Denver: GM Racing final summary

Warren Johnson Captures 95th Career Pro Stock Win at Denver Third Win of Season Puts "The Professor" Back in the Points Lead MORRISON, Colo., July 17, 2005 - Warren Johnson showed he can still give a lesson or two as the "Professor of Pro Stock"...

Warren Johnson Captures 95th Career Pro Stock Win at Denver Third Win of Season Puts "The Professor" Back in the Points Lead

MORRISON, Colo., July 17, 2005 - Warren Johnson showed he can still give a lesson or two as the "Professor of Pro Stock" posted his 95th career NHRA Pro Stock win in today's finals of the 26th annual Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway. The 62-year-old Johnson got the best of 22-year-old Dave Connolly in the finals after an exciting starting-line burn-down where neither driver would stage his car. After idling for more than a minute and a half, Johnson staged his GM Performance Parts Pontiac first and then went on to take his third win of the season when Connolly had a red-light start in his Chevy Cobalt. Johnson had a final-round elapsed time of 7.131 seconds at 193.16 mph, and his win put him back in the points lead over second-place Greg Anderson.

"I've raced people over the years, you know I've been doing this for 30+ years, and some people get a mind-set that they have to stage last," said Johnson. "We'll let them do it once in awhile, but you've got a bright kid and you just have to teach him a lesson once in awhile (laughs). We knew we had enough [fuel]. We could probably sit there a good four minutes before we'd be light at the scales."

"I've never held up anybody at the start, I just staged when I was ready. Finally, enough is enough. I felt like we had a pretty good package for the final. When you sit there that long, the adrenaline starts to get a little peaky and my chances of red-lighting were just as good as his probably. I felt like let's not push the issue any further and went in and staged it. As long as the fans enjoyed it, that means we all still have a job."

After qualifying second with a 7.112 e.t. at a Bandimere Speedway-record speed of 194.24 mph, Johnson cruised to his 148th career final round with precision-like runs of 7.151, 7.165, and 7.134, all the quickest of their respective round. Connolly reached his fifth final-round of the season with impressive hole-shot wins over Anderson in Round 2 and Kurt Johnson in the semifinals.

"I just congratulated him," said Johnson. "He had a good day and he did an excellent job of driving. Apparently they hurt their motor early, either in qualifying or first round. They did a good job, and if in fact they did have an engine that was hurt, he took up the slack for the team from the driving end of it. I mean, if you look at his first three rounds, I don't think you could find anything better than that."

Connolly defeated Mike Thomas in Round 1, and then used a .007 reaction time to better Greg Anderson in Round 2. Anderson, debuting the new Pontiac GTO with a No. 1 qualifier, had a quicker elapsed time of 7.188 seconds to Connolly's 7.199 but lost on a hole-shot. Connolly continued his starting-line prowess in the semifinals against Warren's son Kurt, using a .010 light with an elapsed time of 7.199 to get the hole-shot win over Johnson's quicker 7.184 e.t. Connolly nearly cut a perfect light in the finals, the 13th of his young career, with a -.001 reaction time.

"We've struggled on this mountain (the track is more than 5,280 feet above sea level) every time we've been here, including testing, but this runner-up was good," said Connolly. "We have nothing to complain about. It was just our day to be runner-up. Everything went our way today until the final. I had the breaks. Kurt made a bad run and Greg made a bad run. We were just kind of squeaking by."

Two other GM performers also reached the Pro Stock semifinals with impressive days as Jim Yates in a Pontiac took a chapter out of Connolly's book and got impressive hole-shot wins over Jason Line in Round 1 and V. Gaines in Round 2 before losing to eventual race-winner Johnson in the semis. Kurt Johnson qualified his Chevy Cobalt fourth and defeated Ben Watson in Round 1 and Jeg Coughlin in Round 2 before losing to Connolly.

In Funny Car, two Chevy Monte Carlos made it to the semifinals, but unfortunately they faced off against each other for a chance to reach the money round. Phil Burkart Jr. defeated John Force in Round 1 and Ron Capps in Round 2 before facing off against Tim Wilkerson in the semis. Wilkerson had bested Eric Medlen in Round 1 and Whit Bazemore in Round 2 to reach at least the the third round for the second consecutive race. He lost to Ron Capps in the finals at St. Louis three weeks ago. Burkart's Chevy got the better of Wilkerson's with an elapsed time of 5.153 seconds at 292.84 seconds to Wilkerson's 5.209 e.t. and 293.60 mph. In the finals Burkart lost to Robert Hight in a Ford with an elapsed time of 5.650 seconds at 187.57 mph to Hight's winning elapsed time of 4.897 seconds at 316.60 mph.

"You don't run them on paper," Burkart said. "On paper, they had us covered, but drag racing is a tricky deal and you go up there and run it. I figured we probably wouldn't outrun him if his car made the sort of lap it was making all weekend, but we had a legitimate chance to win. We wanted to win, and we know what it feels like to win here. You can taste it, you can feel it, and you want it so bad. But, all in all, a runner-up finish here after going so long without a round win of any kind, is a very good thing. We feel like we know what we're doing again, and that maybe fate isn't working against us. We beat Force, Capps, and Wilkerson. There's a lot to be proud of around here."

Cory McClenathan reached the semifinals in Top Fuel by defeating John Smith in Round 1 and Larry Dixon in Round 2 before losing to eventual race-winner Tony Schumacher. Schumacher had a 4.712 e.t. at 325.85 mph to better McClenathan's 4.742 at 315.49 mph. In the finals, Schumacher defeated Morgan Lucas with an elapsed time of 4.617 seconds at a track-record speed of 331.45 mph to Lucas's 4.778 e.t. at 309.91 mph.

The next stop on the 23-race NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series is the 18th annual CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Pacific Raceways in Kent, Wash., on July 22-24.

-gm racing

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas , Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Greg Anderson , Cory McClenathan , Ben Watson , Tim Wilkerson , Phil Burkart , Morgan Lucas , Jason Line , Eric Medlen , Robert Hight , Dave Connolly