Bristol: Warren Johnson pre-race notes

WJ's Wrap Sheet -- Bristol Dragway Edition 1. WJ's First NHRA Bristol Race - 2001 Race Car: 2001 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Grand Am Performance: WJ Qualified Second, 6.904 seconds, 198.12 mph Lost to...

WJ's Wrap Sheet -- Bristol Dragway Edition

1. WJ's First NHRA Bristol Race - 2001

Race Car: 2001 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Grand Am

Performance:  WJ Qualified Second, 6.904 seconds, 198.12 mph

Lost to Rickie Smith

In Warren's Words:

"I don't remember that much about the weekend, other than people were having a lot of problems with the starting line. It was an all-new track surface, and they had ground it or something trying to prep it, and essentially ruined it. Unfortunately, the racetrack got progressively worse all weekend, but it was addressed immediately after the race, and was never a problem again.

"As for the rest of the facility, I recall I was always comparing it to what it was like before, and I was completely enthralled with it. Obviously, we couldn't sat the same about our performance in eliminations. We qualified well, but somehow lost to Rickie in the first round."

Notes of the time:

* Despite the upset loss to Rickie Smith in the first round, WJ left Bristol in the NHRA Pro Stock championship points lead, a position he would hold through 20 of the 24 races on the 2001 schedule en route to his sixth NHRA Championship.

* Ironically, Johnson and Smith had squared off in three Bristol Dragway final rounds while competing in the IHRA in the late 70's and 80's, with WJ winning two of the three encounters.

* Smith was pulling "double duty" at the 2001 event, as he was also competing in the Pro Mod category.

* Bruce Allen was the No. 1 qualifier at this race with a 6.934-second elapsed time, with current Mopar runner V. Gaines in a Chevrolet on the bump at 6.992 seconds.

* 31 cars attempted to make the inaugural Mac Tools Thunder Valley NHRA Nationals

* The field consisted of Oldsmobile Cutlasses, Pontiac Grand Ams & Firebirds, Chevy Cavaliers and Camaros, Dodge Avengers and R/Ts and two Ford Mustangs.

*  Greg Anderson won the event in Pro Stock, driving a Firebird
co-owned by George Marnell.  Anderson defeated Jim Yates in the final.

* Winners in other categories that day included Doug Kalitta in Top Fuel, who defeated Tony Schumacher in the final and Ron Capps over Al Hofmann in Funny Car.

2. WJ's First NHRA Bristol Win -- 2002

Race Car: 2002 GM Performance Parts Pontiac Grand Am

Performance:  WJ Qualified Seventh, 6.887 seconds, 201.10 mph

Defeated Gene Wilson, George Marnell, V. Gaines and Ron Krisher

In Warren's Words:

"One of the things I remember from that weekend was the tremendous deluge that hit Bristol Dragway shortly after the semi-finals that sent everyone scrambling for cover. Other than that, the weather conditions had been pretty decent, and they had fixed the racetrack. It was a day of extremely close racing, with several rounds won on holeshots. I remember Krisher had parked Anderson by a thousandth or so on a holeshot to reach the final. Of course, that was the year we had 15 different winners in Pro Stock, and close competition was the rule and not the exception.

"We had had a packed house, but when the rainstorm sent many of the fans to their cars, they never came back, and as a result, the stands were fairly empty for the final. The storm itself was fairly short, which didn't give the water time to soak in, and the sun came out to help dry it in record time. In fact, the track was better after the rain than it was before, because it had cooled off, so we went for it in the final. Fortunately, we came out on top."

Notes of the time:

* This was the 88th win of WJ's career.

* WJ scored the win by defeating Ron Krisher on holeshot in the final, with WJ's .033 light and 6.986-second run holding off Krisher's .068 r.t. and 6.975-second pass.

* Troy Coughlin was the No. 1 qualifier with an elapsed time of 6.853 seconds, but lost in the second round.

* 36 cars attempted to make the 2002 Pro Stock Field.

* The field consisted of Pontiac Grand Ams and a Firebird, Chevrolet Cavaliers and a Camaro, an Oldsmobile Cutlass and Dodge Neons, Avengers and R/T.

* Other winners included Whit Bazemore in Funny Car and Larry Dixon in Top Fuel.

3. WJ's Bristol Dragway in a Nutshell --

"If you encompass all the races we've run in Bristol, we've done pretty well there over the years. It has come a long way from the rather crude track it was when I first raced here in 1979 to the state-of-the-art facility it is now. The only detriment that I can think of is the rain that seems to catch us there every year, which the management obviously has no control over.

"With the mountains on both sides, it's an extremely picturesque location, and the amenities for the racers and the fans are top-notch. The few problems that arise in the day-to-day operation are addressed immediately, making it a pleasure to race there. I guess the biggest compliment I can give it is that I wouldn't mind at all if they put a second national event there."

Did You Know?

* Although this weekend will be only WJ's fifth NHRA national appearance at Bristol Dragway, he has a long and storied career in Thunder Valley participating in the International Hot Rod Association's (IHRA) Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter Nationals, winning six times in nine final round appearances while running on a limited basis from 1979 to 1989.

* WJ also competed in the 1999 and 2000 NHRA Winston Showdown races at Bristol Dragway, which were all-star events.


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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Troy Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Warren Johnson , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Ron Krisher , Gene Wilson , Bruce Allen , George Marnell , Rickie Smith