THE WARREN REPORT: WINSTON FINALS EDITION NEXT RACE: Winston Finals November 12-15 Pomona, Calif. TV: TNN, Sunday, Nov. 15, 7:00-9:00 p.m. Eastern THE END IS NEAR The NHRA tour is about to close the...
THE WARREN REPORT: WINSTON FINALS EDITION NEXT RACE: Winston Finals November 12-15 Pomona, Calif. TV: TNN, Sunday, Nov. 15, 7:00-9:00 p.m. Eastern
THE END IS NEAR
The NHRA tour is about to close the circle, returning to the place where it all began ten months ago. The aptly named Winston Finals at Pomona Raceway on November 12-15 will mark the conclusion of the 22-race championship drag racing series.
Warren Johnson went to Pomona for the season-opening Winternationals last January with high hopes and a brand-new race car. He'll return to California with a fourth NHRA Winston championship in his pocket and a season record of nine wins, 12 final-round appearances, 12 No.1 qualifying positions, and 20 top speeds. Since the start of the 1998 season, W.J. has won 54 rounds of racing, set the national elapsed time and top speed records twice, and posted 19 runs at over 200 mph.
"We'll be ready for Pomona," Johnson vows. "We want a strong performance there to build momentum for next year. If there is one thing I've learned over the years, you can't rest on your laurels. Even though we have wrapped up the championship, our goal is to continue to be the best team in the class and to win another race this season."
THE RACE FOR SECOND PLACE
Kurt Johnson's hopes for a runner-up finish in the championship race are still alive, but they're on life support. K.J. went to Houston trailing rival Jeg Coughlin, Jr. by 26 points for the No. 2 spot. Kurt cut Coughlin's advantage to 19 points after putting his ACDelco Camaro on the Pro Stock "pole" for the third time this season and qualifying 12 positions ahead of Jeg.
Kurt defeated Jeg's brother, Troy, in the first round of eliminations, but he lost to Steve Schmidt in the second round. K.J.'s car got badly out of shape after a brief delay to dry the track as rain began to fall in the area.
"My car just didn't like the left lane; we should have switched to the right," Kurt conceded. "It just spun the tires in fourth gear and made a nasty move. I saw the car that ran before me get crossed up in that lane, so we should have moved to the other side right then."
Jeg won the event and left Houston with a 79-point advantage over Kurt. With a maximum of 138 points available in Pomona, Kurt still has a mathematical chance to overtake Coughlin. Barring any bonus points for setting a national e.t. record, Kurt would have to qualify ahead of Coughlin and win the race in order to snatch the No. 2 spot - providing Jeg loses in the first round.
Kurt also has to be looking over his shoulder at two-time champion Jim Yates, who is just 23 points behind K.J. in the points race.
The bright spot in this scenario is that Kurt won the Winston Finals last year, defeating Tom Martino in the last race of 1997.
HOUSTON COOLS W.J.'S HOT STREAK
Warren's three-race winning streak came to an abrupt end in the second round of eliminations at the Matco Tools SuperNationals in Houston on Monday, November 2. W.J. was defeated by Tom Martino after the weather gods once again rained on the NHRA parade. Cold and damp track conditions on Sunday forced NHRA officials to complete the race on Monday.
"We spun the tires hard in the middle of the track," said Warren after his upset loss to Martino. "He got by me by more than a car length and I couldn't make up the difference on the top end. We were in the driver's seat to win this race, but we picked the wrong lane. Sometimes you just make those mistakes."
HOUSTON HIGHLIGHTS -- Post-Race Notes from the SuperNationals
* WARREN'S 150th TOP SPEED. W.J. notched his 20th Top Speed of the year at the SuperNationals, bringing his career total to 150 - the most among all NHRA racers.
Warren recorded his first Top Speed at the 1976 Springnationals, stopping the timers at 156.25 mph. That's more than 43 mph slower than the 199.73 mph pass he made at Houston Raceway Park!
