WARREN JOHNSON WRAPS UP NHRA PRO STOCK CHAMPIONSHIP WITH EIGHTH WIN IN 1998 W.J. Captures Fourth Pro Stock Crown with 71st Career Victory at Rain-Delayed Parts America Nationals Topeka, Kansas; October...
WARREN JOHNSON WRAPS UP NHRA PRO STOCK CHAMPIONSHIP WITH EIGHTH WIN IN 1998
W.J. Captures Fourth Pro Stock Crown with 71st Career Victory at Rain-Delayed Parts America Nationals
Topeka, Kansas; October 17, 1998 - On a bone-chilling night at Heartland Park Topeka, Warren Johnson toasted his fourth career NHRA Winston Pro Stock championship with a cup of hot coffee. With a wind chill factor in the 20's, it was not a night for champagne - even after W.J. clinched the title with his series-leading eighth win of the season at the rain-delayed Parts America Nationals. As Johnson and his GM Goodwrench Service Plus team loaded their black Firebird into its trailer at 3:00 o'clock in the morning, their top priority was a warm bed and a few hours of sleep. There would be time to celebrate after the end of the season.
"It really doesn't feel any different being a four-time champion than it felt as a three-time champion," Johnson joked. "Clinching the championship just means that I have the opportunity to win three more races this year without having to worry about the points."
The race ended in the wee hours of the morning after rain again delayed the start of final eliminations after a two-week postponement. The wait was worth it, however, when Warren won his second straight race and posted his 71st career victory. W.J. left Kansas with an insurmountable 447-point lead over Jeg Coughlin, Jr. in the championship standings.
Warren's chassis wizardry paid off in Topeka as he made four straight 6-second passes on the stone-cold track surface. He defeated Richie Stevens, Mark Osborne, and Tom Martino to advance to the final round for the 113th time in his career. Johnson outran Coughlin in the final with a winning 6.942-second elapsed time at 197.67 mph, the quickest pass in Pro Stock eliminations. Johnson's driving was equally impressive: In four rounds of racing, he posted exceptional reaction times of .409, .408, .455, and .429 seconds.
"If I keep getting reaction times like that, it could ruin my reputation!" Warren laughed. "I never claimed to be a driver. The purpose of our research and development program last season was to gain knowledge on how to race more successfully, and that included the reaction times of the driver and the vehicle. We knew that if we could leave the starting line on time, we could win more races."
Mike Stryker was named the "Craftsman Crew Chief of the Race" for his role in taking Johnson's Firebird to the winner's circle for the second week in a row. "Mike, Pat Barrett, Ray Prince and everyone at the shop is doing an excellent job," Warren reported. "When everybody is pulling in the same direction, you can achieve much more predictable results. They have confidence in me that I'll make the right calls on the clutch and suspension, and I have confidence in them that they'll carry out what needs to be done correctly."
With eight wins already in the record book and three races remaining, Warren is on track to beat his personal best of nine victories in 1993. Warren will have a chance to match that mark next weekend at the Texas Motorplex, site of the Revell Nationals, where he has previously posted two wins and five runner-up finishes.
With the championship race already over, does the Professor of Pro Stock feel any less pressure? "I don't even know what 'pressure' means," he says with a smile. "It's like 'vacation' - it's not a word in my vocabulary."
NHRA PARTS AMERICA NATIONALS RESULTS
WARREN JOHNSON RACE SUMMARY QUALIFYING: Warren Johnson qualified No. 8 at 6.965/197.10 mph ELIMINATIONS: Round 1: Warren Johnson (6.991/196.37) defeated Richie Stevens (7.058/195.43 - red light) Round 2: Warren Johnson (6.965/196.42) defeated Mark Osborne (7.070/195.90) Semi-Final: Warren Johnson (6.961/197.23) defeated Tom Martino (6.998/196.29) Final Round: Warren Johnson (6.943/197.67) defeated Jeg Coughlin (6.951/197.71)
LOW ET: Mark Osborne, 6.924 seconds (track record) TOP SPEED: Warren Johnson, 197.93 mph (track record)
PRO STOCK STANDINGS (after 19 of 22 events): Driver Wins Points 1. Warren Johnson 8 1700 2. Jeg Coughlin 3 1253 -447 3. Kurt Johnson 2 1248 -452 4. Jim Yates 1 1167 -533 5. Mark Osborne 1 962 -738