THE WARREN REPORT: NHRA FINALS EDITION Warren Johnson GM Goodwrench Service Plus News & Notes for the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals, November 11-14, Pomona, Calif. THAT'S A WRAP! With his fifth Winston championship in...
THE WARREN REPORT: NHRA FINALS EDITION
Warren Johnson GM Goodwrench Service Plus News & Notes for the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals, November 11-14, Pomona, Calif.
THAT'S A WRAP!
With his fifth Winston championship in hand, a three-year sponsorship contract in his back pocket, and the planet's quickest and fastest Pro Stock in his trailer, Warren Johnson is at the peak of his profession. The season-ending Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals at Pomona Raceway on November 11-14 will crown the finest season in the Professor's 25-year racing career.
W.J. wrapped up the Pro Stock championship in Dallas on October 24th with a dominant performance at the O'Reilly Fall Nationals. W.J. did it all at the Texas Motorplex: He qualified No. 1, set the national elapsed time and top speed records at 6.822 seconds and 202.33 mph respectively, and scored his seventh win of the season with a final-round victory over archrival Jim Yates.
The ink had barely dried on Johnson's speed record when he raised the mark to 202.36 mph one week later at the Matco Tools SuperNationals in Houston. After a grueling week of personal appearances and collecting jackpots in Las Vegas at the annual Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) convention, Warren is focused on finishing his 1999 campaign with a flourish - and a victory.
The odds are in Johnson's favor; he has already won the NHRA Finals six times. He scored back-to-back wins in 1982-83 when the event was held at the late, lamented Orange County International Raceway in Irvine, Calif. After the season finale moved to its permanent home in Pomona, Warren won in 1988, 1992, 1993, and 1995.
Pomona Raceway, which also hosts the season-opening Winternationals, has been very, very good to Warren over the years. Johnson has scored eight of his 79 career victories on the fastest quarter-mile in Southern California - he has four Winternationals titles and a quartet of NHRA Finals trophies. W.J. has made a dozen final-round appearances in Pomona and qualified on the Pro Stock "pole" 11 times.
"Even though the NHRA Finals is late on the calendar this season, I'll be surprised if we set any performance records," Johnson predicted. "I think we'll run high 6.80s if the weather cooperates.
"The deciding factors in a race car's performance are always the track and air conditions," Warren continued. "Because Pomona Raceway isn't used on a regular basis like other tracks on the circuit, traction is usually at a premium, especially on the second half of the course. The last 400 feet can be slippery for a Pro Stock.
"We set the event records at 6.89 and 201 mph two years ago, but that took place under very unusual conditions," Warren recalled. "I don't expect to run significantly faster than that - but I've been surprised before!"
A STUDY IN BLACK AND WHITE
With a pair of record-setting cars in his stable, Johnson must decide whether to race his white 30th Anniversary Trans-Am or his intimidating black 'Bird in the last race of the '90s.
"We were thinking about bringing back the white car, but I believe the black 'Wonder Car' may be better suited to the particular characteristics of the Pomona track," Warren reported. "Both cars will go back to (chassis builder Rick) Jones for substantial renovation after the end of the season.
"I've been looking at the chassis designs used in sprint cars and late-model oval-track cars, and I think that we may be able to adapt some of that thinking to drag racing," Johnson revealed. "When sprint car teams converted from torsion bar suspensions to coil-over springs, they had to make some chassis adjustments that went against conventional wisdom. I think that we might benefit from a similar approach. We won't necessarily make a dramatic breakthrough, but if we can improve our car's consistency, that will certainly be a positive step."
Warren can make drag racing history at the NHRA Finals if he runs the Top Speed in Pro Stock. In the 29-year history of the class, no driver has recorded the top speed at every event in a season. W.J. has turned the fastest speed in all 21 events contested to date in 1999. A top speed at Pomona Raceway would give Warren the first sweep.
Coming into the NHRA Finals, Johnson has run the top speed in 28 consecutive races, a streak that started at the 1998 U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. When you add Kurt Johnson's top speed at the 1998 NorthStar Nationals in Brainerd, Minn., it's been 43 straight races since anyone outside of the Johnson family has posted the fastest speed in Pro Stock. Warren has topped the speed chart 172 times in his career, the most among all NHRA racers.
W.J. has come close to sweeping the top speed marks in each of his five championship seasons. 1999 could finally be the year he monopolizes the speed category.
PRO STOCK TOP SPEEDS Year Races W.J. Top Speeds Everyone Else 1992 18 17 1 1993 18 16 2 1995 19 18 1 1998 22 21 1 1999 22 21 0
LOOKING OUT FOR NUMBER ONE
Warren Johnson qualified No. 1 for the 15th time this season at the O'Reilly Fall Nationals. That set a new personal-best record for the Professor, whose previous best performances were 14 Pro Stock poles in 1993 and 1995.
