Topeka: Warren Johnson pre-race notes

WJ's Wrap Sheet -- Heartland Park Topeka Edition 1. WJ's First Topeka Race - 1989 Race Car: 1989 ACDelco Oldsmobile Cutlass Performance: WJ Qualified No. 1, 7.331 seconds, 188.16 mph Defeated Bob Glidden ...

WJ's Wrap Sheet -- Heartland Park Topeka Edition

1. WJ's First Topeka Race - 1989

Race Car: 1989 ACDelco Oldsmobile Cutlass

Performance:  WJ Qualified No. 1, 7.331 seconds, 188.16 mph

Defeated Bob Glidden
Lost to Darrell Alderman

In Warren's Words:

"This race was memorable because of two strange things that happened to me during the weekend. First, while changing engines on Saturday night, I slipped and a head gasket bit me. That required a trip to the hospital for five stitches on my left thumb that I had to race with on Sunday.

"To top that, I lost a race due to a piece of straw. When the NHRA first went there in 1989, the facility was still under construction, and they covered the raw dirt with straw to hold the dust down. As a result, with the incessant wind we have there, there were tiny pieces of straw flying everywhere.

"I was racing Alderman in the second round and seemed to have him covered when the car suddenly and inexplicably nosed over in third gear. When I pulled the hood scoop off afterward, there was straw stuck in the air bleeds. It was undoubtedly one of the most unusual ways to lose a race that I have ever experienced."

Notes of the time:

* This was the 21st No. 1 qualifying performance of WJ's career, and second in 1989.

* This marked the second time in Warren's career that he had qualified No. 1 in his first appearance at a particular racetrack. The only other time prior to this race was at the 1982 Finals in Irvine, CA.

* This inaugural visit by the NHRA to HPT was known as the ACDelco Nationals.

* WJ's 7.331-second, 188.16 mph pass in qualifying also set low elapsed time and top speed of the event in the Pro Stock category.

* Mark Pawuk was the No. 16th qualifier with a 7.447-second time.

* Other current Pro Stock competitors in the field that weekend included Larry Morgan, Kenny Koretsky and Jerry Haas.

* WJ raced in Sunday's eliminations with five stitches in his left thumb, the result of a mishap on Saturday night when the crew was swapping engines.

* Warren also seemed ready to eliminate Alderman in the second round, pulling away from Alderman when his car suddenly slowed and allowed his opponent to edge him at the stripe. The unlikely cause for this rare malfunction was a piece of hay getting stuck in the carburetors' high speed air bleed.

* Alderman went on to defeat Joe Lepone in the final.

* The Pro Stock field consisted of Oldsmobile Cutlasses, a Chevy Beretta, Dodge Daytonas, Pontiac Firebirds, Trans Ams and Grand Prix, and Bob Glidden's Ford Probe.

* Other winners that weekend included current Larry Dixon crew chief Dick LaHaie in Top Fuel, in a dragster tuned by his daughter Kim (now Kim Richards, a key member of Brandon Bernstein's team) and Mark Oswald in Funny Car.

2. WJ's First Topeka Final - 1991

Race Car: 1991 ACDelco Olds Cutlass

Performance: WJ Qualified Second, 7.213 seconds, 192.71 mph
Defeated Joe Lepone, Mark Pawuk, Scott Geoffrion
Lost to Darrell Alderman

In Warren's Words:

"For some reason, I have no real recollection of this race, although I do remember that this was in the middle of our battle with Wayne County Speed Shops entry. Ironically, Scott Geoffrion, who would join the Mopar clan a year later, was in our team car at the time and couldn't get the car into reverse in the semifinals against us. We were using the Lencos then, and their reversers were notoriously fragile. Other than that, nothing much stands out, but we obviously were running pretty well to make it to the final."

Notes of the time:

* This was the 50th final round appearance of Warren's career, and tenth of the 1991 season.

* WJ's 7.229-second elapsed time was the quickest pass of Sunday's eliminations

* WJ ran uncontested in the semi-finals, as then-teammate Scott Geoffrion could not get his car into reverse following his burnout.

* Geoffrion, driving a Johnson-powered Cutlass, set the HRP top speed track record at 192.84 mph.

* Alderman was the No. 1 qualifier with a 7.206-second time, while Gordie Rivera captured the 16th and final position with a 7.320-second pass.

* The Pro Stock field was made up of nine Olds Cutlasses, three Chevy Berettas, two Pontiac Trans Ams, and a single Ford Probe and Dodge Daytona.

