The upcoming True Value NHRA Keystone Nationals in Reading, Penn., on September 17-19 traditionally marks the return of cool weather and fast times on the NHRA tour. The oxygen-rich air around wooded Maple Grove Raceway is just what the Professor...
The upcoming True Value NHRA Keystone Nationals in Reading, Penn., on September 17-19 traditionally marks the return of cool weather and fast times on the NHRA tour. The oxygen-rich air around wooded Maple Grove Raceway is just what the Professor ordered for record-setting performances. Warren has enjoyed worldly success in the Amish countryside of eastern Pennsylvania. He has advanced to the final round seven times in his 14 appearances at the Keystone Nationals, scoring three wins and four runner-up finishes. He made six straight final rounds in 1991-96. "The track and atmospheric conditions at the Keystone Nationals are very reminiscent of the Gatornationals, where we've also been fortunate to win consistently over the years," Warren noted. "Our particular combination seems to thrive on cooler conditions. The Maple Grove track was resurfaced two years ago, but there are still a few bumps that we will have to contend with. "We intend to use the same chassis that won Indy. I'm also working on a new cylinder head and block combination. If it shows promise, we might work it into our engine rotation. If not, we'll use the engine we ran at Indy. "We have three primary race motors that will run within a hundredth of each other," Warren revealed. "It's reassuring to have a supply of spares as long as they are all competitive. After all, you wouldn't take a mule to the Kentucky Derby."
Warren notched his 78th career national event victory at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis on September 6, tying him with John Force for second place on the all-time NHRA winners list behind Bob Glidden's record 85 career wins. With only six races remaining on the NHRA schedule, neither man can match Glidden's mark this season - but the record will certainly be in jeopardy in 2000.
"Bob was absolutely phenomenal in his day," Warren said. "If I'm ever fortunate enough to match his record, so be it. But breaking records is not our intention in racing. To be successful as a business, we have to win rounds and races because that's where we derive our financial reward."
Johnson continued his assault on Glidden's place in the NHRA record book with his 121st career final-round appearance. Here is where the "Big Three" - Glidden, Force, and Johnson - stand in career stats:
Career Victories: 1. Bob Glidden 85 2. (tie) Warren Johnson 78 John Force 78
Career Final Rounds: 1. John Force 123 2. Bob Glidden 122 3. Warren Johnson 121
Career Runners-Up 1. John Force 45 2. Warren Johnson 43 3. Bob Glidden 37
Warren left the U.S. Nationals with a 209-point lead over Kurt and a comfortable 364-point margin over third-ranked Jeg Coughlin, Jr. However, with a maximum of 138 points available at each of the remaining six races on the calendar, W.J. isn't counting his chickens or his championships just yet.
"We'll be in good shape if we win the next six races," Warren deadpanned. "Winning Indy certainly helped our prospects for the rest of the season. I have an 18-round lead over Jeg with 24 rounds of racing left. The math is on our side unless we shoot ourselves repeatedly in the foot. Kurt and Jeg are going to have a real dogfight for second place, though."
TOP SPEED STREAK
W.J. has now run the fastest speed in Pro Stock at 23 consecutive national events - a streak that began one year ago at the 1998 U.S. Nationals.
Warren hit his 37th career "grand slam" at Indy - he qualified No. 1, ran the Low E.T., set the Top Speed, and won the race.
The last round of the U.S. Nationals resembled a Warren Johnson Enterprises reunion. W.J.'s opponent, Greg Anderson, worked for Warren for ten years before starting his own driving career in 1998. Kevin Horst, crew chief for Anderson's Oldsmobile, served in the same capacity for Kurt Johnson's Indy-winning ACDelco team in 1996 and 1997.
During his tenure at W.J. Enterprises, Anderson graduated from mechanic to crew chief and played a pivotal role in Johnson's championship seasons in 1992, 1993, and 1995. Anderson was twice honored as the Pro Stock Crew Chief of the Year on the Car Craft All-Star Drag Racing Team.