* FATHER KNOWS BEST. Warren got behind the wheel of son Kurt's ACDelco Camaro for two days of testing at the Texas Motorplex after the Revell Nationals. Kurt subsequently qualified No. 1 at the SuperNationals, his best qualifying performance since the Pontiac Excitement Nationals in June.
"Dad made a dozen test runs in my car in Dallas before this race," Kurt reported. "There were some adjustments we wanted to try, and he had some ideas as well. I think we improved the car; we have a real hot rod now!"
* RECORD CHANGERS. The Johnsons teamed up to establish event records for the fall race at Houston Raceway Park. Kurt set the elapsed time mark at 6.920 seconds, while Warren established the speed standard at 199.73 mph.
* QUALIFIED SUCCESS. One measure of the Johnsons' dominance this season is their respective qualifying records. Warren and Kurt are the only Pro Stock drivers who have qualified at every event in 1998. W.J. has been among the top eight qualifiers at all 21 races; his average qualifying spot is 2.35! Kurt has qualified in the top half of the field in 17 starts, and his average qualifying position is a very respectable 4.48.
POMONA RACEWAY RECORD
Pomona Raceway, the site of the season-ending Winston Finals, has been very, very good to Warren and Kurt Johnson. W.J. has raced on the most famous quarter-mile in Southern California 32 times in his career. He's won a total of eight races there (Winternationals and Winston Finals) for a 25% winning average.
Warren has won the Winston Finals six times, including back-to-back victories in 1982-83 when the event was held at the defunct Orange County International Raceway. He won two straight again in 1992-93 - and doubled up at Pomona Raceway by winning consecutive Winternationals titles in 1993-94.
Kurt Johnson has been in three final rounds at Pomona Raceway. He was runner-up to his father in the 1993 Winston Finals and the 1997 Winternationals; he won last year's Winston Finals over Tom Martino.
THE QUEST FOR PERFECTION
Warren holds the speed record at every event on the NHRA circuit except one: Steve Schmidt set the Winston Finals speed record last year at 198.19 mph. Although there are no points for setting an event mark, you can bet that W.J. would like to end the season with his name on every speed record on the circuit.
The Winston Finals event elapsed time record is the oldest mark currently in the book. Warren set the record at 6.957 seconds in October 1996. He's established new e.t. records at 12 races this season, so the odds are good that he will finally eclipse this longstanding Winston Finals mark.
PRO STOCK STANDINGS (after 21 of 22 events)
Driver Wins Points 1. Warren Johnson 9 1895 (clinched championship) 2. Jeg Coughlin 4 1439 -456 3. Kurt Johnson 2 1360 -535 4. Jim Yates 1 1337 -558 5. Mark Osborne 1 1029 -866
WARREN JOHNSON WINSTON FINALS RESULTS:
Year Qualified Result 1975 (Ontario) Alt. First Round 1976 (Ontario) 2 First Round 1977 (Ontario) 7 Second Round 1978 (Ontario) 5 Second Round 1982 (Irvine) 1 Winner (over Shepherd) 1983 (Irvine) 3 Winner (over Shepherd) 1984 5 First Round 1985 5 Second Round 1986 2 Second Round 1987 2 Semi-final 1988 1 Winner (over M. Johnson, Jr.) 1989 3 Runner-up (to Glidden) 1990 2 First Round 1991 Did not compete (Japan trip) 1992 3 Winner (over Eckman) 1993 1 Winner (over K. Johnson) 1994 1 Semi-final 1995 1 Winner (over Schmidt) 1996 1 Second Round 1997 7 Semi-final Total 20 Wins 6 Runners-up 1 Semi-Finals 3 Second Round 5 First Round 4 DNQ/Did not race 1 No. 1 Qualifier 6
KURT JOHNSON WINSTON FINALS RESULTS:
Year Qualified Result 1993 2 Runner-up (to W. Johnson) 1994 7 Second Round 1995 4 Semi-Final 1996 13 First Round 1997 6 Winner (over Martino)