Warren Johnson 2001 season review

Warren Johnson, the stern Professor of Pro Stock, posed that query to a class of tattooed, earring-adorned students in a popular television commercial for Pontiac's Grand Am. That same extreme/not extreme dichotomy can be applied to the race...

Warren Johnson, the stern Professor of Pro Stock, posed that query to a class of tattooed, earring-adorned students in a popular television commercial for Pontiac's Grand Am. That same extreme/not extreme dichotomy can be applied to the race for the 2001 Pro Stock championship, a season-long drama played out in 24 acts over a 10-month span. When the final curtain fell, Johnson had driven his GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac to his sixth career NHRA title, joining John Force, Bob Glidden, Kenny Bernstein and Dave Schultz in the elite club of drivers with six or more championship trophies. The championship was decided on the last day of the last race of the season when Johnson's chief rival, two-time champion Jim Yates, lost in the second round of the Auto Club NHRA Finals. Warren won the title and its $125,000 bonus by 78 points, the closest finish ever in the Winston Pro Stock championship. W.J.'s margin was less than half of Bob Glidden's 168-point advantage over Wayne Gapp in 1974, the next closest finish on record. W.J. scored his 86th career victory in Denver on July 22 to become the most prolific Pro Stock driver in NHRA history. He notched his 87th victory in Chicago on Sept. 30, a win that proved pivotal in turning back Yates' late-season challenge. Following the NHRA award ceremony, W.J. reflected on the tumultuous season that saw a record 15 different drivers win in Pro Stock. The following is the year in review, as seen from the Professor's perspective. On winning his sixth championship in 10 years: "Definitely extreme. It wasn't very pretty late in the season, but our team still did a better job than everyone else." On his perfect 6-0 record in final rounds in 2001: "That's about as extreme as you can get. When you hit six out of six, that's a good score card. Yates and Pawuk both went to five final rounds, but each won only once. It's absolutely crucial to win the final round because it's a 40-point swing in the championship. I figure that if we've already invested the time and money to get to the final, we might as well win it. There's a huge difference in the prize money between the winner and the runner-up, so I focus on winning!" On his 78-point margin over Yates: "Certainly extreme, and terrific for the Pro Stock category. That's what racing is all about -- entertainment. If you have a runaway in any championship, the fans lose interest." On becoming the first Pro Stock driver to compete in 1,000 rounds of eliminations: "That's not extreme, that's just longevity! As a youngster, I learned how to pace myself. In the fable of the tortoise and the hare, I would be the tortoise." On being named No. 7 on the list of NHRA's 50 Greatest Drivers: "Extremely gratifying. Standing on stage at the award ceremony with Garlits, Force, Glidden, Jenkins, and the other top-10 drivers, I realized that each of us brought something unique to the table, from mechanical innovations to breakthroughs in marketing and sponsorship." On extending his qualifying streak to 288 consecutive races over 15 seasons, the longest string in NHRA history: "We managed to keep the streak intact -- barely. It was tense before the final session in Las Vegas when we weren't qualified. That added some unintended drama. The level of competition in Pro Stock is staggering, with 16 cars qualified at the NHRA Finals within 29 thousandths of a second. That's extreme." On his 11 first-round losses in 2001, the most in his career: "Not extreme -- that's just the result of the competitive situation in Pro Stock. We were searching for an optimum chassis setup this season. We had a good warm-weather combination, but there weren't enough hours in the day to develop a cool-weather chassis. We rolled the dice a few times in the first round and lost." On surrendering the national speed record for the first time since 1995: "The conditions in Reading were extremely good when the e.t. and speed records were set, and we simply didn't have the race horse for that particular track. Those records will probably stand for years, unless we encounter another anomaly like we had that weekend in Pennsylvania." On two wins and six losses on holeshots: "Not extreme, just expected. When a driver is successful, you're wearing a target on your forehead because the other racers are going to take shots at you. They have everything to gain and nothing to lose by guessing at the starting line. My situation is the exact opposite: I've got nothing to gain and everything to lose. When you have a fast race car, losing on holeshots just comes with the territory." On the Johnson family running the top speed at 17 of 24 events: "We take pride in dominating that particular performance statistic. Our race cars aren't always the quickest, but they are definitely the fastest." On his television commercials: "Based on the response I've received, I'd have to say they were extremely effective. Several of my fellow Pro Stock racers have told me the commercials have raised the profile of the entire class. If they increase awareness of Pro Stock and Pontiac's involvement in NHRA drag racing, that's great. I know that a lot more people ask for my autograph in airports and restaurants now!"

WARREN JOHNSON 2001 SEASON STATISTICS

Victories: 6 (most in Pro Stock)
Final Rounds: 6 (most in Pro Stock)
No. 1 Qualifiers: 3
Low Elapsed Times: 5 (tied with Yates for most in Pro Stock)
Top Speeds: 9 (most in Pro Stock)
Won/Lost Record: 35/18 (66 percent winning average)
Average qualifying position: 5.21
Average rounds won per event: 1.46
Average e.t. in 53 rounds of eliminations: 6.979 seconds
Average speed in 53 rounds of eliminations: 196.59 mph
Track E.T. Records Set: 3 (Houston, Madison, Brainerd)
Track/Event Speed Records Set: 8 (Englishtown, Topeka, Chicago,
Columbus, Madison, Denver, Brainerd, Pomona)

2001 MILESTONES
Scored 87th career victory (most in Pro Stock)
First Pro Stock driver to compete in 1,000 elimination rounds
Named No.7 on list of 50 Greatest Drivers (highest ranked active Pro Stock driver)
Voted "Engine Builder of the Year" on Car Craft All-Star Drag Racing Team (seventh year on All-Star Team)

CAREER STATISTICS
Victories: 87 (most in Pro Stock)
Final Rounds: 135 (most in Pro Stock)
No. 1 Qualifiers: 125 (most among all NHRA drivers)
Low Elapsed Times: 125 (most among all NHRA drivers)
Top Speeds: 192 (most among all NHRA drivers)
Elimination Rounds: 1002 (most in Pro Stock)
Won/Lost Record: 713/289 (71 percent winning average)
Consecutive Seasons with National Event Victory: 20 (most among all NHRA drivers)
Consecutive Events Qualified: 288 (most among all NHRA drivers)

-GM Racing-

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