NEXT RACES: Castrol Nationals, April 23-25, Dallas, Texas Pennzoil Nationals, April 30-May 2, Richmond, Va. The NHRA Winston Drag Racing tour swings into spring with the first back-to-back events of the 1999 season in Texas and Virginia.
NEXT RACES: Castrol Nationals, April 23-25, Dallas, Texas Pennzoil Nationals, April 30-May 2, Richmond, Va.
The NHRA Winston Drag Racing tour swings into spring with the first back-to-back events of the 1999 season in Texas and Virginia. After a leisurely start with several weeks between the first four rounds of the 22-race series, the pace picks up with the Castrol Nationals in Dallas on April 23-25, immediately followed by the Pennzoil Nationals in Richmond, Va., on April 30-May 2. For Warren Johnson, the reigning and four-time NHRA Pro Stock champion, the Texas-Virginia two-step couldn't come at a better time. Few things in life are perfect, but W.J.'s record at the Pennzoil Nationals is one of them. Warren is undefeated at the Pennzoil Nationals since the event became part of the NHRA tour in 1995. Johnson has racked up 16 straight round wins and four consecutive victories at Virginia Motorsports Park. In 1997, he broke the 200 mph barrier in Richmond with a 200.13 mph shot heard 'round the drag racing world. Johnson has been equally effective at the Texas Motorplex, home of the Castrol Nationals. The Motorplex's all-concrete quarter-mile has treated W.J. well over the years - he has three victories, eight final-round appearances, and nine No. 1 qualifiers in Dallas. W.J. ran the table in his most recent visit to the Texas supertrack for the Revell Nationals last October when he qualified No. 1, set the national elapsed time and speed records, and notched his ninth win of the 1998 season. "I'd be crazy if I didn't say that I'd rather go to Dallas and Richmond than to tracks where we haven't had the same level of success," Warren confided. "Even under less-than-ideal weather conditions, you can usually go right down the race track at those two facilities. Dallas and Richmond favor our program because we can take advantage of our horsepower."
* No team has dominated in Dallas like Warren and Kurt Johnson. The family has been represented in the final round at eight straight races at the Motorplex. W.J. and K.J. have a total of five wins and seven runners-up at the Motorplex, and have qualified in the No. 1 spot in ten of the last 12 NHRA events in Dallas. In 1993, the Johnsons teamed up for an all-in-the family final at the Chief Nationals; Kurt defeated his father that fateful day.
* Coming into the Castrol Nationals, Warren trails Kurt in the championship race by 75 points, but he's not about to concede his Pro Stock crown to the younger generation. "The world is always changing, and right now Kurt is on top of his game," Warren observed. "I'm not about to relinquish the championship without a fight. I will say that having Kurt leading the points race isn't all that bad - in fact, I'd rather have him in front of me than anyone else!"
The Johnsons' ascent to the top of the Pro Stock standings is due in part to the teamwork between father and son. Both drivers are now campaigning chassis constructed by Rick Jones Race Cars, and that common element has benefited both programs. "Kurt and I are using almost identical chassis setups, and that hasn't been possible before," Warren revealed. "We tested recently at Atlanta Dragway and tried something totally different on his car. It worked very well, so I tried the same thing on mine - and it worked again! "We both ran the same basic setup in Houston," W.J. added. "I may have been overly cautious because we only had five days to get accustomed to it. We kept backing off on the clutch, lowering the starting line rpm, and making everything softer to keep from shaking the tires. All that did was make the car slow down. "It now appears that we can be much more aggressive even on a hot track. The car may spin the tires, but it will go fast! "It's helpful to run Kurt's Camaro and my Firebird with similar chassis setups," Warren concluded. "We can definitely learn from each other."
Warren jumped from third to second place in the points race with a semi-final finish in the O'Reilly Nationals at Houston Raceway Park on April 11. Although W.J. lost to Mike Edwards on a holeshot, he gained ground on his chief rivals for the championship. "I just came up one round short of making it another Johnson-and-Johnson final round like we had at the Gatornationals," Warren conceded. "We didn't leave too many scraps on the table, though. With Troy Coughlin failing to qualify, Jeg Coughlin, Jr. losing in the first round, and Yates losing in the second round, we gained points on everyone except Kurt. "If Kurt and I can keep up the pace, I think it's possible that we can break the championship race wide open," W.J. predicted. "We're approaching the warm part of the season, so we're both working on setups that will be effective in hot weather." When the Johnsons were hot in 1993, they finished first and second in the championship standings - the first 1-2 finish by a father and son in NHRA history. They could repeat that feat with a twist in 1999 if Kurt and Warren reverse their finishing positions. "Our goal as a team is to win the championship," W.J. declared. "It's just as satisfying whether Kurt wins or I win. We work side by side in the shop, and we work on each other's cars. That's really the goal of a two-car team - to use all of your brainpower and manpower with maximum effectiveness."
Warren Johnson's GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac will have a new look at the NHRA U.S. Nationals when W.J. debuts a special Superman theme. The program was announced on April 20 at New York City's famous Tavern on the Green in Central Park. Nine champions from four different series will participate in the season-long Superman program created by Action Performance Companies, Inc., DC Comics, and Warner Bros. Consumer Products. Other drivers who will carry the Caped Crusader's colors include NASCAR stars Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Ron Hornaday; CART champion Jimmy Vasser; sprint car legend Steven Kinser; and drag racing champions Joe Amato, John Force, and Matt Hines. W.J.'s black-and-silver GM Goodwrench Plus color scheme will be embellished with Superman graphics - including a portrait of the Man of Steel on the rear fender - for the annual Labor Day extravaganza. "This will be a great program for the fans," Warren declared, "but I draw the line at wearing tights and a cape when we race in Indy!"
* W.J. racked up three more 200 mph runs during the O'Reilly Nationals at Houston Raceway Park. He reeled off speeds of 200.35, 200.26, and 200.41 mph on his first three qualifying runs. The next fastest Pro Stock driver was Kurt Johnson at 199.70 mph. Warren has now accounted for 37 of the 44 Pro Stock runs over 200 mph in NHRA history.
* Warren "tripled" in Houston for the fifth straight race and the 43rd time in his career, sweeping the No. 1 qualifier, Low ET, and Top Speed honors. W.J. has topped the performance stats at every race in 1999.
W.J.'s DALLAS RESULTS Year Qualified Result 1986 2 Runner-up (to Glidden) 1987 2 Second Round 1988 Not NHRA event 1989 1 Winner (over Morgan) 1990 2 First Round 1991 1 Runner-up (to Morgan) 1992 1 Semi-final 1993 1 Runner-up (to K. Johnson) 1994 1 Runner-up (to Geoffrion) 1995 1 Semi-final 1996 2 First Round 1997 Spring 1 Winner (over Geoffrion) 1997 Fall 8 Runner-up (to Yates) 1998 Spring 1 First Round 1998 Fall 1 Winner (over Yates)
W.J.'s RICHMOND RESULTS Year Qualified Result 1995 1 Winner (over Yates) 1996 1 Winner (over Edwards) 1997 1 Winner (over K. Johnson) 1998 2 Winner (over Martino)
POINTS RACE: (After 4 of 22 events) Driver Wins Points 1. Kurt Johnson 2 407 2. Warren Johnson 1 332 3. Jeg Coughlin, Jr. 1 274 4. Troy Coughlin 0 266 5. Jim Yates 0 233