THE WARREN REPORT: TOPEKA EDITION Warren Johnson GM Goodwrench Service Plus News & Notes for the Advance Auto Parts Nationals, Topeka, Kan., October 1-3, 1999 TOPEKA TOPICS If drag racing kept box scores like baseball, Warren Johnson would...
THE WARREN REPORT: TOPEKA EDITION
Warren Johnson GM Goodwrench Service Plus News & Notes for the Advance Auto Parts Nationals, Topeka, Kan., October 1-3, 1999
If drag racing kept box scores like baseball, Warren Johnson would be the undisputed home run king of Pro Stock at Heartland Park Topeka. Warren has scored five victories in 15 NHRA national events on the fastest quarter-mile in Kansas - a .333 average that would be the envy of any major league ballplayer. Warren will try to improve his impressive record at the upcoming Advance Auto Parts Nationals in Topeka, Kan., on October 1-3.
Although Warren has won 78 times in his career, his victory last year at Heartland Park stands out as one of his most memorable triumphs. Following a two-week postponement, the race ended in the wee hours of the morning after rain again delayed the start of final eliminations. The wait was worth it, however, when Warren clinched his fourth Pro Stock championship with a final-round victory over Jeg Coughlin, Jr.
With a cold wind blowing off the Kansas plains, it was not a night for a champagne celebration - W.J. and his GM Goodwrench Service Plus team toasted the championship with cups of hot coffee. As Johnson and his crew loaded the trailer at 3:00 o'clock in the morning, their top priority was a few hours of sleep.
One year later, Warren still vividly remembers that icy night in Topeka. "We were very, very fortunate to win that race," he recalls. "We struggled terribly in the first weekend of qualifying. We were developing a new transmission, and didn't have the gear ratios we needed to cope with the traction at Heartland Park.
"The rain was our salvation," Warren admits. "When we came back two weeks later, we had the gear ratios we needed. The postponement gave us time to regroup and get the parts we needed to be competitive.
"I'm still amazed at how many people stayed in the grandstands until the end of the race," W.J. remarks.
THE TOPEKA PARADOX
Warren will be well prepared for his return toTopeka, but he is wary of the track's unusual demands. "Historically the traction overshadows our ability to make horsepower at Heartland Park Topeka," Warren reveals. "Usually we can't even spin the tires on the starting line - it's similar to racing in Denver but without the extreme elevation. We just don't have enough engine to take full advantage of the starting line. The solution to the 'Topeka Paradox' is to develop a combination that fits the track's characteristics.
"The wind is also a factor," Warren reports. "It never stops blowing, but it can change direction 180 degrees between runs. When it shifts from a headwind to a tailwind, you have to make the right aero adjustments."
THE PROFESSOR'S NEW MATH
Warren Johnson has virtually, albeit not mathematically, locked up the 1999 Winston championship. He enjoys a commanding 17-round lead over third-ranked Jeg Coughlin Jr. with 20 rounds of racing to go at the final five national events on the NHRA calendar. A victory in Topeka would effectively put the title out of Coughlin's reach - assuming that Warren makes at least a qualifying attempt at the remaining races.
"I think you can count on us showing up at the rest of the races," Warren said with a wink. "It's highly unlikely that I'll decide to go to the Bahamas unless I'm kidnapped."
THE READING REPORT
Warren qualified No. 1 for the 13th time this season at the True Value NHRA Keystone Nationals on September 19. After advancing to the semi-final round for the 11th race in 1999, W.J. was upset on a holeshot by Mark Pawuk. Pawuk's .04-second advantage on the starting line was too great for Johnson's .033-second quicker elapsed time.
"If I had been on time, I would have won," Warren conceded. "He had his best reaction time of the weekend and I had my worst. Then going over the bumps, my transmission came out of fourth gear twice. Unfortunately, a clutchless transmission has a tendency to jump out of gear on a rough racetrack. That's something we'll work on over the winter."
Things didn't improve when Warren tested the following day at Maple Grove. "We broke a piston in our second-best motor for no apparent reason," he reported. "The carnage also damaged the block and head.
