen, Jerry Eckman, Jim Yates and Steve Schmidt

In Warren's Words:

"I had a little bit of a learning curve with the Firebird. At the time, I had a Don Ness-built chassis, which had the stock 101-inch wheelbase, as compared to the Cutlasses 107-inch wheelbase. The first time I drove it was in testing at Gainesville, and it felt like a really fast go-kart due to the difference in wheelbase. In addition, the aero balance was completely unlike the Cutlass. It took a little time to adapt to it, but after a while it proved to be pretty successful, as exemplified by this win in Brainerd."

Notes of the time:

* This win was the 59th win of WJ's career.

* This was Warren's fourth win in five final round appearances at BIR.

* This was also the 95th national event final round of WJ's career.

* This was also WJ's fifth win in 1996.

* This was Warren's first year in a Pontiac Firebird after switching from his Oldsmobile Cutlass.

* WJ scored an important win in the semifinals over Jim Yates as he tried to close the gap in the Winston championship standings. WJ left on Yates by five hundredths and ran a 7.130-second elapsed time to trailer Yates' 7.133-second effort.

* Tom Martino was the surprise No. 1 qualifier with a 7.097-second elapsed time, but fouled out against Bob Glidden in the second round.

* Larry Morgan was the 16th and final qualifier with a 7.149-second e.t.

* The Pro Stock line-up included Oldsmobile Cutlasses, Pontiac Firebirds and a single Ford Probe.

* Other winners that weekend included Kenny Bernstein who defeated Eddie Hill in the Top Fuel final, and John Force, who defeated Tony Pedregon in a battle of teammates in the Funny Car final.

4. WJ's Brainerd International Raceway in a Nutshell --

"Brainerd is a rather interesting racetrack, because everyone has to adapt to the conditions which change from year to year. Overall, it's provided some pretty interesting racing over the years, and we're fortunate to have gotten our share of wins there.

"However, you can't talk about Brainerd without mentioning the fans. I'm not sure where it fits on the NHRA's list in terms of attendance, but it has to rank near the top. Every year, they come in droves from miles away, including a very large contingent from Canada, and have a great time all weekend. Of course, no trip to Brainerd is complete without a tour of the campgrounds -- that is an experience of it own. All in all, I'd say the fans make this race an event."

WJ's Brainerd Did You Know? --

* WJ's four Brainerd International Raceway wins are tied with Bruce Allen for the most among active Pro Stock drivers.

-j2r-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Shirley Muldowney , Kenny Bernstein , Warren Johnson , John Force , Joe Amato , Larry Morgan , John Lingenfelter , Bob Glidden , Bruce Allen , Tom Martino , Steve Schmidt , Frank Hawley