JOHNSON GOING FOR FOURTH STRAIGHT WIN AT PENNZOIL NATIONALS DINWIDDIE, Va. -- Warren Johnson should feel pretty comfortable about returning to Virginia Motorsports Park for the fourth annual Pennzoil Nationals presented by Trak Auto, April...
JOHNSON GOING FOR FOURTH STRAIGHT WIN AT PENNZOIL NATIONALS
DINWIDDIE, Va. -- Warren Johnson should feel pretty comfortable about returning to Virginia Motorsports Park for the fourth annual Pennzoil Nationals presented by Trak Auto, April 23-26. Johnson, who has ruled NHRA Pro Stock competition this season, is riding a wave of three victories. His GM Goodwrench Pontiac Firebird is running better than ever. At VMP, Johnson has dominated the competition since the track was opened in 1995, winning every Pro Stock national event title there. And who can forget his incredible performance from a year ago, where the Duluth, Ga. racer broke the last great barrier in drag racing, covering VMP's quarter-mile with a speed over 200 mph. He owns both Pro Stock track records there, at 6.883 seconds, 200.53 mph. The combination of his past success at VMP and his current hot streak could mean big trouble for his fellow Pro Stock competitors. The $1.6-million race, the sixth of 22 events in the $30-million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series just may turn out to be another lesson in a new series conducted by Pro Stock's top professor. The class title will continue to be 'Research and Development 101: the cost of gaining a competitive advantage.' "We sacrificed last season to experiment with the chassis, engines and drivetrains," said Johnson, a winner of 66 NHRA national events and three Winston championships. "This season we are receiving the fruits of our labor. Everybody on the team is focused on the same thing -- winning rounds, winning races and hopefully winning the championship." Johnson has since lowered the elapsed time mark he set at VMP to 6.873 seconds, and also increased the speed record to 201.20 mph. In fact, Johnson has put together many 200 mph runs early this season. He feels like with the right weather conditions at VMP this time around, speeds over 200 mph will be achieved once again. But none will be as special as his first. He'll always remember that moment. "We knew we had the horsepower to run 200 mph," Johnson reflected. "We made the right call on the clutch and chassis combination and it worked. In the last half of the run, the car bounced a few times going over the bumps. For a nanosecond I thought that 200 mph was out of reach. When I crossed the finish line the engine was screaming the tires were spinning. I had a feeling of relief after finally breaking the last barrier. It happened just the way I envisioned it. Reaching that milestone was a great accomplishment for the team." * Performance limit: Warren Johnson says this is an exciting time to be an NHRA Pro Stock racer. With the involvement of the automotive manufacturers and the new technology that is discovered every day, he only sees more gains in elapsed time and speed for Pro Stock machines in the future. "The only limit there really is, is your mind," Johnson says. "The thing that makes the biggest difference is how hard you work and your level of dedication. The power level is always going up, with the new materials that surface that we can use in our valve springs, valve train area or pistons. We've started looking at the efficiencies of everything in the car -- transmissions, gear ratios, rear ends, all that stuff. There is no real absolute limit. Incremental gains are getting smaller, but there's always going to be gains. There is no real absolute limit."
GENERAL INFORMATION * Schedule: Pro qualifying is at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. April 24. Qualifying continues at noon and 4 p.m. April 25. Final professional eliminations start at 11 a.m. April 26. Federal-Mogul competition starts at 10 a.m. April 23. * Tickets: Tickets are available for the Pennzoil Nationals presented by Trak Auto. Call Virginia Motorsports Park, (804) 862-3174, or Ticketmaster, (804) 262-8100, for ticket information. * On TV: ESPN2 will televise two hours of highlights and live final round coverage from the Pennzoil Nationals presented by Trak Auto on April 26 at 4 p.m. (EDT). ESPN2 will show two hours of same-day qualifying highlights on April 25 at 7 p.m. (EDT).