"If there's a bright side, I suppose it's better to break an engine on Monday than on Sunday," the Professor added philosophically.
Warren Johnson logged his 58th, 59th, and 60th runs at over 200 mph during the True Value NHRA Keystone Nationals. W.J. set the Maple Grove Raceway track speed record at 201.43 mph - a whopping 3 mph increase over the mark he set one year ago at 198.36 mph. Warren also hammered the track elapsed time record almost a tenth of a second, dropping the standard from 6.940 seconds to 6.853 seconds.
W.J. is responsible for 65 percent of the 93 Pro Stock runs at over 200 mph recorded to date. Kurt Johnson is second on the list with 17 passes over the double-century mark.
Warren has a perfect record of 16 Top Speeds in 16 races this season, and has run the Top Speed in 38 of the last 39 events. Kurt Johnson spoiled his father's speed streak by recording the fastest mph at the 1998 Northstar Nationals. The last time a Pro Stock driver other than Warren or Kurt Johnson ran the top speed was nearly two years ago at the season-ending 1997 Winston Finals when Steve Schmidt did the deed.
Warren swept all three performance marks at Maple Grove Raceway by qualifying No. 1, running the Low E.T., and turning the Top Speed. It was the 83rd time in his career that Johnson has "tripled" in NHRA national event competition.
CREW CHIEF SCHOOL
It's easy to spot the crew chief on a Pro Stock team: He is the one covered with a patina of black clutch dust. While these unsung heroes are often overlooked by casual fans, their accomplishments are recognized among the cognoscenti by the Craftsman Crew Chief of the Race award at every NHRA national event.
It's not surprising that many of the best crew chiefs in the business have studied at "Professor Johnson's Pro Stock School." Past or present employees of W.J. Enterprises have won 11 of 16 Craftsman crew chief awards this season:
Mike Stryker, GM Goodwrench Service Plus Firebird crew chief CSK Nationals Mac Tools Gatornationals, O'Reilly Nationals Advance Auto Parts Southern Nationals Fram Route 66 Nationals Pontiac Excitement Nationals Colonel's Nationals Jeff Perley, ACDelco Camaro crew chief Prolong Northwest Nationals Autolite Nationals Greg Anderson, former GM Goodwrench crew chief Sears Craftsman Nationals Kevin Horst, former ACDelco crew chief U.S. Nationals
WARREN JOHNSON HEARTLAND PARK TOPEKA RESULTS
Year Qualified Result 1989 1 Second Round 1990 1 Second Round 1991 2 Runner-up (to Alderman) 1992 2 Winner (over Geoffrion) 1993 Spring 1 Winner (over Morgan) 1993 Fall 1 Second Round 1994 Spring 3 First Round 1994 Fall 2 Semi-final 1995 Spring 1 Winner (over Yates) 1995 Fall 3 Semi-final 1996 Spring 2 Winner (over Yates) 1996 Fall 1 Second Round 1997 Spring 10 First Round 1997 Fall 5 First Round 1998 8 Winner (over J. Coughlin)
Total 15 Wins 5 Runners-up 1 Semi-Finals 2 Second Round 4 First Round 3 No. 1 Qual. 6
NEXT RACE: Advance Auto Parts Nationals, October 1-3, Topeka, Kan. TV: FOX, Oct. 3, 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. local time - check local listings
LAST RACE: True Value NHRA Keystone Nationals, Reading, Penn., Sept. 19, 1999 Qualifying: Warren Johnson qualified No. 1 at 6.853/201.43
Eliminations: Round 1: Warren Johnson defeated Greg Anderson Round 2: Warren Johnson defeated John Nobile Semi-Final: Mark Pawuk defeated Warren Johnson
Final Round: Jeg Coughlin, Jr. defeated Mark Pawuk Low ET: Warren Johnson, 6.853 seconds (track record) Top Speed: Warren Johnson, 201.43 mph (track record)
(After 17 of 22 events) Driver Wins Points 1. Warren Johnson 6 1,417 2. Kurt Johnson 3 1,187 3. Jeg Coughlin, Jr. 4 1,091 4. Jim Yates 2 1,023 5. Richie Stevens 1 872