Pomona II: Warren Johnson preview

The Warren Report: Pomona Edition Johnson expects the unexpected in NHRA season finale. Although he has competed in 42 NHRA national events at Pomona Raceway over a span of 26 years, Warren Johnson will take nothing for granted when the NHRA ...

The Warren Report: Pomona Edition
Johnson expects the unexpected in NHRA season finale.

Although he has competed in 42 NHRA national events at Pomona Raceway over a span of 26 years, Warren Johnson will take nothing for granted when the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series returns to the fastest quarter-mile in Southern California for this weekend's Auto Club NHRA Finals. Not even the experienced Professor of Pro Stock has all the answers for the track that has hosted the season-ending race since 1984.

"Something unexpected always seems to crop up at Pomona," said Johnson. "Sometimes it's induced by the racers themselves with oildowns and explosions, and other times it's Mother Nature playing pranks. I've given up trying to foresee all of the possibilities."

Johnson has scored a total of eight victories in 14 final-round appearances at Pomona Raceway. He has won the NHRA Finals six times - twice when the race was held in Irvine, Calif., in 1982 and 1983, and four times in Pomona: in 1988 over Morris Johnson Jr., in 1992 over Jerry Eckman, in 1993 over Kurt Johnson and in 1995 over Steve Schmidt. He's been the No. 1 qualifier 11 times at Pomona Raceway, including six times in the NHRA Finals.

"Pomona can be very fast this time of year," Warren noted. "The track has improved dramatically since it was resurfaced and the concrete pad extended in 2001. The track's only shortcoming is that it sees very little use during the year. It typically gets better day by day as more cars make runs."

Johnson holds the Pomona Raceway track speed record at 203.12 mph, a mark he established at the season-opening Winternationals. He also holds the NHRA Finals event speed record at 201.61 mph, a record he set last November. Johnson clinched his sixth career Pro Stock championship at last year's NHRA Finals, but this time he is fourth in the points standings going into the last race of the season. W.J. trails third-ranked Greg Anderson by 74 points, and he could overtake his former crew chief with a strong performance in Pomona.

Warren was runner-up to newly crowned champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. at the preceding event, the ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals on October 27. That performance was Johnson's first final-round appearance since he won in Bristol, Tenn., in April. During that extended dry spell, Johnson embarked on an intensive engine R&D program that has returned his GM Performance Parts Pontiac to its customary place at the head of the Pro Stock pack. W.J. and his son Kurt had the quickest and fastest cars in Las Vegas, but both drivers were sidelined by holeshots on race day.

"I'm never satisfied with a runner-up finish, but it could have been a lot worse," said Johnson. "I think there were 14 other guys who would have gladly traded places with me.

"Our recent performances in Dallas and Las Vegas have given us clear indications that we're going to need a number of engine combinations for different weather conditions next year," Johnson revealed. "That's what we're working on now.

"When you have hot and humid conditions, the track requires a different power band than a cool racing surface to get maximum performance," W.J. explained. "Based on that fact, I believe it's going to take three different engine configurations to be competitive at every race track next year: a hot-track combination, a cold-track combination, and an intermediate combination.

"I could even see us using a cold weather engine on Friday night, an intermediate motor on Saturday morning and a hot weather engine on Sunday," he continued. "Because each combination has a distinctive power curve, we'll also need to adjust gear ratios, tires sizes and chassis setups to achieve maximum efficiency.

"I foresee Pro Stock becoming even more specialized next year," Johnson predicted. "Only the shops that can do their own development work from top to bottom will be able to utilize this approach."

Warren Johnson admits that he doesn't have all the answers, but the sport's most successful Pro Stock racer is relentless in his pursuit of racing knowledge.

-wr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Steve Schmidt