Atlanta Pontiac Racing Results

JOHNSON'S WIN PUTS HIM CLOSER TO POINTS LEAD COMMERCE, Ga. (May 16, 1999) Like a fine wine, Warren Johnson just keeps getting better with age and he demonstrated that today by winning the 19th annual Advance Auto Parts Southern Nationals...

JOHNSON'S WIN PUTS HIM CLOSER TO POINTS LEAD

COMMERCE, Ga. (May 16, 1999) Like a fine wine, Warren Johnson just keeps getting better with age and he demonstrated that today by winning the 19th annual Advance Auto Parts Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway. Driving the GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird, the 55-year-old "Professor of Pro Stock" defeated 19-year-old Richie Stevens in the final round of eliminations to take his third national event victory of the year, and his first win at this venue since 1993. "The GM Goodwrench Pontiac Firebird ran decent today, but everybody for the most part did pretty well considering it was pretty hot out there," said Johnson. "Negotiating the track to make a quick run was the hard part. Everybody was a little afraid of it, and I don't think rightfully so, because they just all felt you couldn't get down the left hand lane. We've tested here in the left hand lane, have run well in that lane, and it's not a problem as long as you adjust the shift points so that you're not shifting on the bump. In some cases, we've tested quicker in the left than in the right." Johnson, the hometown favorite who lives just 40 minutes west of Atlanta Dragway in Buford, Ga., came into final eliminations today as the No. 1 qualifier, the sixth time he's accomplished that feat this year, by posting a track-record elapsed time of 6.901 seconds at 200.83 mph. He defeated Tom Martino in round one, Mark Pawuk in round two and Jim Yates in round three before facing "The Kid" in the finals. Johnson's performance numbers were 6.906ET/201.01MPH, 6.936ET/200.83MPH, and 6.946ET/200.71MPH. In the final round, Johnson's Firebird ran an elapsed time of 6.998 seconds at 198.93 mph, while Stevens' Firebird ran a 7.023 elapsed time at 196.93 mph. The 19 year-old challenger tried to steal a hole shot advantage over the veteran, but red-lighted instead with a .365 reaction time (a .400 is the lowest possible reaction time you can have before red-lighting). "We have to win these races first for our team," Johnson said. "But I would have to say that it's a little extra special to win at what we refer to as our home track. Our shop's only 40 miles from here and we had a lot of people that we work with out this weekend. So yeah, it means a lot and it gives us a little more incentive if you will." "It's just a situation where Richie was at a performance disadvantage as far as the actual performance numbers. Then he felt he was in an inferior lane, so he was going to do everything he possibly could do to win. And that's what it's all about. You can't fault him for that. You're better to try and fail than to never try at all, and I have to give the kid credit for going up there with the positive attitude that he has to do everything in his power to win. Some day it's going to work in his favor." By winning today's race, the four-time Winston champion (1992-93, 1995, 1998) picked up his 75th career victory in 117 final-round appearances. It's the third time this year that he's left an event with the win, the top qualifying position, best elapsed time and top speed. Mike Stryker was named crew chief of the race for his work on the winning car and will receive $1000 from Sears Craftsman. "I've always said there are two ways to excel at anything," said Johnson, "youth and enthusiasm or age and treachery. In a lot of cases, experience on racetracks plays to your advantage. In most cases, there's no such thing as knowing too much, and the more you can utilize that information positively, it works to your advantage." Mike Thomas in the Pennzoil Firebird, and Jim Yates in the Splitfire/Peak Firebird, advanced to the semi-final round before losing; Thomas to Richie Stevens and Yates to Warren Johnson. "If we had run a couple of a thousandths faster we would have qualified third and been on the other side of the ladder," Yates said. "Then we wouldn't have run Warren (Johnson) until the final. He's running awful good right now, and you compound that by losing lane choice because the difference in lanes is about three to four hundredths of a second. "We tried something different on the Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird to get down that lane and it didn't help us. We slowed down quite a bit, and Warren just went down the right lane and made a good run. He's probably got a two to three-hundredths advantage in performance, and when you couple that with the advantage of running in that lane, then that puts him six to seven-hundredths ahead of us." Mark Pawuk in the Summit Racing Firebird, and Steve Schmidt in the Dynagear Firebird, lost in round two; Pawuk to Warren Johnson and Schmidt to Richie Stevens. Tom Martino, Bruce Allen and George Marnell lost in round one; Martino to Warren Johnson, Allen to Jim Yates and Marnell to Mike Edwards. "All in all, it wasn't a bad weekend, but we need to win more rounds on Sunday to get back into the points chase," Pawuk said. "We had some gremlins we were fighting and we missed two runs. Yesterday we were on a half-way decent run in the afternoon, but it wouldn't have been good enough to move us up in the field. "The bottom line is that we didn't make a good enough run on Friday night. When you're right in the middle of the pack, it's tough to grab lane choice in the second round of eliminations when you're facing the No. 1 qualifier. We were fourth fastest car in that first round, and the Summit Racing Firebird made a decent run. There was a little room left for improvement, but it was probably the best run we've made since we've been here. That shows me that we should have been in the top-four or five cars all weekend." After seven races, Kurt Johnson still leads the championship hunt in a Camaro with 613 points, but Warren Johnson edges closer to the lead and is in second place in a Firebird with 605. Jim Yates is third in a Firebird with 394 points, Richie Stevens is fourth in a Firebird with 369 and Troy Coughlin is fifth in a Cutlass with 362. George Marnell is 10th in a Firebird with 278 points. In Funny Car, Cruz Pedregon started final eliminations qualified in the No. 2 position and advanced to round two before losing to Tony Pedregon. Dale Creasy Jr., and Del Worsham also lost in round two; Creasy to Scotty Cannon and Worsham to eventual race-winner John Force. "We had a decent weekend, we qualified second and we raced a couple of rounds," Pedregon said. "Unfortunately, the Interstate Batteries Firebird slowed down and we were defeated. It's frustrating because everyone's working hard and we want to win a race. This drag racing is tough and a second round defeat is not what we wanted when we arrived here. Unlike NASCAR when you can run 20th the entire race and go to the finish, this sport can be over in less than five seconds. We'll continue to work, and get better and hopefully we can turn this thing around in Englishtown." Tim Wilkerson nailed down his first No. 1 qualifying position of the year and the third of his career, but lost in round one to Scotty Cannon. Al Hofmann also lost in round one to Dale Creasy, Jr. John Force is first in the Winston standings in a Mustang with 760, Tony Pedregon is second in a Mustang with 621, Cruz Pedregon in a Firebird and Whit Bazemore in a Camaro are tied for third place with 448, and Dean Skuza is fifth in an Avenger with 356. Del Worsham is seventh in a Firebird with 309 points, Gary Densham is ninth in a Firebird with 281 and Dale Creasy Jr., is 10th in a Firebird with 279. In Top Fuel, MBNA/Pontiac driver Cory McClenathan lost in round one to Tony Schumacher after qualifying in the No. 13 position. The race winner was Gary Scelzi. "When we got here this morning we had some problems with one of the heads, and we had to pull it off and change a head, a rod and a piston just 45 minutes before the first round," McClenathan said. "After the burnout, I started backing up and thought I saw some fuel, but it wasn't fuel, it was oil. The oil line that goes to the pressure side of the gauge came off and started spitting out oil. When you have almost 200 pounds of pressure in there, it can spit a lot of oil out pretty quick. It's a safety factor - you don't want to get out there in your own oil and do something stupid and maybe hurt somebody. So we shut it off because we wanted to be smart about it, but it definitely hurt us points wise. "Some of our early numbers here were showing us that the car wants to run some big numbers. We had to back it off because the other half of the track couldn't take it. I think we'll be able to go back to the way we had the car at the beginning of this race, make at least one run and get a handle on the situation. I expect big things out of this MBNA/Pontiac Top Fuel dragster and I'm confident that we'll get back on track at Englishtown." Mike Dunn remains in first place with 547 points, Tony Schumacher is second with 459, Larry Dixon is third with 455, and Cory McClenathan and Doug Herbert are tied for fourth with 430. In the Sportsman categories, Todd Paton of Brantford, Ontario, driving a Firebird, lost in the final round of Federal Mogul Funny Car to Bob Newberry. Paton had a 5.791 elapsed time to Newberry's 5.772 elapsed time. In Super Stock, Scotty Richardson of Goodlettesville, Tenn., won in a 1999 Pontiac Firebird. The next stop is the 30th annual Mopar Parts Nationals Park at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J., on May 20 -23. It is the eighth race on the 22-event NHRA Winston Championship circuit. Same-day television coverage of final eliminations can be seen on ESPN2 on Sunday, May 23, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. Qualifying highlights can be seen on ESPN2 on Sunday, May 23, beginning at 10:30 a.m. Eastern.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bob Newberry , Doug Herbert , Mike Thomas , Troy Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Mike Dunn , Mark Pawuk , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Al Hofmann , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Gary Scelzi , Dale Creasy Jr. , Gary Densham , Scotty Cannon , Cruz Pedregon , Todd Paton , Cory McClenathan , Bruce Allen , Tom Martino , Tim Wilkerson , George Marnell , Steve Schmidt , Mike Edwards