Warren Report - Chicago Edition

THE WARREN REPORT: CHICAGO EDITION Warren Johnson GM Goodwrench Service Plus News & Notes for the Fram Route 66 Nationals Chicago, Ill., June 4-6 TV: ESPN2, June 6, 7:30-9:30 p.m. Eastern - check local listings. WARREN'S QUEST FOR ...

THE WARREN REPORT: CHICAGO EDITION

Warren Johnson GM Goodwrench Service Plus News & Notes for the Fram Route 66 Nationals Chicago, Ill., June 4-6 TV: ESPN2, June 6, 7:30-9:30 p.m. Eastern - check local listings.

WARREN'S QUEST FOR PERFECTION

Warren Johnson has won at every track on the NHRA circuit except one: Route 66 Raceway, the site of the upcoming Fram Route 66 Nationals on June 4-6. W.J. came close to maintaining his perfect record when he was runner-up to Mike Thomas in last year's inaugural event at the stadium-style supertrack south of Chicago. Now he's aiming to remove this one blemish on his otherwise spotless record.

"We really don't know what to expect in Chicago," W.J. admits. "The track was exceptional last year, but it has now had 12 months to season.

"We got caught out last year in the final round against Thomas when the weather and track conditions changed significantly while we were waiting in the staging lanes," Warren recalled. "We learned from that experience. We changed our method of monitoring the atmospheric conditions and we changed the car to accommodate last-minute changes in the clutch setup. We won't be unprepared this time!"

LEADER OF THE PACK

W.J. comes to Chicago leading the Winston Pro Stock standings for the first time this season. He has a 20-point margin over his son Kurt and a 157-point lead over third-ranked Richie Stevens. Warren took the lead at the Mopar Parts Nationals in spite of a first-round loss to No. 16 qualifier Terry Adams. Kurt, the previous points leader, failed to qualify for the first time in 55 races.

"You might say that we took the lead by default," W.J. concedes. "Actually, we ran decently in Englishtown. I qualified No. 1, had the low e.t. in the first two rounds of the Holley Pro Stock Dominator Duel, and set the track e.t. and speed records.

"On Sunday, the bonding on a section of the clutch disc failed, and it spit out a piece of the friction material," Warren explained. "When that happened, the clutch lost a sixth of its capacity, so the car just wouldn't move.

"That comes under the heading of a 'Freak Failure,'" he noted. "We've seen small pieces of the clutch facing flake off before, but never an entire section. Of course, that kind of thing only happens at the most inopportune times. We'd never see a failure like that when we're out testing in the middle of the week!"

"It might have been a blessing in disguise to lose early in Englishtown because the rain moved in and postponed eliminations two days," Warren said with a laugh. "Maybe that was the silver lining in the storm clouds."

ENGLISHTOWN POST-RACE NOTES

* Dueling for Dollars: Warren made his sixth final-round appearance in the Holley Pro Stock Dominator Duel in Englishtown, a special bonus event for the eight elite Pro Stock drivers with the best qualifying records over the last year. W.J. is the only driver who has competed in all 15 editions of this annual event.

Johnson pocketed $15,000 for his runner-up finish in the Duel after fouling against Jeg Coughlin, Jr. in the final round.

"I'm still trying to figure out that redlight," Warren commented. "We replayed the videotape of the run in slow motion and analyzed it frame by frame. It should have been a safe light. I saw yellow, I let the clutch out, and then I saw red."

* Busman's Holiday: En route to Englishtown, Warren stopped off at Maryland International Raceway in Budds Creek, Md., for the 25th annual Yates Auto Parts U.S. Pro Stock Open, the country's longest-running independent Pro Stock race. W.J. dominated the eight-car field, defeating the race's sponsor, Jim Yates, in the final round, 6.867/200.56 to 6.915/197.86.

"We went to Budds Creek with a new engine and put a couple of runs on it," Warren reported. "Then we stuck an old tire test motor in for the race. It ran 6.86 twice, and over 200 mph on every run, so there's still some life left in it."

* Department of Corrections: Thanks to drag racing trivia maven and announcer extraordinaire Bob Frey for calling us on an error in the preceding edition of The Warren Report. Frey pointed out that W.J. has held the NHRA Pro Stock speed record continuously since March 1992 - four months longer than we had given Warren credit for. Eagle-eyed Bob also noted that Jim Yates briefly held the national e.t. record in 1996.

In recognition of his perspicacity, Frey will receive a year's supply of used crankcase oil from W.J.'s truck for his '78 Dodge Aspen.

* W.J.'s 50th: Warren reached another milestone during qualifying for the Mopar Parts Nationals when he recorded his 50th career 200 mph run. W.J. set the Old Bridge Township Raceway Park track record at 201.58 mph in the second qualifying session on his landmark run. He then increased his tally of 200 mph passes to 51 with a 200.83 sprint on Saturday. For the record, W.J. is responsible for 51 of the 75 runs over 200 mph (68%) recorded in NHRA national event competition to date.

W.J. also reclaimed the Old Bridge Township Raceway elapsed time record from Jim Yates, setting the new mark at 6.875 seconds. Warren now holds e.t. records at 17 of the 22 events on the NHRA tour; he holds the speed records at all 22 events.

THE RACE FOR THE RECORD

Funny Car driver John Force scored his sixth win of the season at the Mopar Parts Nationals, taking a 76-75 lead over W.J. in the race to break Bob Glidden's record 85 career NHRA victories.

"Force seems to be more enthralled with breaking the record than I am," Warren asserts. "If it happens, it happens - and it will certainly happen eventually. John says he wants to be recognized as the winningest drag racer ever; I'd rather remembered as a successful racer who ran his program like a business.

"I'm six years older than Force, and given the fact that he has the Funny Car contingent covered with a blanket, I'd say he has better chance of ending up with most wins," Warren predicts. "He also has the advantage of racing in a category that sometimes has more than a full second separating the No. 1 and No. 16 qualifiers. The spread in Pro Stock is often only five or six hundredths, so the competition is much keener. A Funny Car is certainly more volatile and less consistent than a Pro Stock, but the way Force and his crew are running now, I think they could bracket race with that car!"

Glidden recorded his 85 career victories from 1973 to 1995, a span of 23 seasons. Warren notched his first career victory in 1982, while Force didn't win a national event until 1987. Glidden's most productive season was 1989, when he notched nine wins - a total duplicated by W.J. in 1993 and 1998. Force's most prolific year was 1996 when he won a record 13 times.

LAST RACE: Mopar Parts Nationals, May 24, Englishtown, N.J. Qualifying: Warren Johnson qualified No. 1 at 6.875/201.58

Eliminations: Round 1: Terry Adams (7.027) defeated Warren Johnson (7.061/194.74)

Final Round: Richie Stevens (6.959/198.00) defeated Tom Martino (6.959/198.23) Low ET: Warren Johnson, 6.875 seconds (track record) Top Speed: Warren Johnson, 201.58 mph (track record)

POINTS RACE: (After 8 of 22 events) Driver Wins Points 1. Warren Johnson 3 643 2. Kurt Johnson 2 623 3. Richie Stevens 1 486 4. Jim Yates 0 426 5. Allen Johnson 1 399

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas , Jeg Coughlin , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , John Force , Bob Glidden , Tom Martino , Terry Adams , Allen Johnson