Brainerd: Warren Johnson preview

Johnson ready to unravel Minnesota mystery. No one has ever confused Brainerd, Minn., with Bermuda, but the two places do have an eerie similarity. For Pro Stock driver Warren Johnson, Brainerd International Raceway, the site of this weekend's...

Johnson ready to unravel Minnesota mystery.

No one has ever confused Brainerd, Minn., with Bermuda, but the two places do have an eerie similarity. For Pro Stock driver Warren Johnson, Brainerd International Raceway, the site of this weekend's Rugged Liner NHRA Nationals, is as mysterious as the Bermuda Triangle.

"Nothing makes sense up there," said the Professor of Pro Stock. "The performance numbers just aren't as fast as they should be.

"The track e.t. record is 6.96 and the speed record is only 198.96 mph," said Johnson, who set those marks at last year's event. "Those are way out of whack for a track that's only 1,200 feet above sea level."

While W.J. may be puzzled by the elapsed times and speeds at BIR, he is quite familiar with the facility's quirks. Johnson grew up in Minnesota, and he has competed in all 20 NHRA national events held at Brainerd International Raceway. He scored four of his 88 career victories at BIR, winning in 1984, 1993, 1995 and 1996. He has qualified in the No. 1 spot four times, including last year's event.

"The drag strip is used relatively infrequently, so its surface isn't as sticky as some of the other tracks on the circuit," Johnson suggested. "The coefficient of friction isn't high enough to allow the Pro Stock cars to perform at their best. The fuel cars have an abundance of downforce, so they aren't affected to the same degree as the Pro Stocks."

The Rugged Liner Nationals marks Johnson's annual return to the land of his forefathers. He grew up on a farm in Minnesota's Iron Range, where long days in the fields forged his famous work ethic. The daily routine of repairing equipment gave Johnson a hands-on education in mechanics, while driving on frozen roads in the long winters taught him the fundamentals of car control. These skills have served him well in his racing career.

Johnson's homecoming follows his first DNQ in 15 years of racing. After qualifying at 303 consecutive national events, W.J. missed the field at the Fram-Autolite Nationals in Sonoma, Calif. W.J.'s 6.848-second qualifying time fell short of the 6.836 bump spot and left him 21st on the list.

"If we look at it realistically, it's not a big deal," said Johnson. "The streak's over and that's all there is to it. It just means that I can start on another one.

"I never intended to set a qualifying record," he explained. "The streak was just a byproduct of trying to make the race on Sunday. If you qualify, you get to race - if you don't qualify, you go home. The primary objective at every race is to qualify, and I didn't. We'll just move on and get ready for the next event."

Now the next event is at hand, and Johnson is ready to continue his quest for a seventh NHRA championship at the mysterious Brainerd Triangle.

-wjr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson