Sonoma: Warren Johnson pride in championships

SONOMA, Calif. - Hitting homeruns, scoring touchdowns, averaging 35 points a game all mean nothing if you don't win it all. Baseball legend Ernie Banks, former NBA star Charles Barkley, future NFL Hall of Famer Dan Marino, would relinquish some...

SONOMA, Calif. - Hitting homeruns, scoring touchdowns, averaging 35 points a game all mean nothing if you don't win it all.

Baseball legend Ernie Banks, former NBA star Charles Barkley, future NFL Hall of Famer Dan Marino, would relinquish some of their personal accomplishments and fame for the ultimate glory: a championship.

Warren Johnson could care less about any record that would rank him among the sports elite. So what if he established the national event all-time win mark in the ultra-competitive Pro Stock category when he notched his 86th career win in Denver a few weeks ago. It doesn't matter that he has won at least one national event every year since 1982, the longest active streak among professional competitors. It's all about the Winston championship.

The always serious Johnson, who considers 'work' a hobby, will bring his finely-tuned GM Goodwrench Pontiac Grand Am to Northern California for the 14th annual FRAM Autolite NHRA Nationals, Aug. 3-5, at Sears Point Raceway. The $1.7 million race is the 16th of 24 events in the $50 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

Johnson, from Buford, Ga., is a tireless worker who was relieved to earn his record-breaking 86th win. "Now everyone can stop asking me when I am going to win 86," said the 58-year-old Johnson after his milestone victory. "It's nice to get it out of the way, but a win is a win. The rounds are what count That's what allows you to win championships, and that's what we're really out here to do. A win is a win and we are just happy to get it."

Johnson has been competing on the NHRA circuit since 1975 has become known for the extreme amount of horsepower he can deliver in his vehicles. In 1999, he had the top Pro Stock speed at all 22 NHRA national events. His engineering knowledge and input has made Johnson one of the most dominant racers in NHRA history.

He finished 11th in the Winston standings in his rookie campaign and was the runner-up for the championship the following season. Since 1980 he has won five NHRA Winston championships and has never finished lower than fifth in the final standings. That's 19 straight season of being among the top five drivers in Pro Stock. But driving the 200-plus-mph cars is not his main passion.

"I've never considered myself a driver," said Johnson. "Making these things run is my forte. That's the part that really interests me and that I enjoy. The driving just went with the territory. We've been adequate, nothing outstanding but that's just the way it is. I haven't been able to find anyone to (drive) the way I want anyway."

Already leading his category in victories, a sixth Winston crown is within reach. As the season continues to progress, consistency will play a major role in championship dreams.

"It's nice to be in the points lead," said Johnson. "It's also better to be in front than to have to try and catch up. Everyone else will have to make up ground on me, but you can't rest on your laurels. We have to understand how we got here and expand on that and, hopefully, that will prove to be productive for the balance of the season. There are no guarantees in this sport. You're only as good as your last round."

-NHRA

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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson