JOHNSON BRINGS NEW LOOK, NEW IMAGE AND SAME OLD WINNING ATTITUDE TO NHRA WINTERNATIONALS Warren Johnson has a brand-new look for the start of the 2002 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. The most successful Pro Stock driver in NHRA history ...
JOHNSON BRINGS NEW LOOK, NEW IMAGE AND SAME OLD WINNING ATTITUDE TO NHRA WINTERNATIONALS
Warren Johnson has a brand-new look for the start of the 2002 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. The most successful Pro Stock driver in NHRA history hasn't gone in for tattoos and pierced body parts, but he has changed his colors for his 27th season on the circuit. Gone are the subdued tones of previous years; in their place is a screaming yellow, star-spangled paint scheme that celebrates the return to GM Performance Parts as his primary sponsor. Even W.J.'s understated black driver's suit has given way to an eye-popping yellow outfit.
W.J. has an outlook that is as bright as the colors on his Pro Stock Pontiac. Following a successful four-day test in Bradenton, Fla., last week, he is optimistic that the new season will bring a seventh NHRA Pro Stock championship and add to his tally of 87 career victories.
"It was one of the best test sessions we've ever had," said the usually reserved racer. "We tried to do things differently -- and we got positive results.
"I put 24 runs on my new Haas car, and Kurt ran nearly as many with his new Ness and Bickel cars," Johnson reported. "Between us, we had cars from three different chassis builders. We took the results from the first three days of testing, evaluated all of the positives and negatives, and put together the two best combinations. One ran 6.85 and the other ran 6.86. I was extremely pleased because we were testing under typical race conditions, with the thermometer at 88 degrees, high humidity and a low barometer."
Johnson relishes the prospect of racing Bob Glidden, his long-time rival, at the season-opening race. Glidden will return to the circuit behind the wheel of Steve Schmidt's Grand Am.
"It's good for Bob and it's good for the sport to have him back," said Johnson, who surpassed Glidden's 85 career victories last July. "He still has thousands of avid fans."
Glidden is one of only 11 drivers who have a winning record against Johnson. The pair raced 74 times before Glidden's retirement in 1997, with Glidden taking 43 victories to W.J.'s 31. The final-round record favors Glidden over Johnson, 12-6.
"A Glidden vs. Johnson final round would be monumental," Warren declared, "and it's not out of the realm of possibility. It would certainly show that experience and knowledge are more important than a lavish budget."
Johnson has the knowledge and experience to win at Pomona Raceway. He has competed there 41 times in his long-running career, scoring eight victories in 14 final-round appearances. He has won the Winternationals four times, notching his most recent victory in 1995 when he defeated Steve Schmidt in the final round.
"I have a good feeling about the Winternationals and the 2002 season," Warren confided. "I don't know how much progress our rivals have made, but Kurt found some solid gains in the dyno room over the winter. Everything we have done to our existing inventory of engines has been beneficial, so we're going to take a quantum leap and build a whole new series of engines. I am 100 percent certain that these changes will yield more power before the Gatornationals."
Can this be the stern Professor of Pro Stock speaking, the man who has made the pursuit of perfection an art form? Indeed it is.
"We feel pretty good," Johnson reiterated. "All we have left to do is wash the race car, load up the trailer and head west."
The arrival of an upbeat and optimistic Warren Johnson may prove to be depressing news for his competition.
<pre> WARREN JOHNSON'S POMONA RACEWAY RECORD
Four NHRA Finals Victories: 1988 (over Morrison Johnson Jr.) 1992 (over Eckman) 1993 (over Kurt Johnson) 1995 (over Schmidt)
Two NHRA Finals Runners-up: 1989 (to Glidden) 1999 (to Jeg Coughlin Jr.)
Four Winternationals Victories: 1987 (over Leal) 1993 (over Geoffrion) 1994 (over Alderman) 1997 (over Kurt Johnson)
Four Winternationals Runners-up: 1985 (to Glidden) 1986 (to Iaconio) 1991 (to Alderman) 2000 (to Jeg Coughlin Jr.)
11 No. 1 Qualifiers: Winternationals: 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1999 NHRA Finals: 1988, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998