Englishtown: Warren Johnson pre-race notes

WJ's Wrap Sheet - Old Bridge Township Raceway Park Edition 1. WJ's First Englishtown Race - 1975 Race Car: 1975 Chevrolet Camaro Performance: WJ Qualified No. 14, 9.12 seconds Defeated Don Nicholson ...

WJ's Wrap Sheet - Old Bridge Township Raceway Park Edition

1. WJ's First Englishtown Race - 1975
Race Car: 1975 Chevrolet Camaro

Performance:  WJ Qualified No. 14, 9.12 seconds

Defeated Don Nicholson
Lost to Bill Jenkins

In Warren's Words:

"The car and engine combination I was running at the time was a real oddball. The popular set-up was a small car such as the Monza or Mustang II with a small block, and I had this Camaro with a 390-inch big-block in it. Back then, you put together race cars that I called 'floor models', because you built them from parts you had on the floor of the shop. The only teams with cars purpose-built for the category were the factory-backed guys like Grumpy and Glidden.

"In my case, I had a lot of big-block parts left over from my days of racing Modified Production, so that's what I used to build a Pro Stocker, and I made it as competitive as I could. Somehow, we made it work, and I believe we acquitted ourselves rather well."

Notes of the time:

* This was only Warren's third career NHRA Pro Stock start (and second of 1975).

* At the time, the race was held in July and called the Summernationals.

* WJ scored a major upset in the first round, defeating Pro Stock stalwart "Dyno Don" Nicholson on a holeshot, using a starting line advantage and a 9.08-second elapsed time to defeat Nicholson's quicker 8.99-second run.

* This was the third elimination round win of WJ's young career, all of which came on holeshots.

* WJ's Camaro featured a big-block "rat" motor, which was a 427 cubic-inch Chevrolet engine destroked to 390 c.i.

* The Pro Stock field consisted of Chevrolet Camaros and Vegas, Ford Mustangs, Mustang IIs and Mavericks, Plymouth Dusters, Dodge Darts, AMC Hornets and a Pontiac Astre.

* Wayne Gapp, who qualified No. 1 with a 8.92-second elapsed time, won the event in the famed Gapp & Roush four-door Maverick (co-owned by current NASCAR team owner Jack Roush), defeating Jenkins in the final.

* Other winners that weekend included the legendary "Jungle Jim" Liberman in Funny Car and Jim Bucher in Top Fuel.

2.  WJ's First NHRA National Event Win -- Englishtown 1982

Race Car: 1980 Olds Starfire

Performance: WJ Qualified Fourth, 7.912 seconds, 175.09 mph
Defeated Jim Meyer, Don Campanello, Joe Lepone and Lee Shepherd

In Warren's Words:

"Ironically, I was once again racing an unconventional car, an Oldsmobile Starfire with a big-block Chevy engine. Once again, I've never been one to follow the crowd -- I like to forge my own path, developing things that others have left alone. In this case, it proved to be quite successful.

"I guess you could say that our performance that weekend was the birth of the GM DRCE program, because the Oldsmobile people took note of our accomplishments, and approached me after that race about doing the engine program for 1983. It was one win that helped to cement my long-term future in the sport."

Notes of the time:

* This was the first win of WJ's illustrious career, and came in his fifth final round appearance.

* This also marked the first time that an Oldsmobile had registered a national event win in NHRA Pro Stock competition.

* This was the 41st start of Warren's NHRA Pro Stock career.

* WJ defeated Lee Shepherd on a hole-shot, with a 7.914-second, 173.74 mph run to Shepherd's 7.903-second, 174.41 mph effort.

* Shepherd was driving for the legendary Reher-Morrison team, who now compete with veteran Bruce Allen behind the wheel.

* Warren also had the quickest pass of the first round at 7.879-seconds.

* With the win, WJ's career elimination round win record stood at 40-38, marking the beginning of a 23-year, 420-race streak where his career record has been above the .500 mark.

* Lee Shepherd was the No. 1 qualifier with a track-record 7.798-second e.t., and Harold Robinson was on the bump with his 8.073-second effort.

* The Pro Stock field was made up of WJ's Oldsmobile Starfire, Chevrolet Camaros and Monzas, Pontiac Trans Ams, Dodge Chargers and Glidden's Ford EXP.

* Other professional winners that weekend included Mark Oswald in Top Fuel defeating Jeb Allen in the final, and current team owner Don Prudhomme in Funny Car, who edged current ESPN analyst Mike Dunn in the championship round.

3. WJ's Most Recent Englishtown Win -- 1993
Race Car: 1993 GM Performance Parts Olds Cutlass

Performance: WJ Qualified First, 7.076 seconds, 195.99 mph
Defeated Todd Tutterow, Rickie Smith, Bruce Allen and Kurt Johnson

In Warren's Words:

"We certainly didn't leave many crumbs on the table that particular weekend. As the record shows, we won the pole, the Budweiser Challenge, which I had been after for a long time and the race, so obviously we were on our game. Although I remember facing Kurt in the final, I don't recall much about the actual race, other than our winning, of course. You have to enjoy those special races when they happen, because they certainly don't come around too often.

Notes of the time:

* This was WJ's 38th career NHRA national event win and 64th career final round appearance, which came in his 203rd Pro Stock start.

* This was one of Warren's nine wins and twelve final round appearances in 1993.

* This was also the third time in as many races that Warren and his son Kurt would meet in the final, extending their historic streak as the first father and son to ever square off in an NHRA professional final round.

* KJ actually had lane choice over his father heading in to the final, based on his 7.168-second time in the semifinals to WJ's 7.199-second effort.

* WJ posted the quickest elapsed time of the round in the first and final rounds, opening with a 7.133-second run (which was the quickest of eliminations), and closing with a 7.153-second run in the final.

* WJ's 7.076-second, 195.99 mph pass in qualifying was enough to earn the No. 1 qualifying position, as well as being low elapsed time and top speed of the event, as well as new Raceway Park track records.

* The Pro Stock field consisted of Oldsmobile Cutlasses, Chevy Luminas and Berettas, Pontiac Firebirds and Trans Ams, a Dodge Daytona and a Ford Probe.

* WJ also scored a win at the Budweiser Challenge, which was held as a part of the event in Englishtown. The Budweiser Challenge was an all-star event that was the predecessor to today's King Demon Crown.

* Other winners that weekend included John Force who defeated Chuck Etchells in the Funny Car final, Kenny Bernstein over Rance McDaniel in Top Fuel, and John Myers over Dave Schultz in Pro Stock Bike.

4. WJ's Raceway Park in a Nutshell --

"I've been fortunate to see Raceway Park grow throughout the course of my career. Naturally, the tower wasn't even built in 1975. In addition, they've expanded the pit and spectator areas. The track has been resurfaced a couple times, and, overall, it's held its own. It may not be up to the par of some of the newer tracks on the circuit, but it is still one of the better tracks we go to as far as the overall experience."

-j2r-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Dunn , Kenny Bernstein , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , John Force , Bruce Allen , Jack Roush , Rickie Smith