Warren Johnson Report: Seattle/Sonoma Edition

Warren Johnson GM Goodwrench Service Plus News & Notes for the Northwest Nationals and Autolite Nationals NEXT RACES: Prolong Super Lubricants Northwest Nationals, July 30-August 1, Seattle, Wash. TV: ESPN2, Aug. 1, 8:00-9:00 p.m. EDT -...

Warren Johnson GM Goodwrench Service Plus News & Notes for the Northwest Nationals and Autolite Nationals

NEXT RACES: Prolong Super Lubricants Northwest Nationals, July 30-August 1, Seattle, Wash. TV: ESPN2, Aug. 1, 8:00-9:00 p.m. EDT - check local listings Autolite Nationals, August 6-8, Sonoma, Calif. TV: ESPN2, Aug. 8, 8:00-9:00 p.m. EDT - check local listings

VIVA LAS VEGAS!

Warren Johnson isn't a gambling man, but he'll be ready to roll the dice when the NHRA drag racing tour goes to Nevada next year for its inaugural event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on April 7-9. Johnson attended the announcement of the new race by LVMS executive vice president and general manager Chris Powell in Las Vegas on July 20. "I've maintained for years that drag racing is really part of the entertainment industry, so there's no better place to hold an event than a world center of entertainment like Las Vegas," said Johnson. "I am also encouraged that Speedway Motorsports is increasing its involvement in drag racing by constructing a drag strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway," W.J. added. "Bruton Smith and his staff certainly understand how to organize and market successful oval track events. If they can transfer that expertise and promotional flair to drag racing, it will open up new opportunities for our sport." The new facility's proposed innovations include luxury suites located above the grandstands and a four-lane racing surface. "From the standpoint of televising a drag race, four lanes make sense because you need nonstop action for good TV," Warren observed. Although Warren welcomes the addition of Las Vegas to the schedule, he doesn't foresee spending much time at the gaming tables next April. "I only like games of chance when the odds are heavily in my favor!" W.J. joked. The second half of the season began amid considerable controversy at the Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway. Usually the lack of oxygen at the high-altitude track near Denver is the leading topic of conversation, but this year the talk in the Pro Stock pits was about gasoline. The issue of what constitutes legal fuel sparked a spirited, and occasionally acrimonious, debate. Gasoline is defined by the NHRA rulebook as "a mixture of hydrocarbons only." But according to some observers, the brews used by several teams at the Mile-High Nationals were more akin to "rocket fuel" than pump gas. "It's the responsibility of the NHRA Technical Department to analyze the fuel and determine whether it meets the letter and the spirit of the rules," said Johnson. "We know there are products out there that have the potential to increase power, and there may be significant health issues with some of these chemicals. I just hope that we have a level playing field at the next event." The simmering rivalry between the front-running families of Pro Stock - the Johnsons and the Coughlins - heated up in Denver. The Coughlin brothers, Troy and Jeg, Jr., ousted Warren and Kurt Johnson respectively in the semi-final round. Troy beat W.J. on a holeshot with a perfect .400-second reaction time, while Jeg beat Kurt with a better reaction time and a quicker e.t. "I thought our car was capable of running 7.26 on a perfect pass at Bandimere," Warren reported. "We qualified No. 1 with a respectable 7.28, ran 7.30 on race day, and had the top speed at 189 mph. I think we ran as well as we could with what we had to work with." Johnson left "The Mountain" still on top in the Pro Stock standings with a 181-point lead (nine rounds) over Kurt and a 289-point advantage (nearly 15 rounds) over Jeg Coughlin, Jr. Following in the footsteps of the Lewis and Clark expedition, the NHRA tour heads from St. Louis to Seattle (with a brief detour through Denver) for the Prolong Super Lubricants Northwest Nationals on July 30-August 1. While Seattle is renowned for its salmon and espresso stands on every street corner, Seattle International Raceway is famous among drag racing fans for fast times. With a panoramic view of Mt. Rainier, a pit area with more trees than a national forest, and a concrete starting pad with more teeth than a grizzly bear, SIR combines the ambience of a rural retreat with the energy of a championship event. The race track in the woods is also a perfect complement for W.J.'s horsepower. Warren defeated his son Kurt in last year's event to claim his fourth career victory at SIR. Seattle was the site of two milestone wins for W.J. He scored his 25th national event victory at SIR in 1991, defeating Darrell Alderman in the final. In 1995, he notched his 50th national event title with a final-round victory over arch-rival Bob Glidden. The pair raced on Tuesday morning following a two-day rain delay. "If the gasoline issue is resolved, we should be in excellent shape at Seattle," Warren predicted. "We'll know by Saturday afternoon exactly where we stand. We'll see who has the biggest gun - and who brought a knife to a gunfight." Johnson is maintaining his customary relentless pace during the four-week western road trip. W.J. and his GM Goodwrench Service Plus crew spent the week after the Mile-High Nationals readying last season's championship-winning Firebird for its comeback in Superman livery at the U.S. Nationals. The Nationals will also mark the return of Warren's "bad in black" paint scheme for the remainder of the season. W.J. planned to baptize the reskinned and repainted 'Bird in a match race with Richie Stevens before the Northwest Nationals. He will also participate in the annual Pro Stock Invitational in Woodburn, Oregon, immediately following the showdown in Seattle.

WARREN JOHNSON NORTHWEST NATIONALS RESULTS Year Qualified Result 1975 5 First Round 1976 4 Runner-up (to Booth) 1977 3 Semi-final 1978 7 Second Round 1988 2 Runner-up (to Glidden) 1989 10 Winner (over Allen) 1990 1 Semi-final 1991 1 Winner (over Alderman) 1992 2 Second Round 1993 1 Semi-final 1994 3 Second Round 1995 1 Winner (over Glidden) 1996 5 First Round 1997 6 Semi-final 1998 1 Winner (over K. Johnson)

WARREN JOHNSON AUTOLITE NATIONALS RESULTS Year Qualified Result 1988 4 First Round 1989 12 Runner-up (to Glidden) 1990 1 Second Round 1991 4 Semi-final 1992 1 Winner (over Smith) 1993 7 First Round 1994 3 Semi-final 1995 2 Runner-up (to Yates) 1996 4 Winner (over Edwards) 1997 4 Semi-final 1998 1 Winner (over Gaines)

LAST RACE: Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals, Denver, July 16-18 Qualifying: Warren Johnson qualified No. 1 at 7.285/189.50 Eliminations: Round 1: Warren Johnson defeated Ray Franks Round 2: Warren Johnson defeated V. Gaines Semi-Final: Troy Coughlin defeated Warren Johnson Final Round: Jeg Coughlin, Jr. defeated Troy Coughlin Low ET: Jeg Coughlin, Jr., 7.267 seconds (track record) Top Speed: Warren Johnson, 189.50 mph (track record)

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Troy Coughlin , Darrell Alderman , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Bob Glidden