As the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series enters the home stretch, the tour will visit a pair of fast Texas tracks on consecutive weekends. The Texas Motorplex near Dallas, the site of the O'Reilly Fall Nationals on October 20-22, and Houston Raceway...
As the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series enters the home stretch, the tour will visit a pair of fast Texas tracks on consecutive weekends. The Texas Motorplex near Dallas, the site of the O'Reilly Fall Nationals on October 20-22, and Houston Raceway Park, the home of the Matco Tools SuperNationals on October 27-29, are famous for fast times. Warren Johnson rewrote the Pro Stock record book last year in both Dallas and Houston, setting national speed records at 202.33 and 202.36 mph respectively. Don't mess with W.J. in Texas. He's won five times in 11 final-round appearances at the Motorplex. He won the O'Reilly Fall Nationals in 1998 and 1999, and he was runner-up last May in the Castrol Nationals in Dallas. Warren has scored three of his 80 career victories in Houston. "The Motorplex has a narrow groove, and that suits me just fine," Warren reported. "It's a track that demands your undivided attention to keep the car between the walls. We've been successful there in the past because the track can handle whatever power level you bring to it. The only variable is the Texas weather - it could be anywhere between 90 degrees and 30 degrees. We won't know what to expect until we get there. "Houston is a dilemma," Johnson noted. "The track is literally inches above sea level so the engines make excellent power - but the racing surface has always been a little rough. It's relatively easy to make power in Houston, but it's sometimes hard to get it to the pavement efficiently."
"We're in full research and development mode for next season," Johnson revealed. "We're testing almost daily at Atlanta Dragway, fine tuning our clutches, gear ratios, and suspensions. Kurt and I are using chassis configurations that are significantly different from anything out there. I'm optimistic that what we learn in the remainder of this season will bear fruit at the beginning of next year. "We converted Kurt's car to a double frame rail design and that change has really helped his performance in the second half of the season," Johnson noted. "The race in Houston should give us an indication of how well a stiff chassis works on a rough track. That will give us a direction to take with the new cars we're building for next year."
When Johnson defeated Ron Krisher in the first round of eliminations at the AutoZone Nationals in Memphis, he eliminated the last driver with a mathematical chance to catch Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the race for the Pro Stock championship. Johnson's GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac will wear the No. 1 on its window through the final three races of 2000 before it passes to Coughlin in 2001. "Jeg can't say that I didn't help him," Johnson laughed after handing the Pro Stock crown to his successor on a silver platter "See what a nice guy I am?"
Johnson laid down a barrage of 200-mph runs in Memphis, exceeding the double-century mark five times. He recorded his milestone 100th career pass at over 200 mph in the third qualifying session on Saturday morning. By the time he left Memphis, W.J. had topped 200 mph a total of 102 times in his career. Warren has logged more than twice as many 200-mph passes as the next most prolific driver, his son Kurt, who has 40 runs over 200 mph on his resume. Warren has tallied 41 percent of the 249 Pro Stock passes that have exceeded 200 mph in NHRA national event competition. "I'm sure that Elvis must have been at Memphis Motorsports Park because that was the strangest race I've seen," Johnson observed. "We saw conditions that exist maybe once every ten years. We had way too much traction, way too much horsepower, and no data to fall back on. We just couldn't apply the power to the ground. When I looked at the qualifying order, I thought it was a round-track race with an inverted start because it was a complete reversal of the usual order." As Johnson celebrates his Silver Anniversary Season in 2000, his first visit to the Texas Motorplex supertrack is burned into his memory bank. "I was at the Motorplex for its grand opening," Warren recalled. "I had a match race with the Reher-Morrison team, and I believe it was 112 degrees that day. The transporter sank in the fresh asphalt, and you needed kneepads to put up the awning because the top of the trailer was so hot. My first impression was that we'd taken the turnoff to hell, but when I took a look at the track surface, I knew we'd see some heavenly performances at this track when the weather cooled down."
<pre> LAST RACES: Advance Auto Parts Nationals, Topeka, Kan., Oct. 1 Qualified: No. 4 Finished: Lost to Jeg Coughlin Jr. in semi-final round.
AutoZone Nationals, Memphis, Tenn., Oct. 8 Qualified: No. 11 Finished: Lost to Larry Morgan in second round.
POINTS RACE: (After 20 of 23 events) Driver Wins Points 1. Jeg Coughlin Jr. 10 1,827 2. Kurt Johnson 4 1,295 3. Ron Krisher 2 1,267 4. Warren Johnson 1 1,239 5. Mark Pawuk 1 1,052