Richmond Johnson Looking to Keep Streak Alive

JOHNSON LOOKING TO KEEP PENNZOIL NATIONALS WIN STREAK ALIVE DINWIDDIE, Va. -- If Warren Johnson continues to dominate at Virginia Motorsports Park, track management might want to consider establishing a prominent track landmark in his name....

JOHNSON LOOKING TO KEEP PENNZOIL NATIONALS WIN STREAK ALIVE

DINWIDDIE, Va. -- If Warren Johnson continues to dominate at Virginia Motorsports Park, track management might want to consider establishing a prominent track landmark in his name. Like say, Winner's Circle, for instance.

Top suggestions include 'Warren Johnson's Victory Village', or simply 'W.J.'s Post Race Party Palace.' The opportunities are endless.

For Pro Stock competitors, Johnson's hold on the winner's trophy at the Virginia quartermile seems endless. The Buford, Ga. driver has been the Pro Stock winner there every season since the track made its much-anticipated debut in 1995.

Johnson's victorious battles there are as famous as some of the Civil War skirmishes fought around the Central Virginia region. The casualties include some of Pro Stock's most talented drivers: Jim Yates (1995); Mike Edwards (1996); Kurt Johnson (1997) and Tom Martino (1998).

Johnson will try to keep his legacy alive with a fifth straight win at the fifth annual Pennzoil Nationals presented by Trak Auto, April 29-May 2 at Virginia Motorsports Park. The $1.6 million race is the seventh of 22 events in the $40 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

"I don't know what it is about Virginia, but it has been a good track for us," said Johnson. "We were the first (Pro Stock team) to run 200 mph at that track and we've had some very significant wins there over the years. I just hope we can keep it going. We need a victory there this season."

Johnson's season has been average compared to his dominating 1998. With only one victory in four events, Johnson trails son Kurt in the Winston Pro Stock point standings by 75 points. However, he still leads in nearly every statistical category, including No. 1 qualifying efforts, top speeds and low elapsed times. Johnson has run the table in performance, including setting both ends of the national record (6.866 seconds, 201.37 mph).

He feels certain that his GM Goodwrench Pontiac Firebird will have an opportunity to set the national record at the Pennzoil Nationals.

"This car should be able to run 6.70s if we have good track conditions at Richmond," Johnson said. "After Richmond, we get to the hot part of the season and the chance for setting records is pretty much slim and none. During the summer we battle the elements, and Mother Nature dictates how much power we can make. It should still be early enough in the season to have a record performance at Richmond -- especially during the second qualifying session on Friday."

Johnson, who started the season by having to make radical body contour changes to his Firebird in order for it to meet NHRA competition regulations, says the car is gradually coming up to speed.

"Overall we're real happy with the car," said Johnson, who has 73 career victories in NHRA competition. "We're running this Firebird differently than we've ever run a car before. So we have to get more confidence in running a car that particular way. You always back up to where you had success in the past. Unfortunately that success wasn't derived with the same type of chassis setup that we have right now, so we just have to trust what we have and go with it. The setup we used at Houston was only five days old. Once we get some more runs on it we'll be fine."

Even though Johnson isn't leading the championship chase at this point, he's not too concerned. He realizes it's a long season. Besides, he's enjoying watching Kurt lead the parade.

"Our goal as a team is to win the championship," Johnson said. "It's just as satisfying whether Kurt wins or I win. We work side-by-side in the shop, and we work on each other's cars. That's really the goal of a two-car team -- to use your brainpower and manpower with maximum effectiveness."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Tom Martino