94 Wins And Counting - Warren Johnson Picks Up Another Victory At Bristol Dragway GM Performance Parts Pontiac Driver Snares 800th Career Round Win BRISTOL, Tenn., May 1, 2005 - Warren Johnson put another win in the record books today at the ...
94 Wins And Counting - Warren Johnson Picks Up Another Victory At Bristol Dragway
GM Performance Parts Pontiac Driver Snares 800th Career Round Win BRISTOL, Tenn., May 1, 2005 - Warren Johnson put another win in the record books today at the O'Reilly Nationals and moved back into first place in the Pro Stock points standings after driving his GM Performance Parts Pontiac to a final-round victory over Richie Stevens. It was the second win this season in three final-round appearances for the six-time NHRA champion, his 94th career victory and his second at Bristol Dragway since national-event competition resumed here in 2001. Johnson also eclipsed another milestone with his 800th career round win becoming only the second NHRA professional driver to reach that mark.
"There's no such thing as a bad win or a good loss the way I've always approached this business," said Johnson. "This is the way we make our living, but the biggest thing was the great turnout of race fans that we had here today. After this track was taken over by Bruton (Smith) and his group they obviously made it into one of the best facilities on the tour. It really doesn't resemble what it was in the late 70s and early 80s when I raced here before other than the mountains are still here, but even those have been moved back."
The 61-year-old Johnson came into today's race with his Pontiac qualified in the No. 2 position. He defeated Allen Johnson in round one running 6.749 seconds at 204.39 mph, Jason Line in the second round with a 6.715 e.t. (track record) at 203.83 mph and Kurt Johnson in the semifinals posting a 6.757 second lap at 204.29 mph, before facing Stevens in the finals. In the championship heat, the red, blue and gold Pontiac streaked across the finish line with a 6.756 second e.t at 203.89 mph. The 26-year-old Stevens gave up the race at the starting line with a red-light foul, but his 6.777 second run would not have been enough to catch Pro Stock's elder statesman.
"Our first intention is to win this championship for GM Performance Parts and Pontiac and everybody that's supported us over the years," said Johnson. "Last season was a dismal year for us and for the sponsors, but they stuck with us and thankfully it's coming around. We're not banking on winning the championship but we're certainly working very hard at it.
"Winning over Kurt (Johnson) in the semifinals was important because it allowed me to advance to the final and collect another 20 points. Kurt's going to be a contender for the title now because he has a new car with the Chevy Cobalt that's quite capable of performing at the top of the pack. He came out here with a new car with only three or four full runs on it, qualified at the top of the heap, and it's going to only get better from here. I'm looking at him as being one of the drivers that will eventually vie for this championship. He's seventh in the points but it's still very early in this season."
With Chevy stalwart Dave Connolly losing in round two, Johnson took full advantage of the situation to move back into first place in the standings. With six of 23 events completed, the six-time champion holds a 50 point lead over the second-place Connolly.
"Winning the championship this year would certainly be the ideal scenario," said Johnson. "If you can retire on the top of your game, that's the best possible way to go out. You see a lot of people come back in various sports, not just motorsports, and try to go for one last hurrah. Invariably, it doesn't work out. But like I said at the beginning of the season, we're going to give it our all as far as effort. If we win, that's great. If we don't, at least we can say we tried as hard as we could."
One race, and a fantastic debut for the Chevy Cobalt in NHRA Pro Stock competition thanks to the skillful work of ACDelco Chevrolet driver Kurt Johnson. Johnson, whose new Cobalt was named Best Engineered Car of the meet, entered today's eliminator qualified in the No. 3 position and advanced to the semifinal round before losing to Warren Johnson.
"We wanted to get the first win in the Cobalt, but when you come here with a new car, not knowing what to expect, then you have to be somewhat pleased with going to the semifinals," said Johnson. "This year we've had a couple of first-round losses, a second-round loss, we know we have the performance to advance farther than that, and when you don't it's disappointing. You throw a new car into the mix and that shakes things up a little more. But when we made that run yesterday things seemed to turn around and we actually ended up making three really good runs today including low e.t in the first round. That last one we could have done better. We slipped the clutch, went left and still went a 6.75. If you're going to lose to somebody then it's better to lose to dad, I guess. We'll test for the next two days in Atlanta and get ready for the race there. It will be good to have a weekend off, Mother's Day, and to spend some time with my wife and kids."
Jim Yates had one of his best runs since the Gatornationals six weeks ago in Gainesville, Fla., when he advanced to the semifinal round. Today, Yates cut a near perfect light in his round one win over Jeg Coughlin Jr., and then drove his Pontiac into the second round before losing to V Gaines. The two-time NHRA Pro Stock champion leaves the Volunteer State a solid sixth place in the POWERade points standings, just one point behind fifth-place Ron Krisher.
"We're pretty excited with the potential of this Pontiac to run fast," said Yates. "When we hit everything right, the car makes a good run. It seems like we can be in the top four or five cars right now, and capable of beating anybody. We just have to do a better job of making good runs every time we go to the starting line. In the first round we were almost perfect on the tree and did a really good job of getting this Pontiac down through there. We thought we had another hundredth in it and that we could run within a thousandth of the fastest car. We made a few adjustments but shook the tire really hard. As soon as we get aggressive with it at all it wants to shake. We'll look over our notes and see where we need to make changes. I think we're doing pretty well though. Warren's (Johnson) running real fast right now, but coming from where we were last year it shows that we have the capability to do very, very well. It's a long season and I think the best days for this team are ahead of us. Every race we go to this combination just gets better. We just need to get to Atlanta and get the job done."
In Funny Car, Chevy Monte Carlo driver Jeff Arend advanced to his first final round this season and made his first trip to the championship heat since winning at Reading, Pa., in 1996. It is the fourth straight national event and the six time this year that a Chevy Monte Carlo has advanced to a Funny Car final. Arend defeated Tony Bartone in round one, Eric Medlen in round two and Cruz Pedregon in round three before losing to Gary Scelzi in the finals.
"This team has some great potential this year with that new Monte Carlo body," said the driver of the CMKX Chevrolet. "That's really been helping us, but every race we qualify eighth, ninth, tenth, and never really had much good luck in the first round. Finally here it all came together. We didn't fluke our way to the finals, we're making good solid runs every time and that's a testament to Paul Smith, Ronnie Thompson whose helping us and everybody on the team."
In Competition Eliminator, GM Performance Parts Chevrolet driver Tony Stephenson of Willow Springs, N.C. defeated Paul Pittman in the finals. Other Chevy sportsman winners included Andy Fogle of Norway, S.C., in Super Stock and Clint Blezien of Bensenville, Ill., in Stock Eliminator. Tom Seemann of Little Falls, N.J., won in Super Gas in a Pontiac.