Brainerd: Warren Report

THE WARREN REPORT: Warren Johnson GM Goodwrench Service Plus News & Notes for the Colonel's Truck Accessories NHRA Nationals, Brainerd, Minn., Aug. 17-19 Johnson's Racing Philosophy Was Forged In Minnesota's Iron Range Minnesota bills...

THE WARREN REPORT: Warren Johnson GM Goodwrench Service Plus News & Notes for the Colonel's Truck Accessories NHRA Nationals, Brainerd, Minn., Aug. 17-19

Johnson's Racing Philosophy Was Forged In Minnesota's Iron Range

Minnesota bills itself as the "Land of 10,000 Lakes," but it's a state of a million memories for Pro Stock racer Warren Johnson. W.J. grew up on a farm in the hard-scrabble soil of Minnesota's Iron Range, an experience that forged his outlook on life and molded his racing philosophy. Johnson will return to the land of his birth for the Colonel's Truck Accessories NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway on August 17-19.

"What we were doing wasn't really farming - it was more like moving rocks around," Warren recalled with a laugh. "Growing up on a farm was a great education. I learned how to fix whatever was broken, and I learned not to fix whatever worked. That's still how I run my racing program."

Now Johnson is hoping to reap a sixth career NHRA championship. He leads the Winston standings by 73 points coming into the 17th of the 24 events that constitute the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

Like the swallows that return to Capistrano every year, W.J. returns annually to his former home. He has competed in every national event held at Brainerd International Raceway, scoring four victories (1984, 1993, 1995 and 1996) and five final-round appearances in the last 19 years. He has been the No. 1 qualifier three times and holds the track speed record at 197.62 mph.

With that deep well of experience, Johnson knows what to expect at BIR.

"Brainerd is always an anomaly," he observed. "The elapsed times and speeds never live up to our expectations. The e.t.s are three to five hundredths slower than we expect, and the speeds are consistently 1.5 mph off of what the computer says we should run. The only track with a slower Pro Stock speed record is Denver. There are turtles in Minnesota that can run faster than we do at Brainerd!

"Brainerd is a track that doesn't get a lot of use, so you have to be very 'soft' in your approach," Johnson explained. "In the past we've seen the rubber on the starting line come up and leave bare concrete. Maybe that's part of the reason that the track doesn't produce the numbers we expect.

"Everyone is in the same boat, so it comes down to who does the best job of adapting to the track conditions," W.J. concluded.

While the three-race "Western Swing" has produced dramatic changes in the championship race in years past, this season's edition merely reaffirmed the status quo. The drivers who occupied the top six spots at the start of the three-race series were in the same positions at the end of the swing.

Johnson appeared ready to break the championship race wide open when he notched his record-setting 86th career victory in Denver - but back-to-back first-round losses in Seattle and Sonoma, Calif., prevented W.J. from staging a runaway. After three grueling weeks on the road, he gained only 20 points - one round of racing - on his closest pursuer.

"Hindsight is always 20-20, but looking back we should have started racing this car three races sooner," Warren reflected. "This chassis seems to have a bigger operating window. It's very forgiving."

W.J. posted the fastest Pro Stock speed at the Fram Autolite NHRA Nationals at Sears Point Raceway, his seventh top speed of the season and the 190th of his career. Warren has run the fastest speed at 50.3 percent of the 378 NHRA races in which he has competed - a testament to the ability of this former Minnesota farmboy to grow horsepower by the bushel.

WARREN JOHNSON'S BRAINERD INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY RECORD:

Year  Qual.  Result

1982 3 Second Round
1983 4 Semi-final
1984 3 Winner (over Shepherd)
1985 3 Semi-final
1986 3 First Round
1987 7 Semi-final
1988 2 Semi-final
1989 16 First Round
1990 3 Semi-final
1991 1 Second Round
1992 2 Semi-final
1993 2 Winner (over Morgan)
1994 2 Second Round
1995 2 Winner (over Yates)
1996 2 Winner (over Schmidt)
1997 1 Semi-final
1998 2 Semi-final
1999 1 Runner-up (to J. Coughlin)
2000 15 First Round

-WJ-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson