Phoenix Pro Stock notebook (PRO STOCK)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761 ATSCO NATIONALS PRO STOCK NOTEBOOK *Time flies: Warren Johnson set an NHRA elapsed-time national record of 6.927 seconds in the GM Performance Parts Pontiac...


Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761


*Time flies: Warren Johnson set an NHRA elapsed-time national record of 6.927 seconds in the GM Performance Parts Pontiac Firebird at the Chief Auto Parts Winternationals earlier this month at Pomona, Calif.

Johnson, from Buford, Ga., broke the record of 6.947 set by Jim Yates at the Pioneer Electronics Keystone Nationals in September 1996 at Reading, Pa. Johnson earned $12,500 from the MBNA World Record Club.

That record won't stand for very long, if Jim Yates' prediction comes true.

"There will be some 6.80's this year and at least two more national records this year," Yates said. "On Sunday at Pomona, we were conservative and ran three 6.96's. That's incredible."

*New ride: Warren Johnson plans to christen his radical Rick Jones chassis in national-event competition at the ATSCO Nationals despite winning the season-opening Chief Auto Parts Winternationals with his Don Ness-built Pontiac.

The car breaks from conventional Pro Stock chassis wisdom by using a double framerail to help control chassis flex on tracks with bumps. Pro Modified chassis have used this construction technique with great success.

"Our Rick car is an evolutionary piece for Pro Stock," Johnson said. "We ran it down in Houston the Sunday and Monday after the Pro Stock Super Bowl (Jan. 25), and it looks like that car is going to be slightly better than this car. It is probably going to be more consistent and is the smoothest car I've ever driven in the middle of the track."

Johnson recorded low 7.0-second elapsed times in testing at Houston with the Jones car.

Defending NHRA Winston Pro Stock champion Jim Yates uses a conventional Pro Stock chassis built by Jerry Bickel, but he said he'll keep a sharp eye on Johnson's progress with the Jones car.

"We can accomplish what he's doing with our car in a day," Yates said of possible chassis modifications.

*Short and sweet: Warren Johnson was asked recently if finishing second to Jim Yates in the NHRA Winston point standings last season made him angry.

"It got my attention," Johnson said.

*What a race: Kurt Johnson beat Jim Yates in the semifinals of the Chief Auto Parts Winternationals in the quickest Pro Stock race in NHRA history at the Chief Auto Parts Winternationals.

Johnson won at 6.987 seconds in the ACDelco Pontiac Firebird; Yates trailed at 6.969 in the McDonald's Pontiac Firebird. Johnson's .457-.478 edge in reaction time was decisive.

"We just got conservative, and Kurt made a really good run," Yates said. "I had become a bit complacent with my practice tree."

Yates said the combination of more work on the practice tree and modifications to the car's clutch should improve his reaction times at the ATSCO Nationals.

*Join the club: Troy Coughlin became the 11th member of the NHRA Holley 6-Second Pro Stock Club at the Chief Auto Parts Winternationals with a pass of 6.972 seconds in the Jeg's Performance Pontiac Firebird. Coughlin, from Columbus, Ohio, earned $1,000 from Holley.

*Deep field: The top five Pro Stock drivers in qualifying at the Chief Auto Parts Winternationals each recorded a six-second pass, a first at an NHRA national event. No more than two drivers ever recorded six-second passes during qualifying before this race.

*Another builder: The increasingly-growing field of Pro Stock engine builders grew by one last month when Pro Stock driver Mike Thomas announced the formation of company that will exclusively build engines for his NHRA team.

Thomas has formed an alliance with Jimmy Oliver and Tom Roberts -- formerly of Larry Morgan's team - and Terry Adams, who has been associated with Thomas as the driver of the team's second Gumout Pontiac Firebird.

The new company, called Finish Line Enterprises, is based in Newark, Ohio. The first Finish Line engine should be finished in March.

"The decision to build our own engines is to control our destiny of horsepower," Thomas said. "If you want to be a contender for the Winston championship you can't do it by buying or leasing engines from someone else. The past champions have had their own engine programs, proving that you need to have full control and do it yourself."

*Schedule: Pro qualifying starts at 2 p.m. Feb. 21 and continues at 6 p.m. that date with the first night qualifying session of the season. Qualifying ends with sessions at noon and 4 p.m. Feb. 22. Final eliminations start at 11 a.m. Feb. 23. Federal-Mogul competition starts at 10 a.m. Feb. 20. *Tickets: Tickets are available for the ATSCO Nationals. Call Firebird International Raceway at (800) DRAG-INFO or (602) 268-0200 for ticket information. Tickets also can be purchased from Dillard's. To order through Dillard's, call (800) 638-4253. *On TV: ESPN2 will televise two hours of same-day, final-round competition from the ATSCO Nationals at 7:30 p.m. (MST) Feb. 23. ESPN2 also will televise Friday-night qualifying for the first time with a two-hour, same-day show starting at 7:30 p.m. (MST) Feb. 21. *On the Web: The NHRA home page on the World Wide Web at offers more information about NHRA Winston Drag Racing, including qualifying and eliminations results, news, point standings, statistics and driver biographies. -30-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Troy Coughlin , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Larry Morgan , Terry Adams