THE WARREN REPORT: Warren Johnson GM Goodwrench Service Plus Race Report from the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals
Warren Wins Sixth Pro Stock Championship
POMONA, Calif. -- Warren Johnson wrapped up his sixth NHRA Pro Stock championship in ten years today at the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals at Pomona Raceway. Despite suffering a first-round loss, Johnson clinched the $125,000 Winston championship bonus when Jim Yates was eliminated in the second round. Johnson won the title by 79 points, 1,538 to 1,459.
"If you're going to win ugly, you might as well win as ugly as you can!" said Johnson, 58, of Buford, Ga. "It's been one of those seasons where we've been real good or real bad -- there hasn't been anything in between. That's how this year has gone for everyone in Pro Stock. We just feel fortunate to have won six races and the championship."
Johnson, known as the "Professor of Pro Stock" for his analytical approach to the sport, previously won NHRA Winston titles in 1992, 1993, 1995, 1998 and 1999. He had a perfect final-round record in 2001, winning six times in six final-round appearances with his GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac. W.J. tallied his 87th career victory in September, the most victories in NHRA history by a Pro Stock driver.
"We certainly haven't dominated this year like we have in the past," Johnson conceded. "With 15 different Pro Stock winners, it's clear that parity has arrived in Pro Stock with a vengeance. I may be the champion, but I'm just one of the boys in this extremely competitive category."
Johnson lost to long-time rival Darrell Alderman in the opening round of the Auto Club NHRA Finals, 6.885 to 6.898. W.J.'s car rolled through the staging lines when an electrical problem allowed the front brakes to release prematurely.
"We're here to win races because that's what pays the bills," said the newly crowned champion. "Maybe we've finally worn this race car out. We won two races in a row when we introduced it, but now we've run into a series of small things."
Johnson won his five previous titles with Oldsmobile Cutlasses and Pontiac Firebirds. This year he played a key role in the introduction of General Motors' new Grand Am and Cavalier body designs.
"Warren Johnson has delivered more Pontiac driving excitement by winning his sixth championship in the most competitive category in drag racing," said Fred Simmonds, GM Racing drag racing marketing manager. "Johnson's championship is another milestone in a successful season that has seen GM brands win in the most celebrated racing venues in the world, including the Daytona 500, the Indianapolis 500, the U.S. Nationals and 24-hour endurance races in Daytona and Le Mans."
One constant in Johnson's 26-year career is his longstanding partnership with his son, Kurt. The younger Johnson campaigns his ACDelco Cavalier out of W.J.'s top-secret shop in Sugar Hill, Ga.
"Kurt has been an integral part of the program since he could hold a wrench," said the proud father. "He and his guys assemble the short blocks and dyno test the engines. We have a few more people and a lot more equipment than most Pro Stock teams, so we can develop new parts quickly and efficiently."
A second constant in Johnson's championship years is the support of GM Service Parts Operations through its GM Goodwrench Service Plus and ACDelco brands.
"I believe it's been a good marriage for both parties," W.J. said. "Our relationship with GM SPO has given us the stability that is essential for success. With long-term commitments you can invest in machinery, employees, buildings and all of the parts and pieces that it takes to build a consistent program."
"We are extremely proud that Warren Johnson has won all six of his championships in association with GM Service Parts Operations," said Stan Novak, associate motorsports marketing manager for the GM Goodwrench Service Plus and ACDelco brands. "Warren's winning attitude, his unsurpassed commitment to excellence and his total focus on performance reflect the values that have made GM Goodwrench Service Plus and ACDelco the leaders in their market segments."
Johnson and his GM Goodwrench "men in black" will receive their accolades at the NHRA award ceremony on Monday, but W.J. is already making plans for a seventh title run in 2002.
"It's becoming more and more difficult to find gains in horsepower and aerodynamics, so we have to work harder and harder to maintain our competitive edge," Johnson noted. "I spent so much time developing the new Grand Am and Cavalier bodies that I didn't have enough time to devote to our engine program. We're about six months behind on power development, but we plan to rectify that over the winter.
"We have to make our chassis more efficient in getting the power to the ground," he added. "That's been our shortcoming this season. We've been involved with a research program with Clemson University for three years, and we have finally identified the fingerprint of an ideal Pro Stock chassis. If we can reap the rewards of that effort, we will be much more formidable in the future."
With six NHRA championship trophies in his collection, the silver-haired Professor shows no signs of relinquishing his place at the head of the Pro Stock class.
POINTS RACE (After 24 of 24 events)
Driver Wins Points
1. Warren Johnson 6 1538
2. Jim Yates 1 1459
3. Bruce Allen 1 1383
4. Mike Edwards 1 1321
5. Jeg Coughlin Jr. 3 1256
6. Mark Pawuk 1 1221
7. Mark Osborne 1 1212
8. Ron Krisher 1 1182
9. Kurt Johnson 1 1170
10. Brad Jeter 1 1062
NHRA Winternationals, Feb. 7-10, 2002, Pomona, Calif.