Joliet: Warren Johnson pre-race notes

WJ's Wrap Sheet -- Route 66 Raceway Edition 1. WJ's First NHRA Joliet Race - 1998 Race Car: 1998 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird Performance: WJ Qualified First, 6.978 seconds, 197.80 mph Defeated...

WJ's Wrap Sheet -- Route 66 Raceway Edition

1. WJ's First NHRA Joliet Race - 1998

Race Car: 1998 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird

Performance: WJ Qualified First, 6.978 seconds, 197.80 mph
Defeated John Nobile, Kurt Johnson, Troy Coughlin
Lost to Mike Thomas

In Warren's Words:

"My most prominent memory from that weekend comes from the final. I remember that just before we were scheduled to run, an alcohol funny car oiled the track from one end to the other and then caught fire, which caused a massive and extremely lengthy clean up. By the time they were done mopping it up, the track was so cold that we ended up driving through the clutch, pretty much handing the race to Mike Thomas. Since it was dusk when we finally ran that race, we had been debating whether we had enough clutch in it, so we raised the rpm. We were using a really small clutch at the time, and it just caught it and burned it up. It certainly wasn't the way we expected to end the weekend."

Notes of the time:

* This marked the eighth time in his career that Warren had advanced to the final round in his first race at a particular track. (The others were Gainesville, FL, Fremont and Irvine, CA, Reading, PA, Dallas and Houston, TX, and Madison, IL)

* This was the 107th final round appearance of WJ's career, and fifth of the 1998 season (out of 12 he would score that year.)

* This marked the fourth time in Warren's career that he had qualified No. 1 in his first appearance at a particular racetrack. The only other times prior to this race were in Irvine, CA in 1982, Topeka, KS in 1989 and Richmond, VA in 1995.

* This was the 93rd No. 1 qualifying performance of WJ's career, and fourth of the 1998 season (where he would total 13).

* WJ's 6.978-second, 197.80 mph pass in qualifying also set low elapsed time and top speed of the event in the Pro Stock category.

* Current IHRA runner John Nobile was on the bump at 7.038 seconds.

* 37 Pro Stock cars attempted to make the inaugural NHRA Route 66 Nationals, with veterans Mike Edwards, Jim Yates, Larry Morgan and Allen Johnson among those missing the field.

* The field consisted of Oldsmobile Cutlasses, Pontiac Firebirds, Chevy Camaros, and Dodge Avengers.

* This was the first NHRA Pro Stock win for Mike Thomas.

* Winners in other categories that day included Kenny Bernstein in Top Fuel, who defeated Gary Scelzi in the final and Whit Bazemore over Del Worsham in Funny Car.

2. WJ's First NHRA Joliet Win -- 1999

Race Car: 1999 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird

Performance: WJ Qualified Second, 6.964 seconds, 198.70 mph
Defeated Richie Stevens, Jeg Coughlin, Jim Yates and Troy Coughlin

In Warren's Words:

"Ironically, even though we won, I don't really recall too much about the weekend. However, after the frustration in the final from the year before, I do remember we came back to Chicago determined to get the job done. Obviously, we learned from our mistakes and this time, we left with a much more satisfactory result."

Notes of the time:

* This was the 76th win of WJ's career.

* This was WJ's fourth win of the 1999 season, where he would total seven victories en route to his fifth NHRA Pro Stock championship.

* With his win at Route 66 Raceway, WJ had now scored at least one national event win at every track on the NHRA circuit at that time.

* WJ's son Kurt was the No. 1 qualifier with an elapsed time of 6.955 seconds, but was upset in the opening round.

* WJ set the top speed of the event at 198.70 mph, which he accomplished in qualifying.

* John Nobile anchored the field in the 16th position with a 7.032-second e.t.

* 33 cars attempted to make the Pro Stock Field.

* The field consisted of Pontiac Firebirds, Chevrolet Camaros, Oldsmobile Cutlasses, Dodge Avengers and a Ford Probe driven by veteran Hurley Blakeney.

* Other winners included Tim Wilkerson, who scored his first NHRA national event win by defeating John Force in the Funny Car final and current ESPN TV analyst Mike Dunn, who defeated Kenny Bernstein in the Top Fuel final.

3. WJ's Most Recent Joliet Win -- 2001

Race Car: 2001 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Grand Am

Performance: WJ Qualified Fourth, 6.808 seconds, 201.82 mph
Defeated V. Gaines, Brad Jeter, Mike Edwards and Darrell Alderman

In Warren's Words:

"I remember that we had trouble qualifying at that particular race. In fact, we weren't even in until the last session. For some reason, we had been fighting the car all weekend, so we took the set-up right out of Kurt's car, plugged it in ours, and immediately picked up four hundredths of a second. After that, we went on to win the race. Obviously, that is one of the advantages of having a two-car team."

Notes of the time:

* This was the 87th win of WJ's career, and sixth of the 2001 season en route to his sixth NHRA Pro Stock championship.

* This win came in the inaugural fall race at Route 66 Raceway, marking the first year the Joliet quarter-mile had hosted two national events.

* Warren's son Kurt was the No. 1 qualifier, having set new national records in elapsed time and top speed with his 6.801-second, 202.70 mph run.

* WJ's 6.808-second time did mark a new career best for "The Professor".

* 34 cars attempted to make the 16-car Pro Stock field, with former NBA power forward Tom Hammonds capturing the final qualifying position with a 6.844-second elapsed time, making it the quickest Pro Stock field in NHRA history.

* The Pro Stock field was now comprised of Pontiac Grand Ams & Firebirds, Chevy Cavaliers and a Camaro, Olds Cutlasses, Dodge Neons and Avengers, and Ford Mustangs.

* Winners in the other professional categories included Kenny Bernstein, who edged Darrell Russell in the Top Fuel final, Whit Bazemore over John Force in Funny Car, and Taylor Lastor over current Pro Stock racer Greg Stanfield in Pro Stock Truck.

4. WJ's Route 66 Raceway in a Nutshell --

"The facility itself is really one of the nicest we have on the NHRA circuit. The pits are paved so everyone is parked on asphalt, the amenities are there for the fans, and the layout makes it pretty convenient to get around.

"The racing surface, however, has always been a little suspect. However, to the management's credit, they have been attending to it over the last few years, grinding out the bumps and such. They were supposed to resurface it after our race last year, so we're not sure what to expect this year, but I would trust that it will be an improvement."

-j2r-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas , John Nobile , Jeg Coughlin , Troy Coughlin , Mike Dunn , Darrell Alderman , Kenny Bernstein , Brad Jeter , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Larry Morgan , Hurley Blakeney , Greg Stanfield , Tom Hammonds , Tim Wilkerson , Mike Edwards