WARREN JOHNSON TAKES THE PRO STOCK CROWN AT DALLAS DALLAS (April 25, 1999) Warren Johnson added another trophy today to an already impressive collection today winning the Third Annual Castrol Nationals at the Texas Motorplex by defeating...
WARREN JOHNSON TAKES THE PRO STOCK CROWN AT DALLAS
DALLAS (April 25, 1999) Warren Johnson added another trophy today to an already impressive collection today winning the Third Annual Castrol Nationals at the Texas Motorplex by defeating Mike Edwards in the final round of eliminations. The four-time Winston Pro Stock champion (1992-93, 1995, 1998) piloted his GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird to an elapsed time of 6.945 seconds at 198.85 mph to Edwards' 7.002 seconds at 196.72 mph in the climactic session.
"In Houston when we came up with this different combination of running the car, we got a little apprehensive and really didn't get after it," said Johnson. "First round was part of what we learned in Houston. In the second round we got after it a little bit but not enough. The third round was a disaster, so we figured it was already messed up and the only thing it could do was get better. It couldn't get any worse, so we really got after it for the final and it picked up five hundredths. It was all in the first eighth mile.
"At this point in time, the GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird appears to have a pretty good sized window that we can operate in and we can get aggressive now. What it will do on a real hot race track, we don't know until we test or run under those conditions at a national event. But it appears that it's got a pretty good size window we can play with."
Today's win was Johnson's second victory of the season, his first coming at the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla., in March. It is the second time this year that the 55-year-old Buford, Ga., resident leaves the event with all the marbles by qualifying in the No. 1 position, winning the race, and positing the best elapsed time and top-speed of the meet. It was the 74th career win in 115 final round appearances for Johnson and moves him back into second place on the NHRA's list for all-time wins by a professional driver behind Bob Glidden. Johnson is the series' most winning active driver.
"This chassis is pretty much identical to last year's car," Johnson explained. "There's a few minor changes that I felt would cosmetically clean it up and make it lighter and so forth, but the basic structure of it - suspension, front and rear, and the layout of the car's pretty much the same. The cosmetics are really the only change. The way we're running this car is completely different. We learned some stuff last year, but when you have a successful year you don't want to try and fix what's not exactly broken. So we decided we'd run it at the first few races of the year, and it was all right at Gainesville, but that was in really cool conditions and on a good race track.
"Kurt (Johnson) came up with this setup when they were testing in Atlanta. We tried it in my car and it responded right away. This was the first time in our team effort that we've run the same chassis setup, but part of that is due to the fact that we're running the same car. I think overall it's going to help both programs"
Johnson came into today's race the odds-on favorite by posting the best elapsed time in qualifying at 6.904 seconds at a speed of 200.22 mph. He then dispatched John Nobile in round one, Richie Stevens in round two, and Rickie Smith in round three before facing off against Edwards in the finals. His performance numbers in the first three rounds were 6.970ET/199.24 MPH, 6.956ET/199.33 MPH, and 6.994ET/198.89MPH.
He has three previous wins at the Texas Motorplex. He won in 1989 over Larry Morgan, in 1997 over Scott Geoffrion and in last October's Revell Nationals over Jim Yates. He has five runner-up finishes here.
"I never get tired of winning, but I get tired of losing," Johnson said. "Winning's all right but losing really stinks. It's not the losing so much; if we lost, it's because we did something wrong, whether it was driving or the setup or something. As a team we pride ourselves on trying to do everything right every time.
"We certainly have the performance to be in the finals at every race. It's just getting there is awfully tough because we're in the position that everyone is going to take a shot at you. We can't afford to take a shot at the starting line; we've got everything to lose and nothing to gain." Jim Yates came into today's event qualified in the No. 5 position but fell in round two to Rickie Smith. Mark Pawuk, Mike Thomas, Tom Martino and Steve Schmidt lost in round one; Pawuk to Rickie Smith, Thomas to Mike Trumble, Martino to Jim Yates and Schmidt to Richie Stevens. George Marnell and Bruce Allen did not qualify.
"This Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Firebird showed us a glimpse of what it's capable of doing Saturday afternoon and then again first round today," Yates said. "We got behind the eight ball with the engine again. The power curve is something we keep struggling to figure out, and if we get below a certain point it just falls on its face. That's basically what happened in the second round today. We got a little too aggressive with it because we were concerned that the track was going to get hot and nasty. But obviously it was still pretty good because Warren (Johnson) went the 6.95. The car fell on its face, and when it finally took off we had too little too late.
"Right now we're on a good run. The car and the engine seem to be running in the top three or four each qualifying session and we're just going to try and work on this problem we have. Our problem is between the starting line and the 60-foot. We'll just work on that hard and try and come up with a combination that will get us through that area."