"It was special to race Greg in the final, and I'm really proud of how well he has done," Warren noted. "That's a good team over there and it's going to be formidable. Greg had a little racing luck today and got to the final in the biggest race of the year."
W.J.'s WILD RIDE
Warren raced a total of one mile at Indianapolis Raceway Park, but the road to the Indy winner's circle included a 1060-mile side trip to Atlanta. Johnson returned to his shop in Georgia on Saturday afternoon to repair the engine that had won the U.S. Nationals Pro Stock "pole" the previous evening.
Johnson set the IRP track record at 6.920 seconds in spite of breaking a valve before his car crossed the finish line. Crewman Ray Prince then set an unofficial record ferrying Warren from the race track to Indianapolis Airport in time to catch an outbound flight to Atlanta.
Carrying a 50-pound cylinder head under his arm, W.J. made the necessary repairs and returned to Indy that evening.
"This is the U.S. Nationals, and you don't leave any stone unturned," Warren reported. "We thought that if we needed that engine's particular characteristics, we'd better have it in our arsenal.
"I made it from the shop to the Atlanta airport with 15 minutes to spare," he added. "I even got a deal on the plane ticket - $108 round trip on a holiday weekend!"
Warren Johnson Enterprises swept the Pro Stock honors on the 32nd annual Car Craft All-Star Drag Racing Team. The All-Star Team was announced at an award banquet held at the Westin Hotel in Indianapolis on Saturday evening, September 4, in conjunction with the U.S. Nationals.
Warren was named the Pro Stock Driver for the sixth time, Warren Johnson Enterprises garnered the Pro Engine Builder award, and Mike Stryker was honored as the Pro Crew Chief.
W.J. received his awards in absentia. Kurt Johnson accepted two gold Christmas Trees on Warren's behalf while he was en route from Atlanta to Indianapolis.
"I hated to miss the Car Craft banquet," said the elder Johnson. "But racing is how I make my living, so I had to have all my bullets ready."
Mike Stryker completed the sweep for the GM Goodwrench Service Plus team by winning the Pro Crew Chief honors. "I've got to thank Warren and Kurt for building a strong team over the years," said Stryker, winner of last season's NHRA "Mechanic of the Year" award. "When Warren called me last year to come back to work for him, I was grateful for the opportunity."
WARREN JOHNSON KEYSTONE NATIONALS RESULTS
Year Qualified Result 1985 2 Runner-up (to Allen) 1986 2 First Round 1987 4 First Round 1988 3 Semi-final 1989 1 First Round 1990 2 Semi-final 1991 1 Winner (over Pawuk) 1992 2 Winner (over Eckman) 1993 1 Runner-up (to K. Johnson) 1994 2 Runner-up (to Alderman) 1995 1 Winner (over Pawuk) 1996 1 Runner-up (to Yates) 1997 2 Semi-final 1998 1 Semi-final
Total 14 Wins 3 Runners-up 4 Semi-Finals 4 Second Round 0 First Round 3 No. 1 Qualifier 6
NEXT RACE: True Value NHRA Keystone Nationals, September 17-19, Reading, Penn. TV: FOX, Sept. 19, 5:00-7:00 p.m. local time - check local listings.
LAST RACE: U.S. Nationals, Indianapolis, Sept. 6, 1999 Qualifying: Warren Johnson qualified No. 1 at 6.920/196.67 Eliminations: Round 1: Warren Johnson defeated Kurt Johnson Round 2: Warren Johnson defeated Jim Yates Semi-Final: Warren Johnson defeated Jeg Coughlin, Jr. Final Round: Warren Johnson defeated Greg Anderson Low ET: Warren Johnson, 6.920 seconds (track record) Top Speed: Warren Johnson, 199.82 mph (track record)
POINTS RACE: (After 16 of 22 events) Driver Wins Points 1. Warren Johnson 6 1,339 2. Kurt Johnson 3 1,130 3. Jeg Coughlin, Jr. 3 975 4. Jim Yates 2 971 5. Richie Stevens 1 821