Warren Johnson Scores Fourth 2003 Win in Reading Warren Johnson and the GM Performance Parts Racing team scored a dramatic win during Sunday's final eliminations of the Lucas Oil Nationals in Reading, PA. After placing 14th during the ...
Warren Johnson Scores Fourth 2003 Win in Reading
Warren Johnson and the GM Performance Parts Racing team scored a dramatic win during Sunday's final eliminations of the Lucas Oil Nationals in Reading, PA. After placing 14th during the rain-abbreviated qualifying at Maple Grove Raceway, Johnson bucked the odds by fighting through a stellar Pro Stock line-up and reaching the championship round, where he would face Troy Coughlin.
Although the two had run within four thousandths of a second of each other in the semi-finals, this race was over almost immediately, as Coughlin would leave the starting line six hundredths of a second too early. Although Johnson also broke the beams four thousandths of a second too soon, as Coughlin's infraction was committed first, he received the disqualification, with the automatic win going to Johnson, who went on to record a 6.755-second elapsed time with a top speed of 204.76 mph.
Today's success marked Johnson's fourth win on the Keystone quarter-mile, fourth of the 2003 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing season, and 92nd of "The Professor's" illustrious career.
"Both of the Coughlin kids are awfully good on the starting line, so whenever you race them, you have to take your best shot and hope it comes out right," said Johnson. "We were both going for it in the final, and it was close, but Troy simply did a better job of red-lighting than I did.
"Our GM Performance Parts Grand Am has been coming around a little more slowly than we anticipated. This particular car is radically different than any other car out there, so we can't use conventional set-ups. Given that, it's starting to shape up nicely. We found some things testing in Atlanta last week, and the results showed themselves today."
Starting 14th, Johnson faced a stiff challenge in the first round, as his pursuit of victory would open against defending event winner and 2002 Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin. As expected, Johnson responded, using a lightning-quick .003 reaction time to leave the line ahead of his opponent, and then matched his career best elapsed time of 6.715 seconds with a top speed of 204.60 mph to dispatch his rival with relative ease.
"I looked at our data after our qualifying pass on Saturday, and made some wholesale changes to both the car and motor that it obvious responded to," detailed Johnson. "The fact that it was the second quickest pass of the round and came in the less-preferred lane gave the whole team confidence for the rest of the day. We felt that if we kept our heads together and kept our nose to the grindstone, that we would be in good shape. After that, it was a matter of making incremental changes to keep it consistent."
Johnson's assignment would not get any easier over the next two rounds, as he would face long-time rivals Jim Yates and Larry Morgan. After using another strong 6.724-second pass to defeat Yates, Johnson would reach a personal milestone, as well as being the recipient of some good luck in the semifinals. This would be Johnson's 1100th career elimination round, and Morgan made sure it would be a pleasant memory, as his red-light placed Johnson in his fourth final round of the season, ninth at Maple Grove Raceway and 142nd of his career, and set the stage for his encounter with the oldest of the Coughlin brothers.
Johnson's winning performance on Sunday also proved beneficial to his son Kurt, who had narrowly missed qualifying for final eliminations. In recent weeks, third place runner Jeg Coughlin had narrowed the gap between himself and second-place KJ, and threatened to close the distance even further in Reading. However, WJ's stirring first-round performance ensured than any points loss would be kept to a minimum, a fact not lost on the six-time Pro Stock champion.
"Today's win was important on several fronts," stated Johnson. "As far as the POWERade championship is concerned, I obviously can't finish first or second, but if I am able to help keep Kurt in second, it certainly bodes well for our entire organization.
"In addition, winning from the fourteenth position against another very tough Pro Stock field says a lot about this GM Performance Parts team. We feel very good about our chances, not only in the three remaining races, but in the long term as well. We're certainly looking forward to maintaining this momentum next week in Dallas."