Gainesville ProStock notebook (PRO STOCK)

MAC TOOLS GATORNATIONALS PRO STOCK NOTEBOOK --Sharing the power: The switch to a Rick Jones chassis wasn't the only big decision Warren Johnson made during the offseason. Johnson also joined the growing ranks of engine ...

MAC TOOLS GATORNATIONALS PRO STOCK NOTEBOOK

--Sharing the power: The switch to a Rick Jones chassis wasn't the only big decision Warren Johnson made during the offseason.

Johnson also joined the growing ranks of engine builders who lease their products to other drivers. Johnson and his son, driver Kurt Johnson, also are building engines this season for Troy Coughlin, driver of the Jeg's Performance Pontiac Firebird.

"It was strictly a business decision," Warren Johnson said. "I put the price level high enough that it's worth my while.

"We also have to have personnel that we can trust with some of our technology. It was just a good fit."

--What about Bob?: Ten-time NHRA Winston champion Bob Glidden did not compete in the ATSCO Nationals in late February at Phoenix, only the second race he has missed since his Pro Stock career started in 1972.

Glidden, from Whiteland, Ind., skipped the race because he was in Rockingham, N.C., trying to secure a deal with NASCAR Winston Cup driver Geoff Bodine to help with Bodine's engine-development program. Glidden's youngest son, Rusty, drove his Ford SVO Ford Probe at Phoenix, failing to qualify.

The only other NHRA event that Glidden has missed is the 1995 Chief Auto Parts Winternationals. He was recovering from six-way heart bypass surgery.

Glidden is the winningest driver in NHRA history, with 85 victories.

--The secret formula: With the NHRA schedule growing from 19 to 22 national events in 1997, the race for the Pro Stock title may not go to the swiftest, Warren Johnson said. It will go to the smartest and most consistent.

"I look at really eight cars on any given Sunday that can win races," Johnson said. "But it's how consistently they can perform. We've got three extra races, and that stretches manpower and funding."

--In the show: Former NBA standout Larry Nance qualified for the first time in NHRA Pro Stock competition at the ATSCO Nationals.

Nance, from Akron, Ohio, was No. 11 in the Catch 22 Oldsmobile Cutlass. He lost in the first round to George Marnell.

Nance failed to qualify in the first seven national events of his NHRA career, which started in June 1996. He played power forward for 13 seasons for the Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers.

--He's back: Three-time NHRA Winston champion Darrell Alderman raced in final eliminations at the ATSCO Nationals, the first time he has drove a Pro Stock on a Sunday since May 1995.

Alderman lost in the first round to Kurt Johnson after qualifying No. 9 in the Team Mopar Dodge Avenger. Alderman failed to qualify at the season-opening Chief Auto Parts Winternationals, and he missed the previous 32 national events due to vandalism of the Wayne County Speed Shop team headquarters in May 1995 in which every racing engine was destroyed.

Wayne County disbanded last summer, and noted engine builder Dale Eicke took control of the Team Mopar operation.

Alderman's teammate, Scott Geoffrion, failed to qualify for the second consecutive race this season.

--Load it up: Warren Johnson admits that Gainesville Raceway is one of the few tracks on the NHRA circuit that causes drivers to salivate over potential records.

"Every racetrack has its own characteristics," Johnson said. "You can only run so fast at them. Gainesville and Houston are a little bit more forgiving than most.

"You can load them up almost as much as you can and not go over the edge."

--Performance prediction: One of the last great barriers in Pro Stock racing could be scaled at this event, Warren Johnson said.

"You could see low, low 6.90's and 200 mph," Johnson said.

No NHRA driver has recorded a speed of 200 mph. Johnson has the fastest run, his NHRA national record of 199.15 mph set in March 1995.

The driver that breaks the 200-mph barrier for the first time will earn a $25,000 bonus from the NHRA Speed-Pro 200-mph Pro Stock Club. Johnson must be considered the leading candidate. He recorded an unofficial speed of 200.00 mph in his GM Performance Parts Pontiac Firebird during testing in late January at Gainesville.

--Schedule: Winston pro qualifying starts at 11 a.m. March 7 and continues at 3 p.m. that day. Qualifying ends with sessions at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. March 8. Final eliminations start at 11 a.m. March 9. Federal-Mogul competition starts at 8 a.m. March 6.

--Tickets: Tickets are available for the Mac Tools Gatornationals. Call NHRA Ticket Information at (800) 884-6472 for ticket information.

--On TV: The Nashville Network (TNN) will televise 90 minutes of live, final-round competition from the Mac Tools Gatornationals at 4:30 p.m. (EST) March 9. TNN also will show one hour of live, first-round racing during its "NHRA Today" show at 11 a.m. (EST) March 9.

On the Web: The NHRA home page on the World Wide Web at http://www.goracing.com/nhra/ offers more information about NHRA Winston Drag Racing, including qualifying and eliminations results, news, point standings, statistics and driver biographies. -30

Jack Durbin indy500@freenet.tlh.fl.us Motorsport News International jackd@motorsport.com (Moderators for "rec.autos.sport.info") Homepage http://www.freenet.tlh.fl.us/users/indy500/index.html

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Series NHRA
Drivers Troy Coughlin , Darrell Alderman , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Bob Glidden , Scott Geoffrion , George Marnell