Johnson's total of 117 career No. 1 qualifiers is the highest among all NHRA racers. Bob Glidden is second on the list with 103. Glidden holds the record for consecutive No. 1 qualifiers with a phenomenal steak of 23 straight in the 1986-88 seasons. Warren's longest string of No. 1 qualifiers was seven in 1994-95.
FOR THE RECORD
Warren's record rampage in Texas marked the 33rd time that the Professor of Pro Stock has set an NHRA national record. He has set the elapsed time mark nine times and the speed standard 24 times since 1976. When his 202.36 mph speed record at Houston Raceway Park was entered in the NHRA history book, W.J. passed Pro Stock legend Bob Glidden in the record-setting department. Glidden set a total of 32 national records (21 e.t. records and 11 speed records) in his career. (With thanks to drag racing history maven Bob Frey for record research.)
STRYKER STRIKES AGAIN
Mike Stryker was named "Craftsman Crew Chief of the Race" at the O'Reilly Fall Nationals for his wrenching skills on W.J.'s GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac. Stryker has won the award eight times in 1999 and 15 times since he joined Johnson's team two years ago.
"The Old Man makes the power," said Stryker. "We just have to figure out how to use it."
THREE MORE YEARS
One of the most enduring partnerships in motorsports will continue into the next century with the announcement that GM Service Parts Operations has extended its sponsorship of Warren Johnson for three years. W.J. will represent the GM Goodwrench Service Plus brand in NHRA drag racing through at least 2002.
"Warren Johnson's knowledge, experience, and technical ability reflect the qualities that have made GM Goodwrench Service Plus the gold standard in automotive service," said Bill Fitzgerald, manager of event marketing for GM Service Parts Operations. "Warren's determination and his commitment to excellence are qualities that we want to associate with GM Goodwrench Service Plus."
Pontiac has also extended its sponsorship agreement with Johnson for an additional three years.
"Warren's championship-winning Firebirds embody the driving excitement that is an integral part of Pontiac's brand character," said Fred Simmonds, Pontiac motorsports marketing manager.
Johnson has driven General Motors products exclusively throughout his Pro Stock career. GM Service Parts Operations became the primary sponsor of Johnson's racing team in 1986. Since then, he has carried the colors of ACDelco, GM Performance Parts, and GM Goodwrench Service Plus to NHRA championships.
"The enduring association between Warren Johnson Enterprises and General Motors exemplifies the teamwork that is essential for success in both motorsports and business," said Fitzgerald.
TEXAS SPEED FEST
Warren topped 200 mph seven times at the Texas Motorplex during the O'Reilly Fall Nationals, including four consecutive 200+ mph runs in eliminations. He eclipsed the 200 mph mark five times at Houston Raceway Park, increasing his career tally of 200 mph runs to 73. Kurt Johnson is second on the list with 22 career 200 mph passes.
Cool weather brought fast times to the two Texas supertracks. Pro Stock drivers logged 25 runs over 200 mph in Dallas, the most in NHRA history. A total of 18 200 mph runs were recorded in Houston, tying the previous record for 200 mph passes set in Richmond, Va., on April 30-May 2, 1999.
WARREN JOHNSON NHRA FINALS RESULTS
Year Qualified Finish 1975 (Ontario) Alt. First Round 1976 (Ontario) 2 First Round 1977 (Ontario) 7 Second Round 1978 (Ontario) 5 Second Round 1982 (Irvine) 1 Winner (over Shepherd) 1983 (Irvine) 3 Winner (over Shepherd) 1984 5 First Round 1985 5 Second Round 1986 2 Second Round 1987 2 Semi-final 1988 1 Winner (over M. Johnson, Jr.) 1989 3 Runner-up (to Glidden) 1990 2 First Round 1991 Did not compete (Japan trip) 1992 3 Winner (over Eckman) 1993 1 Winner (over K. Johnson) 1994 1 Semi-final 1995 1 Winner (over Schmidt) 1996 1 Second Round 1997 7 Semi-final 1998 1 Semi-final
Total 21 Wins 6 Runners-up 1 Semi-Finals 4 Second Round 5 First Round 4 DNQ/Did not race 1 No. 1 Qualifier 7
NEXT RACE: Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals, November 11-14, Pomona, Calif. TV: Nov. 14, ESPN2, 8:30 - 9:30 p.m. Eastern - check local listings.
LAST RACE: Matco Tools SuperNationals, Houston, Texas; October 31, 1999 Qualifying: Warren Johnson qualified No. 3 at 6.886/200.95 Eliminations: First Round: Warren Johnson defeated John Nobile Second Round: Tom Martino defeated Warren Johnson
Final Round: Rickie Smith) defeated Tom Martino Low ET: Jeg Coughlin, Jr., 6.837 seconds (track record) Top Speed: Warren Johnson, 202.36 mph (national record)
POINTS RACE: (After 21 of 22 events) Driver Wins Points 1. Warren Johnson 7 1,706* 2. Kurt Johnson 3 1,401 3. Jeg Coughlin, Jr. 4 1,344 4. Jim Yates 2 1,233 5. Richie Stevens 1 1,068 *Clinched championship