VINTAGE VICTORY FOR WARREN JOHNSON IN CALIFORNIA WINE COUNTRY Johnson Scores Fifth Win of Season at NHRA Autolite Nationals, Builds 210-Point Lead in Championship Race Sonoma, Calif.; July 26, 1998 - Like the fine wine from the vineyards ...
VINTAGE VICTORY FOR WARREN JOHNSON IN CALIFORNIA WINE COUNTRY
Johnson Scores Fifth Win of Season at NHRA Autolite Nationals, Builds 210-Point Lead in Championship Race
Sonoma, Calif.; July 26, 1998 - Like the fine wine from the vineyards that surround Sears Point International Raceway, NHRA Pro Stock driver Warren Johnson just keeps improving with age. The 55-year-old driver of the GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac scored his fifth win of the season and the 68th of his career Sunday at the Autolite Nationals. Johnson's victory tied him with Funny Car driver John Force for the No. 2 spot on the list of all-time NHRA winners.
Johnson dominated the 13th round of the 22-race NHRA series. He was the No. 1 qualifier for the third consecutive event, and set the Sears Point track records for elapsed time (6.949 seconds) and top speed (199.64 mph). W.J. opened up a 210-point lead in the race for the Pro Stock championship when his closest pursuer, Jeg Coughlin, Jr., lost in the first round. Third-ranked Kurt Johnson was also defeated in the opening round, and No. 4 Jim Yates failed to qualify for the third time in 13 races.
Johnson dispatched Mark Pawuk and Ron Krisher in the first two rounds of eliminations at the Autolite Nationals. He then won a pivotal semi-final round match with George Marnell on a holeshot, taking the victory by four thousandths of a second with a quicker reaction time (.426 vs. .508 seconds). Johnson beat a red-lighting V. Gaines in the final, 7.135 to 7.106.
"Luck played a big part in this win," Johnson conceded. "In the semifinal, we greatly underestimated the race track and slipped the clutch badly. Then we were a little too aggressive in the final and shook the tires extremely hard. Fortunately, Gaines fouled.
"We had an unusual situation today because I was the only driver in the Top Ten in points still in competition after the second round," Warren reported. "That meant that I was gaining points on everybody behind me."
In the first two events of the three-race "Western Swing," Johnson has posted two final-round appearances (a win in Sonoma and a runner-up finish in Denver), has qualified twice on the Pro Stock "pole," and has run the Low ET and Top Speed at both events. The NHRA tour will wrap up the three-race series at Seattle International Raceway on July 31 - August 2.
WARREN JOHNSON GM GOODWRENCH SERVICE PLUS RACE SUMMARY
QUALIFYING: Warren Johnson qualified No. 1 at 6.949/199.64 ELIMINATIONS: Round 1: Warren Johnson (6.972/199.46) defeated Mark Pawuk (16.789/48.34) Round 2: Warren Johnson (7.009/199.07) defeated Ron Krisher (7.130/195.39) Round 3: Warren Johnson (7.168/190.75) defeated George Marnell (7.126/195.18) FINAL ROUND: Warren Johnson (7.135/196.24) defeated V. Gaines (7.106/195.31 - red light)
LOW ET: Warren Johnson, 6.949 seconds (track record) TOP SPEED: Warren Johnson, 199.64 mph (track record)
PRO STOCK STANDINGS (after 13 of 22 events; victories in parentheses): 1. Warren Johnson (5) 1098 2. Jeg Coughlin (3) 888 -210 3. Kurt Johnson (1) 780 -318 4. Jim Yates (1) 752 -346 5. Mike Thomas (1) 639 -459
NEXT EVENT: July 31-Aug. 2, NHRA Prolong Northwest Nationals, Seattle, Wash. (TV: Aug. 2, 7:00-9:00 p.m. Eastern, ESPN2 -- check local listings)