Warren Johnson Looking for Big Numbers at Houston

JOHNSON SAYS NEXT PRO STOCK 200 MPH RUN COULD COME AT HOUSTON BAYTOWN, Texas -- It's been nearly a year since the magic Pro Stock run. Last April at Virginia Motorsports Park Pro Stock legend Warren Johnson wrote...

JOHNSON SAYS NEXT PRO STOCK 200 MPH RUN COULD COME AT HOUSTON BAYTOWN, Texas -- It's been nearly a year since the magic Pro Stock run. Last April at Virginia Motorsports Park Pro Stock legend Warren Johnson wrote NHRA history with the first 200 mph run in his GM Goodwrench Pontiac Firebird. His 200.13 mph pass will always be remembered as the run that shattered one of the last great milestones in drag racing.

However, after the Duluth, Ga. driver exceeded the mark, then set a new NHRA Pro Stock speed record later that weekend, running the second-ever 200 at 200.53 mph, all has been quiet in the Pro Stock fast lane. Now the big question is, when will the next 200 mph pass happen?

Johnson says it could take place at Houston Raceway Park, March 19-22, at the Pennzoil Nationals presented by HiLo/O'Reilly Auto Parts. The $1,700,000 race is the fourth of 22 events on the $30-million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

"It's possible because I've heard they've made some improvements to the track surface down there," Johnson said. "If we can keep the cars glued to the track and get a little cooperation from Mother Nature, then a 200 mph run will be possible. The track has to be there, the atmospheric conditions have to be there and we have to have our heads together."

Johnson isn't surprised that there haven't been a landslide of 200s following his breakthrough pass at Richmond, Va.

"These cars are so finicky," the three time NHRA Winston Pro Stock champion said. "There are so many factors involved that you better have all the square pegs in the square holes and all the round ones in the round holes. We're just on the threshold. As we all make incremental increases in performance there'll be more 200s, but I certainly don't see an avalanche of them at this time."

After claiming his first win of the season at the ATSCO Nationals in Phoenix, Johnson feels very confident about his chances of ending Jim Yates' two-year ride atop the Winston Pro Stock standings. Johnson, who finished second in Winston points the last two seasons, says some minor tuning and refocusing of goals for his team is going to pay dividends this season.

"We were in a rebuilding mode last year, I think everybody figured that out," Johnson said. "We feel like we've solved some of the equipment problems we've run into during the last three or four years. Now we've got equipment that has the potential of running well every weekend and made some crew changes that we felt was a step in the right direction."

Johnson lost in the first round at this race last year, and hasn't won at Houston Raceway Park since 1994. He knows with tough challengers like Yates, defending race winner Tom Martino, and a host of upset-minded upstarts, the task at hand isn't going to be an easy one.

"There are 18 cars that have the potential of qualifying at every race," he said. "When you look at the closeness of the field in NHRA Pro Stock, it's very conceivable that the 16th qualifier can win one of these races. It is extremely competitive."

GENERAL INFORMATION * Schedule: Pro qualifying is at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. March 20. Qualifying continues at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. March 21. Pro Stock Truck qualifying sessions will be held on March 19 at noon and 3 p.m. Pro Stock Truck final eliminations will start at 11 a.m. March 21. Final professional eliminations start at 11 a.m. March 22. Federal-Mogul competition starts at 8 a.m. March 19. * Tickets: Tickets are available for the Pennzoil Nationals presented by HiLo/O'Reilly. Call Houston Raceway Park, (281) 383-2666, or Ticketmaster, (713) 629-3700, for ticket information. * On TV: ESPN2 will televise two hours of highlights and live final round coverage from the Pennzoil Nationals presented by HiLo/O'Reilly on March 22 at 4 p.m. (CST). ESPN2 will show two hours of same-day qualifying highlights on March 20 at 7:30 p.m. (CST).

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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson , Tom Martino