Pomona: Warren Johnson races for record 86th victory

The Professor Can Make History With Pomona Victory Warren Johnson Races for Record 86th Pro Stock Win at Pep Boys NHRA 50th Anniversary Nationals POMONA, Calif. -- While the inaugural Pep Boys NHRA 50th Anniversary Nationals on July 5-7 is a...

The Professor Can Make History With Pomona Victory

Warren Johnson Races for Record 86th Pro Stock Win at Pep Boys NHRA 50th Anniversary Nationals

POMONA, Calif. -- While the inaugural Pep Boys NHRA 50th Anniversary Nationals on July 5-7 is a celebration of NHRA's past, Pro Stock racer Warren Johnson is focused on the future. Johnson can achieve what no Pro Stock driver has yet accomplished -- a record 86 career victories.

Summer in Southern California is hot, but Warren Johnson is hotter. The silver-haired "Professor of Pro Stock" is riding a two-race winning streak coming into the first nighttime race at Pomona Raceway. With those back-to-back victories, Johnson tied Bob Glidden's longstanding record of 85 Pro Stock titles.

Johnson debuted a new GM Goodwrench Service Plus Grand Am with a victory in Columbus, Ohio, on June 17, and returned to the winner's circle the following weekend in Madison, Ill. Warren won eight straight rounds of racing with his new wheels and took a 76-point lead in the Winston championship standings over Jim Yates.

W.J. is now poised to become the sport's most prolific Pro Stock driver. He can wrap up the record and give himself a birthday present when he turns 58 on July 7, the day of final eliminations at the 50th Anniversary Nationals.

Johnson professes to be unconcerned with the prospect of breaking a record that was once thought to be untouchable. "We're fortunate to be in this position, but the record isn't something I think about," Warren reported. "Records are meant to be broken. If I surpass Bob's record, someone else will just come along behind me and break it again."

Although Johnson and Glidden were fierce rivals on the racetrack, both men shared a steely determination to succeed. "Bob and I were cut from the same cloth -- we raced to make a living," W.J. observed. "We didn't give each any other quarter. Both of us were committed to doing the best job we possibly could."

Johnson and Glidden faced each other 72 times in national event competition, with Glidden winning 39 of their contests. Johnson has since eclipsed his rival in every statistical category (final rounds, No. 1 qualifying spots, low elapsed times and top speeds) -- except one. Glidden won ten championships, Johnson has won five.

"Bob's record is a tribute to his work ethic and his tenacity," Johnson noted. "I've managed to stay around a little longer while working just as hard."

Warren's son Kurt, driver of the ACDelco Pro Stock Cavalier, has been instrumental in Johnson's success. Kurt began his racing career as a parts washer, graduated to engine builder and then served as crew chief for his father. Kurt vividly remembers the standard that Glidden set for his rivals.

"When Dad and I started racing, the racer I looked up to was Bob Glidden, the guy we were trying to beat all the time," Kurt recalled. "I hated losing to him, but you had to love the guy. He had an incredible work ethic. Glidden believed that if you're not running fast, then you're not working hard enough.

"That attitude definitely rubbed off on me," K.J. continued. "I learned that the only way to make a race car faster is to work harder. I thought he was crazy, but I learned that he was right. A lot of people probably think Dad and I are crazy, too, but racing is how we make a living. We only know one way to work -- flat out."

Following Glidden's retirement, Warren Johnson assumed the role of senior statesman in Pro Stock. With more than a quarter-century of experience on the tour, Johnson has raced in Pomona for half of the NHRA's 50-year history.

He drove a Pro Stock at Pomona Raceway for the first time 25 years ago at the 1976 Winternationals. Since then he has competed 39 times at the Fairplex, winning eight times in 14 final-round appearances. Johnson has qualified in the top spot 11 times on the most famous quarter-mile in California.

Returning to Pomona stirs memories of races past. "The track really hasn't changed that much over the years," Johnson commented. "The grandstands are much larger to accommodate bigger crowds and the new tower dwarfs the old wooden tower that stood next to the starting line. But the pits, the staging lanes and the return road in front of the stands are virtually the same as they were 25 years ago -- and the track still runs slightly downhill.

"It feels like home when we race in Pomona," Johnson added.

And there's no place like home for setting records when W.J. races for the 40th time at Pomona Raceway as NHRA celebrates its Golden Anniversary. <pre> How They Compare: Johnson vs. Glidden

                   Warren Johnson     Bob Glidden
NHRA Victories         85                 85
Runners-up             48                 37
Final Rounds          133                122
No. 1 Qualifiers      124                102
Low Elapsed Times     124                101
Top Speeds            188                103
First Win         July 1982           Sept. 1973
                Englishtown, N.J.    Indianapolis
Last Win          June 2001            May 1995
                Madison, Ill.       Englishtown, N.J.

Years to Reach 85 Wins 20 23 Most Wins in a Season: 9 (1993, 1998) 9 (1989) Wins by Manufacturer: Oldsmobile 54 Ford 78 Pontiac 31 Plymouth 7

-GM Racing

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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson , Bob Glidden