After five races, Kurt Johnson still leads the Winston Pro Stock standings in a Camaro with 484 points, Warren Johnson is second in a Pontiac Firebird with 450, Troy Coughlin is third in a Cutlass with 298, Jim Yates is fourth in a Firebird with 287 and Jeg Coughlin Jr., is fifth in a Cutlass with 284. George Marnell is ninth in a Firebird with 189 points and Steve Schmidt is 10th in a Firebird with 180.
In Funny Car, Cruz Pedregon took his Interstate Batteries Pontiac Firebird all the way to the semi-final round before losing to younger sibling and eventual race winner Tony Pedregon. Cruz came into today's race qualified in the No. 3 position and defeated Jim Epler and Frank Pedregon in the first two rounds.
"We're pretty happy with the way the Interstate Batteries Pontiac Firebird performed this weekend, and even though that winner's circle continues to be elusive, we're starting to run the big numbers that it will take to win races," Pedregon said. "It's getting quicker and quicker each run and that's very encouraging. Wes (Cerny) will take a step back, look at the data and start preparing for Richmond. We only have a couple of days to get ready, but the team did a great job giving me a car that would be fast on race day and with a few breaks we could have done much better. It's a long season, and the key is to go rounds and accumulate points and that's what we did today."
Dale Creasy Jr., upset heavily favored Ron Capps in round one before losing to Tony Pedregon in round two. Del Worsham, Al Hofmann, Tim Wilkerson and Gary Densham lost in round one; Worsham to Cory Lee, Hofmann to Whit Bazemore, Wilkerson to Tony Pedregon, and Densham to John Force.
"We shook real bad right off the starting line, not much farther off than a half-a-car length," explained Creasy. "We tried to hop the Mad Magazine Firebird up a little bit because we knew Tony (Pedregon) was going to run extremely well. Now we know what doesn't work. We were going for it because we wanted to beat him and we knew that a 5.09 wasn't going to be enough. We knew he was going to run a 4.80 or a 4.90, so we figured we'd just go for it. I thought about pedaling it and when I saw how far ahead of me he was, I just let him go.
"We had a good weekend though. I'm happy with the consistency of our race car. We ran three 5.00s in a row and you can't ask for much more than that; especially on this kind of race track. Our past performance has been very inconsistent and now we're getting consistency. That's what we'll need to win races."
John Force leads the Funny Car standings in a Mustang with 528 points, Tony Pedregon is second in a Mustang with 454, Cruz Pedregon is third in a Firebird with 314, Whit Bazemore is fourth in a Camaro with 299 and Dean Skuza is fifth in an Avenger with 293. Gary Densham is eighth in a Firebird with 239 points and Del Worsham is ninth in a Firebird with 225.
In Top Fuel, Cory McClenathan's MBNA/Pontiac dragster advanced to round three before falling to eventual race winner Gary Scelzi. He defeated Bob Vandergriff in round one and Jim Head in round two.
"We had a lot of luck on our side today and you have to have that if you're going to go rounds," McClenathan said. "In the first round, after waiting for the rain to stop, I was ready for it to smoke the tires, and it did. We recovered okay and we were lucky. It's just one of those deals where you have to get the car to virtually run one time or another and we really went for it in that last round. We were really going for it this last round trying to go 4.55 or 4.56. It got out there, got out of the groove, started shaking and I had to pedal it - I had no choice.
"My hat goes off to Gary Scelzi. They did a great job today, but we're still making headway one way or another. The MBNA/Pontiac is going to the semi-finals and a lot of guys aren't. It's going to be tough this year but I feel good about the way things are shaping up."
Mike Dunn is in first place in the Winston championship hunt with 399 points, Tony Schumacher is second with 349, Doug Herbert is third with 346, Larry Dixon is fourth with 324, Kenny Bernstein is fifth with 311 and MBNA/Pontiac driver is Cory McClenathan is sixth with 282.
In the Sportsman categories, Todd Paton of Brantford, Ontario won in the Federal Mogul Funny Car division defeating Todd Simpson. Paton's 1999 Pontiac Firebird ran an elapsed time of 5.724 seconds at 251.11 mph to Simpson's 5.904 seconds at 249.03 mph. Terry Emmons of Pasadena, Tex., won in the Super Stock division in a 1996 Pontiac Firebird.
The next stop on the schedule is the Fifth Annual Pennzoil Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park in Dinwiddie, Va., on April 29 - May 2. It is sixth race on the 22-event NHRA Winston championship tour. Defending Pontiac champions at this are event are Warren Johnson in Pro Stock and Cory McClenathan in Top Fuel. Event highlights of the Pennzoil Nationals can be seen on TNN on Sunday, April 18, beginning at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.