Columbus: Warren Johnson nails 84th career victory

COLUMBUS, Ohio, June 17, 2001 - Warren Johnson picked up his 84th career victory and moved back into first place in the Pro Stock points standings by winning the 37th annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals presented by Summit Racing today at...

COLUMBUS, Ohio, June 17, 2001 - Warren Johnson picked up his 84th career victory and moved back into first place in the Pro Stock points standings by winning the 37th annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals presented by Summit Racing today at National Trail Raceway.

Johnson came into this event with a new Jerry Haas constructed Grand Am and struggled during the first two sessions of qualifying on Friday. But on Saturday, the results of additional tweaking begin to show and during the last session in the heat of the day, the GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac sprinted to the best e.t. of the round at 6.959 seconds. That was good enough for the No. 3 starting position coming into Sunday eliminations and showed the rest of the field that "The Professor" would be tough to beat.

In round one, Johnson defeated son Kurt Johnson with low e.t. of the meet at 6.907 seconds. He then eliminated Brad Jeter and Jeg Coughlin in rounds two and three to set up a final-round showdown against Mark Osborne.

In the championship heat, WJ's Grand Am raced to a 6.948 second run at 198.00 mph while Osborne's Dodge trailed with a 6.985 elapsed time at 198.58 mph. It was the third victory of the season for the 57-year-old GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac pilot and the fourth time he's visited the winner's circle at National Trail Raceway.

"We tested this Grand Am (Haas) back in December at Bradenton, a cool racetrack that you couldn't hardly mess up on," Johnson said. "We elected to use the other car during the cool part of the season. Now when it has started to heat up we felt like we needed a little bit of a change.

"We felt like this car was going to be a little better tool given the conditions. We kept tweaking it a little on each run, not trying to make any major swings on it. We started out with a 7.24 in qualifying, went to a 7-flat, then a 6.96 and ran a 6.95 in the heat yesterday. We opened with a 6.90 today. The car kept responding to small changes and we're real happy with it right now. We have no idea how far we can push the envelope on this car because we don't have that many runs on it yet."

Johnson now moves back into first place in the Pro Stock points standings, the seventh time this season that the class has seen a lead change following a national event. Three different drivers held first place on different occasions during this race .

Jim Yates came into this event in the top spot holding a two-point lead over Mark Pawuk. Pawuk moved back into the lead based on qualifying points, but gave the lead back to Yates after a first-round loss to the Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Grand Am driver. When Yates lost in round two, and Johnson advanced, the GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac driver took back the points lead for the first time since giving up the top spot at Topeka on May 20.

"This points battle is going right down to the wire," said Johnson. "We have too many good teams out here for it not to. We have Jeg's with their two cars, you have Yates, you have Pawuk, Steve Schmidt's team is coming along, so there are a lot of good teams out there that even if they don't win the championship, they can certainly play a spoiler role. It's going to be a nerve racking deal all the way to the final race. But as long as the fans are getting entertained and getting their dollar's worth, then we still have a job - all of us."

Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird driver Del Worsham advanced to his second consecutive Funny Car final round before losing to John Force. It was the third time this season that the two rivals had met in a championship round and the first time this year that the 31-year-old Worsham has come out on the losing end to Force in a final round. Force won the race with a 4.963 elapsed time at 308.00 mph while Worsham spun the tires at half track and slowed to a 6.204 second run at 160.79 mph. Worsham is now in second place in the points standings behind Force.

"We didn't think we were loaded up that strong," Worsham said. "We thought we had it set just right with just enough to beat him. I'm sorely disappointed. Our Pontiac Firebird had been a Ford killer all day, but we're in second place right now and very proud of that."

In the Sportsman categories Pontiac drivers won in four of the eight Federal Mogul classes. Jeff Taylor of Lumberton, N.C. won in Competition Eliminator in a 2001 Grand Am. Bobby Rashid of Detroit, Mich., took the Super Stock championship in an '82 Firebird. Jeff Hefler of Mansfield, Tex., won in Stock Eliminator in a '98 Firebird and Steven Fields of Taylor, Mich., won in Super Gas in a '90 Trans Am.

