Warren Report: Chicago

THE WARREN REPORT: ROUTE 66 NATIONALS EDITION WARREN JOHNSON NEWS AND NOTES for the NHRA Fram Route 66 Nationals, Route 66 Raceway, Joliet, Ill., May 28-31 * WARREN'S WORDS "When the tracks were cool, nobody could...


WARREN JOHNSON NEWS AND NOTES for the NHRA Fram Route 66 Nationals, Route 66 Raceway, Joliet, Ill., May 28-31


"When the tracks were cool, nobody could touch us. Now with the warmer weather, we're having trouble applying the power to the pavement. That's the challenge -- to calm down the car to the point that we can get down the track successfully on every run. The fuel cars are trying to accomplish the same thing, but their failures are more spectacular because they go up in smoke instantly. A Pro Stock just turns the tires and hits the gear changes too hard. It's one of those subtle things that causes a car to slow down, but from a spectator's standpoint, you can't see what's happening."


W.J. recorded the first 200 mph Pro Stock run at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J., during qualifying for the Mopar Parts Nationals on May 15. He hit the double-century mark dead-on at 200.00 mph to set the track speed record. Warren has now recorded 15 of the 18 NHRA Pro Stock passes over 200 mph. He has also turned in the Top Speed at every national event in 1998 -- eight straight races.

Johnson defeated a red-lighting George Marnell in the first round of eliminations, but lost lane choice for his second-round match with Jeg Coughlin, Jr. That proved to be his undoing. Coughlin defeated Johnson, 6.957/198.90 to 6.974/199.29.

"If you were in the right lane, you had a better-than-even chance of winning," Warren reported. "If you were in the left, your chances were pretty slim.

"I've had better days, and I've had worse ones," W.J. added. "You take your best guess, and sometimes it doesn't work out. We only lost 19 points to Yates [second to Johnson in the Winston points standings]. Realistically, that's not too bad."


For the second time in his six-year driving career, Kurt Johnson walked off with the $50,000 winner's purse in the Pro Stock Challenge in Englishtown. The Pro Stock Challenge, a special "race within a race" held in conjunction with the Mopar Parts Nationals, matched the elite eight drivers with the best qualifying records over the last year. Johnson defeated Bruce Allen, Jim Yates, and Steve Schmidt to claim the prize. The Johnson family has now won four of the last six Pro Stock Challenge races.

Kurt also qualified his ACDelco Camaro on the Pro Stock "pole" for the Mopar Parts Nationals at 6.906/199.14 mph -- his first No. 1 qualifying effort of the season and the ninth of his career. "The temperature got cooler, the track got stickier, and we made a little more horsepower," Kurt explained. "It was just a picture perfect run."

Johnson's "perfect" weekend came to an abrupt end in the first round of eliminations when he was upset by No. 16 qualifier Darrell Alderman. "The car got out of the groove, and I was about to hit the wall," K.J. revealed. "When the tires started to shake, it surprised me, because my Camaro had run straight and fast all weekend. I guess it proves that race cars do have personalities."


Championship drag racing will finally come to Chicago when the new Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill., hosts the inaugural Fram Route 66 Nationals on May 28-31. Warren Johnson's record at new races is formidable: He won the inaugural Pennzoil Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park, the inaugural Sears Craftsman Nationals in Madison, Ill., and the inaugural Lone Star Nationals in Dallas.

"We're going to Chicago with the intention of winning that one, too," Warren said. "I've raced on every kind of track in the country -- I've raced at tracks that don't even have names! That experience probably helps when we go to a new facility because I've driven on all types of surfaces. I tend to do better on a slick track because I can drive a loose race car better than a lot of guys. That may be an advantage on a 'green' track. On the other hand, the place could be a mineshaft. We just don't know. It's a brand-new track and no one will have any data until we make our first pass."


Kurt Johnson plans to debut a new ACDelco Camaro in the near future. "My new car should be in body shop by the end of the week," he said. "I'll pick it up after we race in Columbus. The chassis I have now is working well, so I'm not in a big hurry to get the new car on the track. It's like fine wine -- it's getting better with age.

"The engine that ran 6.90 in Englishtown was a new motor that I started using in Dallas," Kurt revealed. "We took the heads off, worked on it, and picked up 5 or 6 horsepower when we put it back on the dyno. We'll take that engine to Chicago. We also have some new lightweight clutch parts that should be more forgiving on a hot starting line."

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Darrell Alderman , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , George Marnell , Steve Schmidt
Teams HART