WARREN JOHNSON RACES TO 96TH CAREER VICTORY AT CHECKER SCHUCK'S KRAGEN NHRA NATIONALS Rod Fuller and Tommy Johnson Jr. also claim victories at Firebird International Raceway CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Warren Johnson, the most prolific Pro Stock racer...
WARREN JOHNSON RACES TO 96TH CAREER VICTORY AT CHECKER SCHUCK'S KRAGEN NHRA NATIONALS
Rod Fuller and Tommy Johnson Jr. also claim victories at Firebird International Raceway
CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Warren Johnson, the most prolific Pro Stock racer in NHRA history, pushed his career victory total to 96 Sunday by winning the 22nd annual Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals presented by Castrol at Firebird International Raceway.
The 62-year-old Johnson stopped category dominator Greg Anderson, while Top Fuel sophomore Rod Fuller and Funny Car standout Tommy Johnson Jr. also scored victories at the $1.5 million race, the second of 23 in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
Johnson raced past his former crew chief Anderson with a final round performance of 6.770 seconds at 206.13 mph in his GM Performance Parts Pontiac GTO, while Anderson's Summit Racing GTO lost traction near mid-track.
"I never looked over in the final but when I didn't see him at half track I felt pretty good," Johnson said. "I beat him on the back half (of the track). We make more power at the top end, so if he isn't ahead of me by the eighth mile then he's toast."
The win was satisfying for Johnson, who employed Anderson in the 1990s and the two won multiple championships together. Anderson's series lead was held to 48 points by Johnson's victory.
"It's awful hard to make up rounds so the closer you can stay to the top guy the quicker you can catch him and pass him," said Johnson, who beat V. Gaines, Jason Line and Rickie Smith to advance to the final. "We have the team to hang with them. They all worked for me at one time or another. I know what they can do."
Fuller earned his second career victory by holding off series points leader Troxel in a close race, finishing in 4.563 seconds at 321.42 mph in his Valvoline/David Powers Homes dragster to Troxel's 4.589 at 318.92 mph in her Skull Gear/Torco Race Fuels dragster.
"A few people said maybe we'd run for a top-five spot," said Fuller, who defeated Doug Herbert, Hillary Will and Tony Schumacher to advance to the final. "But mostly we heard we're an unproven team. Well people are starting to see what we're capable of. This team has everything it needs to win. (Crew chief) Lee Beard is the best, (team owner) David Powers gives us everything we need, and Valvoline is behind us."
Troxel, who has been to the last three finals in a row, lost 25 points on the day after two oildown penalties but maintained her spot as the series points leader. She just missed the opportunity to win her second straight race and share the winner's circle with her Funny Car winning husband.
"I'm happy for him and those guys," Troxel said. "Each of us having a win already this season makes home life a lot better. It's pretty cool that his win came one race after mine. There's plenty of season left. We both would like to win the same race. That would be really cool. My team is doing a great job. Despite all the parts we have been going through we have really high morale now and we are excited about the Gatornationals."
Johnson Jr. claimed his seventh career victory and fifth in Funny Car, when he defeated John Force in the final round. Both cars lost traction in the race, but Johnson Jr. was able to navigate the quarter-mile in 5.225 at 249.76 in his Skoal Chevy Monte Carlo, while Force trailed with a 5.705 at 294.69 in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang.
"We'd run 4.80s all day and it felt just like another one was on the way and then, zip, it blew off the tires," Johnson Jr. said about the final. "I pedaled it once, then twice, and I still didn't see him so I just buried the throttle pedal to the floor. Beating Force is awesome. He's the best of all time."
Johnson Jr. also defeated Robert Hight, Tony Pedregon and Phil Burkart in earlier rounds. Like Troxel, he was hoping to make history as the first married couple to win at the same event.
"It would have been great if Melanie had won in Top Fuel," Johnson Jr. said. "I told 'Hot Rod' he ruined my day. But really I'm proud of her for getting to two finals in a row to start the year and her loss didn't take anything away from our win."
Ron Capps moved into the series points lead in Funny Car, 15 ahead Force. Johnson Jr. moved to fifth with his victory.
The NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series continues with the 37th annual ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals, March 16-19 at historic Gainesville (Fla.) Raceway.