The next stop on the NHRA Winston Drag Racing tour is the 5th annual Sears Craftsman Nationals at Gateway International Raceway on June 21 - 24. <pre> Pro Stock Truck Race Winner: Bob Panella (Chevy S-10) 7.530ET/178.95MPH Pro Stock Truck Runner-Up: Mark Whisnant (S-10) 7.624ET/177.25 Pro Stock Truck Top Qualifier: Bob Panella (Chevy S-10) 7.519ET(track record)/179.61MPH (track record)

Pro Stock Truck Top 10: 1. Bob Panella (Chevy S-10) 2. Greg Stanfield (Chevy S-10) 3. Randy Daniels (Chevy S-10) 4. Jeff Gracia (GMC Sonoma) 5. Scott Perin (Chevy S-10) 6. Don Smith (Chevy S-10) 7. Todd Patterson (Dodge Dakota) 8. Jeff Naiser (Chevy S-10) 9. Victor Cagnazzi (Chevy S-10) 10. Mark Whisnant (S-10)

Pro Stock Race Winner: Warren Johnson (Pontiac Grand Am) 6.948ET/198.00MPH Pro Stock Runner-Up: Mark Osborne (Dodge) 6.985ET/198.50MPH Pontiac Pro Stock semifinalists: Warren Johnson, Greg Anderson Pro Stock Top Qualifier: George Marnell (Pontiac Grand Am) 6.935ET/198.03MPH

Pro Stock Top 10: 1. Warren Johnson (Pontiac Grand Am) 2. Jim Yates (Pontiac Grand Am) 3. Mark Pawuk (Pontiac Grand Am) 4. Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Cavalier) 5. Mark Osborne (Dodge) 6. Mike Edwards (Cavalier) 7. Kurt Johnson (Cavalier) 7. Ron Krisher (Cavalier) 9. Bruce Allen (Pontiac Grand Am) 10. Richie Stevens (Grand Am)

Funny Car Winner: John Force (Mustang) 4.963ET/308.00 Funny Car Runner-Up: Del Worsham (Pontiac Firebird) 6.208ET/160.79MPH Pontiac Funny Car semifinalists: Del Worsham, Johnny Gray Funny Car Top Qualifier: Dean Skuza 4.885ET/305.08MPH

Funny Car Top 10: 1.John Force (Mustang) 2. Del Worsham (Pontiac Firebird) 3. Ron Capps (Chevy Camaro) 4. Bruce Sarver (Pontiac Firebird) 5. Whit Bazemore (Pontiac Firebird) 6. Tony Pedregon (Mustang) 7. Tony Pedregon (Ford Mustang) 8. Dean Skuza (Dodge) 9. Tommy Johnson Jr. (Camaro) 10. Gary Densham (Mustang)

Top Fuel Winner: Larry Dixon 4.700ET/306.53MPH Top Fuel Runner-Up: Darrell Russell 4.929ET/230.37MPH Top Fuel Top Qualifier: Kenny Bernstein 4.659ET/316.82MPH

Top Fuel Top 10: 1. Kenny Bernstein 2. Larry Dixon 3. Mike Dunn 4. Doug Kalitta 5. Darrell Russell 6. Gary Scelzi 7. Tony Schumacher 8. Doug Herbert 9. David Grubnic 10. Rhonda Hartman-Smith

-NHRA-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Bruce Sarver , Jeg Coughlin , Bob Panella , Larry Dixon , Mike Dunn , Kenny Bernstein , Brad Jeter , Mark Pawuk , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Dean Skuza , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Rhonda Hartman-Smith , Tony Schumacher , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Ron Krisher , Todd Patterson , Jeff Gracia , Randy Daniels , David Grubnic , Gary Densham , Greg Stanfield , Bruce Allen , George Marnell , Johnny Gray , Steve Schmidt , Mark Whisnant , Jerry Haas , Mike Edwards , Tommy Johnson Jr.