* Other winners in the NHRA professional categories that weekend included Pat Austin, who upset Joe Amato in the Top Fuel final, and Mark Oswald, who defeated John Force and his Castrol Olds Cutlass in the Funny Car final.

3. WJ's First NHRA Topeka Win -- 1992

Race Car: 1992 Oldsmobile Cutlass

Performance: WJ Qualified Second, 7.223 seconds, 192.14 mph
Defeated Joe Lepone, Bruce Allen, Larry Morgan, Scott Geoffrion

In Warren's Words:

"Obviously, it was a good weekend if we won the race. Although some may find this hard to believe, I took no extra pleasure in beating Scott since he was now in that other brand. He had been offered a job that I couldn't match, so I gave him my blessing and told him to take it. However, any win is a good win, so we were definitely happy to take home the trophy and the check."

Notes of the time:

* This was the 33rd win of Warren Johnson's Pro Stock career, and came in his 59th career final round (and second at Heartland Park Topeka).

* With the win, WJ only needed qualify at the next race in Dallas to capture his first NHRA Pro Stock championship.

* This was WJ's seventh of eight wins he would score in 1992.

* Former WJ teammate Geoffrion was the No. 1 qualifier with a 7.196-second elapsed time, with Vince Khoury in the sixteenth and final starting spot with a 7.315-second pass.

* WJ defeated Geoffrion in the final with a 7.203-second, 192.38 mph pass to Geoffrion's 7.245-second, 189.95 mph pass.

* Among the current Pro Stock competitors in the field were Larry Morgan, Bruce Allen, Mark Pawuk, Rickie Smith and Jim Yates.

* Other professional winners included current Ron Capps crew chief Ed "The Ace" McCulloch, who edged Joe Amato in Top Fuel, Cruz Pedregon over John Force in Funny Car and Byron Hines (Matt and Andrew's father) over John Myers in Pro Stock Bike.

4. WJ's Most Recent Topeka Win -- 1998

Race Car: 1998 Goodwrench Service Plus Firebird

Performance: WJ Qualified Eighth, 6.965 seconds, 197.93 mph
Defeated Richie Stevens, Mark Osborne, Tom Martino and Jeg Coughlin

In Warren's Words:

"Strangely enough, other than remembering that we had to come back to complete final eliminations, nothing much stands out from that weekend. I guess the easiest way to explain it is that once the race is over, it's history, so I move on to the next one. Unless something memorable has happened, it becomes one of many races I have competed in during my career. Naturally, we were happy to win, but other than that, we obviously did our jobs that weekend."

Notes of the time:

* This was the 70th win of Warren's career, and came in his 112th final round appearance.

* The Topeka victory was WJ's seventh of 1998, where he would eventually total nine for the year in fifteen final round appearances.

* Rain limited qualifying to only three sessions, and postponed final eliminations for two weeks.

* The fields were set during the first weekend, with teams given the opportunity to test and tune on the Friday before Saturday's scheduled eliminations.

* Mark Osborne was the No. 1 qualifier with a 6.924-second time, with Larry Morgan in the 16th position with his 7.004-second effort.

* The field consisted of Oldsmobile Cutlasses, Pontiac Firebirds, Chevrolet Camaros and Dodge Avengers.

* Other winners that weekend included Cory McClenathan, who defeated Kenny Bernstein in the Top Fuel final, and Ron Capps over Al Hofmann in the Funny Car championship round.

5. WJ's Heartland Park Topeka in a Nutshell --

"When Heartland Park first opened, it was a pretty nice facility, and we raced there before the sports cars. Unfortunately, the drag strip was part of the road course, and the roundy-rounders put a pretty substantial berm in the right lane, which made it impossible to get down. Fortunately, they addressed the issue, which improved the racing significantly.

"Since then, it has been a pretty decent facility, good enough that we used to run two races here. One thing that is a given is that the wind will be howling and changing directions. The performance there has not been that strong, simply because of the track elevation, and, on occasion, the time of year we run there. However, over the years we've been able to do a pretty good job of adapting to whatever Mother Nature throws at us there, so I'm not about to complain."

Did You Know?

* WJ's five wins at Heartland Park Topeka are the most by any Pro Stock driver.

-j2r-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Darrell Alderman , Kenny Bernstein , Mark Pawuk , Warren Johnson , Al Hofmann , Ron Capps , John Force , Joe Amato , Larry Morgan , Bob Glidden , Cory McClenathan , Dick LaHaie , Bruce Allen , Kenny Koretsky , Scott Geoffrion , Brandon Bernstein , Rickie Smith , Jerry Haas , Gordie Rivera