FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Media Contact: Rick Voegelin/408-761-2201
WARREN JOHNSON 1997 SEASON REVIEW
First 200 mph Pro Stock Run Highlights W.J.'s Record-Setting Year
Pomona, Calif. -- As the final minutes of the 1997 racing season ticked away, Warren Johnson attacked his baked potato with studied intensity. While his son Kurt was preparing his ACDelco Firebird for the final round of Pro Stock eliminations at the adjacent trailer, W.J. was preparing his dinner.
Minutes earlier, Kurt had ended his father's 1997 campaign with a holeshot victory in the semi-final round of the NHRA Winston Finals. As his crew loaded the black GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac into the transporter for its final transcontinental journey of the year, Johnson reflected on the past season.
"I'm glad that's over with," Warren reported with obvious relief. "Now we can get back to work."
Make no mistake: Warren Johnson hates to lose. For the eighth time in his 22 years on the NHRA tour, Warren Johnson finished as runner-up in the championship race. The most successful Pro Stock racer of the decade found little comfort in either the prospect of a hot meal or the welcome end to a grueling season of racing.
By any objective measure, 1997 was another successful year for the silver-haired "Professor of Pro Stock." Johnson produced the sport's first 200 mph Pro Stock run and set the all-time e.t. record at 6.883 seconds. He won four national events and was runner-up at two more; his son Kurt added three wins and seven final-round appearances to the team's formidable track record. W.J. won the Winston Invitational special event for the fourth time in his career, qualified No. 1 seven times, and ran the fastest speed in Pro Stock at 15 out of 22 races.
"Some people would consider that a successful season," Johnson reflected, "but by our standards it's not. We set our standards high."
Only the memory of that historic 200 mph run in Richmond, Va., could brighten Johnson's stoic expression. "For every driver, there is one event, one day, or one run that defines an entire season," Warren observed. "Breaking the 200 mph barrier was definitely the highlight of my year.
"I think people will remember who made the first 200 mph run long after they forget who won the championship," Johnson added with a sly smile.
As the "senior statesman" of Pro Stock, Warren Johnson made history at every race on the NHRA calendar in 1998. He has qualified for 192 consecutive national events and won at least one race for 16 straight years -- the longest active qualifying and winning streaks in NHRA competition. He has run the Top Speed at 130 races -- the most by any Pro Stock driver -- and recorded the nine fastest Pro Stock speeds in NHRA history. Johnson tops the list of active Pro Stock drivers with 63 career national event victories and 102 final-round appearances.
Ironically, Johnson's relentless work ethic may have been his downfall in 1997. While his rivals concentrated on a single car and engine combination, Johnson raced four different chassis. He undertook an ambitious marine engine development program, leased motors to selected Pro Stock teams, and consulted on the design of GM's second-generation Drag Race Competition Engine cylinder heads.
All that will change in 1998. "We just had too much work at the shop," Warren conceded. "Next year there will be no development projects except our own -- and no more engine leasing. We have enough additional sponsorship support that we can concentrate exclusively on our own program."
Along with his new focus, Johnson also has a new objective: "Our goal for next year is to finish in a dead heat with Kurt for first place in the championship," he declares. "If we both score more points than anyone else, I'll leave it up to NHRA to figure out the tiebreaker."
And with that, Warren Johnson finished his dinner and went to work to regain the Pro Stock crown in 1998.
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THE WARREN REPORT: SEASON AND CAREER STATISTICS
1997 Career Race Wins: 4 63 Runners-up: 2 39 Final-Round Appearances: 6 102 No. 1 Qualifiers: 7 89 Top Speeds 15 130 Rounds Won: 40 585 Average Qualifying Position: 3.45 Consecutive Races Qualified: 22 192
WARREN JOHNSON 1997 SEASON HIGHLIGHTS
First 200 mph Pro Stock Run: 200.13 mph, Richmond, Va., April 25, 1997; won $25,000 bonus as first member of Speed-Pro 200 mph Pro Stock Club.
First 6.8-Second Pro Stock Run: 6.894 seconds, Richmond, Va., April 25, 1997.
NHRA Pro Stock Records: Set national records at 6.883 seconds/200.53 mph in Richmond, Va., on April 27, 1997; won $15,000 bonus from MBNA World Record Club. Earlier set e.t. record at 6.927 seconds in Pomona, Calif., on February 2, 1997; won $12,500 MBNA bonus. Set speed record at 199.91 mph in Gainesville, Fla., on March 7, 1997.
Second in NHRA Winston Pro Stock Championship: Eighth career runner-up finish (most runners-up among all NHRA drivers).
Finished in Top Five for 16th Consecutive Season: Most Top Five finishes among active NHRA drivers.
Four Wins: Pomona, Richmond, Dallas, Madison.
Two Runners-Up: Phoenix, Dallas.
Seven No. 1 Qualifiers: Phoenix, Gainesville, Atlanta, Richmond, Dallas, Brainerd; includes streak of six straight from Phoenix through Dallas.
Fifteen Top Speeds: Pomona, Phoenix, Gainesville, Houston, Atlanta, Richmond, Dallas, Englishtown, Madison, Denver, Sonoma, Seattle, Brainerd, Memphis, Houston; includes streak of eight straight from Pomona through Englishtown. Won Winston Invitational: Fourth career victory in non-points special event (most among all NHRA drivers).
Qualifying Record: One of only four Pro Stock drivers to qualify at every national event in 1997 (along with Kurt Johnson, Jim Yates, and Steve Schmidt).
WARREN JOHNSON CAREER HIGHLIGHTS
63 Career Wins: Most wins among active Pro Stock drivers, third on all-time winners list.
39 Career Runner-Up Finishes: Most runners-up among all NHRA drivers.
102 Career Final-Round Appearances: Most among active Pro Stock drivers, third among all NHRA drivers.
585 Career Rounds Won: Most among active NHRA drivers.
585-223 Career Won-Lost Record: .724 average is second best among Pro Stock drivers and seventh among all NHRA drivers.
89 Career No. 1 Qualifiers: Most among active NHRA Pro Stock drivers.
130 Career Top Speeds: Most among all NHRA Pro Stock drivers.
Speed Milestones: First Pro Stock driver to break 180 mph, 190 mph, and 200 mph barriers.
Fastest Speeds: Has run the nine fastest speeds in Pro Stock history, ranging from 199.46 mph to 200.53 mph.
16-Year Winning Streak: Has won at least one NHRA national event for 16 consecutive years -- the longest active winning streak in NHRA drag racing.
Top Five Finishes: Finished in Top Five in NHRA championship 16 consecutive seasons -- the most Top Five finishes among active NHRA drivers.
Qualifying Streak: Has qualified at 192 consecutive NHRA national events -- the longest active qualifying streak among all NHRA drivers.
Pro Stock Driver of the Decade: 43 national event victories since 1990 -- the most wins in the '90s among NHRA Pro Stock drivers.
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E-mail from: Rick Voegelin, 16-Nov-1997