THE WARREN REPORT: DALLAS/HOUSTON EDITION Warren Johnson GM Goodwrench Service Plus News & Notes NEXT RACES: O'Reilly Fall Nationals, October 22-24, Dallas, Texas Matco Tools SuperNationals, October 29-31, Houston, Texas TEXAS...
THE WARREN REPORT: DALLAS/HOUSTON EDITION
Warren Johnson GM Goodwrench Service Plus News & Notes
NEXT RACES: O'Reilly Fall Nationals, October 22-24, Dallas, Texas Matco Tools SuperNationals, October 29-31, Houston, Texas
The long and winding road that has taken NHRA teams from sea to shining sea and back again now turns toward Texas. The O'Reilly Fall Nationals in Dallas on October 22-24 and the Matco Tools SuperNationals in Houston on October 29-31 are the final back-to-back events on the 1999 schedule. After a two-week respite, the season will conclude in Pomona, Calif., on November 11-14.
Warren Johnson would like to wrap up his fifth Pro Stock championship in the Lone Star State - the sooner the better. W.J. has dominated the last two races at Dallas' Texas Motorplex, where he qualified No. 1 and won both events. He defeated Jim Yates in the final round of last season's Fall Nationals and beat Mike Edwards in April's Castrol Nationals at the Motorplex.
Billy Meyer built the Texas Motorplex, but the Johnson family has virtually owned the place since 1993 - the Johnsons have been represented in nine straight final rounds at the Texas supertrack. In 15 NHRA national events in Dallas, Johnson has notched four wins and five runner-up finishes. The Professor has qualified at the top of the Pro Stock class ten times on the all-concrete quarter-mile.
"After our early exits in Topeka and Memphis, we intend to pick up the pace again," said Johnson. "I don't see that as an insurmountable problem at a track where we've enjoyed considerable success in the past.
"We're going to the Motorplex with our usual game plan, our 'Old Reliable' black Firebird, and a trailer full of fresh engines. We've finally patched together all of the pieces we had left after the West Coast swing, and we're shifting into development mode for next year.
"We're back to our typical 26-hours-a-day, nine-days-a-week regimen," Warren reported.
Houston Raceway Park was the site of what many regard as the greatest Pro Stock race of all time - the final-round burndown between Warren Johnson and arch rival Scott Geoffrion in 1994. Johnson notched one of his three career victories at HRP on that enchanted evening. He also posted wins at the fast sea-level track in 1990 (over Bruce Allen) and 1998 (over Mike Thomas).
"The swings in the weather make Houston one of the most problematic tracks on the circuit," Warren reports. "When the air is cool, the track is dynamite - but if the weather turns warm, it can be a handful.
"The track was resurfaced a couple of years ago to eliminate some of the bumps," W.J. recalls. "That was a definite improvement for the Pro Stock cars."
The Johnson family's string of 21 consecutive No. 1 qualifying positions was snapped at Heartland Park Topeka when Richie Stevens took the top spot at the Advance Auto Parts Nationals. The last time that Warren or Kurt missed the Pro Stock "pole" was one year ago in Topeka when Mark Osborne was the top qualifier. W.J. had to settle for the No. 2 spot for the fourth time this year, bringing his average qualifying position in 1999 to 1.74.
"I'm disappointed that Stevens broke our perfect record this season, but looking at the bright side, at least we qualified!" Johnson joked.
One week later, Warren started a new streak when he qualified his GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac in the No. 1 spot at the rain-shortened AutoZone Nationals in Memphis at 6.917 seconds. With that performance, Warren equaled his career-best qualifying record of 14 Pro Stock poles in one year - a mark he also achieved in his 1993 and 1995 championship seasons. W.J. has qualified No. 1 in Pro Stock 116 times.
Johnson's magic number is now 277. If he leaves Dallas with a lead of 277 points or more, he will have mathematically clinched the Pro Stock crown. He currently leads his son Kurt by 180 points and third-ranked Jeg Coughlin, Jr. by 276 markers.
A driver can earn a maximum of 138 points at a national event - but to reach that total, he must qualify No. 1, win the race, and set the national elapsed time record. That's a tall order even for a driver of Warren Johnson's stature. W.J. has averaged 79.6 points per race this season - and that's the best record in the Pro Stock division.
"Professor" Johnson conducted a seminar in speed at the Advance Auto Parts Nationals where he set the track speed record at 200.08 mph - the first 200 mph Pro Stock run recorded at Heartland Park and the 61st of Johnson's career.
Warren has now topped 200 mph at 12 of the 19 tracks that host NHRA national events. Which circuits have yet to yield a 200 mph pass? Phoenix, Chicago, Columbus, Madison, Denver, Brainerd, and Indianapolis.
Virginia Motorsports Park stands out as the fastest track for Pro Stocks; it has been the site of 20 runs at over 200 mph. On the other end of the scale, Memphis Motorsports Park has seen only one 200 mph pass.
W.J. was on top of the speed charts in both Topeka and Memphis, notching his 18th and 19th Top Speeds of the season. Johnson has been the fastest man in Pro Stock 170 times in his career - more than any other driver in NHRA history.
TOP SECRET TESTING
Many racers switch to testing mode in the waning days of a season, but not Warren Johnson. He's keeping his R&D program for Y2K under tight wraps.
"We won't run any of our new stuff in public," Warren declares. "We'll test our new projects in private to keep them away from prying eyes. We don't want to show our hand too early and give our rivals a chance to catch up before the new season begins."
Warren Johnson Texas Motorplex Results Year Qual. Result 1986 2 Runner-up (to Glidden) 1987 2 Second Round 1988 Not NHRA event 1989 1 Winner (over Morgan) 1990 2 First Round 1991 1 Runner-up (to Morgan) 1992 1 Semi-final 1993 1 Runner-up (to K. Johnson) 1994 1 Runner-up (to Geoffrion) 1995 1 Semi-final 1996 2 First Round 1997 Spring 1 Winner (over Geoffrion) 1997 Fall 8 Runner-up (to Yates) 1998 Spring 1 First Round 1998 Fall 1 Winner (over Yates) 1999 Spring 1 Winner (over Edwards)
Warren Johnson Houston Raceway Park Results Year Qual. Result 1988 2 Runner-up (to Glidden) 1989 5 Second Round 1990 2 Winner (over Allen) 1991 1 First Round 1992 6 First Round 1993 1 Second Round 1994 3 Winner (over Geoffrion) 1995 1 Second Round 1996 1 First Round 1997 Spring 1 First Round 1997 Fall 2 Second Round 1998 Spring 1 Winner (over Thomas) 1998 Fall 2 Second Round 1999 Spring 1 Semi-final
LAST RACE: AutoZone Nationals, Memphis, Tenn., October 10, 1999 Qualifying: Warren Johnson qualified No. 1 at 6.917/199.70 Eliminations: First Round: Larry Nance defeated Warren Johnson
Final Round: Mike Edwards defeated Richie Stevens Low ET: Warren Johnson, 6.917 seconds Top Speed: Warren Johnson, 199.70 mph
POINTS RACE: (After 19 of 22 events) Driver Wins Points 1. Warren Johnson 6 1,512 2. Kurt Johnson 3 1,332 3. Jeg Coughlin, Jr. 4 1,236 4. Jim Yates 2 1,087 5. Richie Stevens 1 1,004