Warren Report: Englishtown

THE WARREN REPORT: Mopar Parts Nationals Edition NEWS AND NOTES for the NHRA Mopar Parts Nationals Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, Englishtown, N.J., May 14-17 * WARREN'S WORDS "There's more to driving a Pro Stock...

THE WARREN REPORT: Mopar Parts Nationals Edition

NEWS AND NOTES for the NHRA Mopar Parts Nationals Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, Englishtown, N.J., May 14-17

* WARREN'S WORDS

     "There's more to driving a Pro Stock than most people 
realize.  It's like driving a passenger car at 150 mph in the 
rain.  These cars are loose all the time."

* LONE STAR REPORT

For Warren Johnson, the Lone Star Nationals, held May 1-3 at the Texas Motorplex, was a good news/bad news kind of race. The good news: W.J. qualified No. 1 for the third time this season. The bad news: He lost in the first round of eliminations to Bruce Allen on a holeshot. The better news: Warren remains atop the Winston championship standings with a 176-point lead over Jim Yates.

"The week before in Virginia, we won one race by a thousandth of a second, and won another by five thousandths," Warren recalled. "This time we lost a close one. That's why they call it racing."

* CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR

Kurt Johnson came within 12 thousandths of a second of scoring the first Pro Stock victory for Chevrolet's Camaro since 1988. Kurt lost in the final round of the Lone Star Nationals to No. 2 qualifier Mike Edwards on a holeshot, 7.024 to 7.108. K.J.'s runner-up finish moved him to fourth in the points standings, just 15 markers behind third-place Mark Osborne.

Kurt's quote: "We came up about half an inch short of winning the race."

* AND THEN THERE WERE THREE . . .

How tough is the competition in Pro Stock? Simply qualifying is an accomplishment. After seven rounds of the 22-race Winston Drag Racing Series, only three Pro Stock drivers have qualified for every race in 1998: Warren Johnson, Kurt Johnson, and Mark Osborne. Every other driver has at least one DNQ on his record this season.

In 1997, four drivers made the Pro Stock field at every race. Not surprisingly, Warren and Kurt Johnson made the cut at all 22 events. Jim Yates and Steve Schmidt were the other two drivers with unblemished qualifying records last year.

* ON TO ENGLISHTOWN

Old Bridge Township Raceway Park has been the site of several significant events in the Johnson family saga. Warren scored the first of his 67 NHRA national event victories in Englishtown in 1982, driving a self-sponsored Oldsmobile Starfire. He defeated the late, great Lee Shepherd, 7.903 to 7.914.

In 1986, W.J. defeated Don Coonce in the Pro Stock final, winning an intramural battle between two identical GM Goodwrench Firenzas. Although the two black-and-silver Oldsmobiles had matching paint schemes, Coonce's car was owned by Chevrolet dealer Albert Clark. Few spectators saw the two teammates race -- after rain washed out the final round on Sunday, the race took place on Monday morning in front of a handful of fans.

* A RACE TO REMEMBER

Kurt Johnson earned a permanent place in drag racing history on a chilly Friday evening in Englishtown on May 20, 1994. At 8:30 p.m., Kurt became the first Pro Stock driver to break the 6-second barrier when he stopped the timers at 6.988 seconds. By the time the race was over, Kurt set the national elapsed time record, became the first member of the Holley 6-Second Pro Stock Club, earned a spot in the Slick 50 World Record Club, and won the invitational Pro Stock Challenge. Kurt's weekend winnings totaled $91,000 -- the biggest payday ever in Pro Stock.

"I made the turn-off at the end of the track and saw the television crew running toward the car," Kurt recalled. "I figured that I must have run in the sixes."

* PRO STOCK CHALLENGE

On Saturday, May 16, an elite field of eight drivers will race for a $76,000 purse in the Pro Stock Challenge, a special "race within a race" at the Mopar Parts Nationals. Warren Johnson is the No. 1 seed based on his qualifying performances over the last year. Kurt Johnson is the No. 3 seed.

Warren is the only driver who has competed in every Pro Stock Challenge since its inception in 1985. He's won twice (1993 and 1995) and scored three runner-up finishes (1989, 1990, and 1996).

Kurt Johnson won the Pro Stock Challenge in his first appearance in 1994. He's qualified for the special event five straight years.

* TRIVIAL PURSUITS

Answers to last issue's W.J. trivia questions: When was the last time that Warren Johnson failed to qualify at an NHRA national event? Answer: 1987 Gatornationals, Gainesville, Fla. He was 19th on the qualifying list.

Extra credit question: At what event did Warren Johnson qualify but not compete in final eliminations? Answer: 1991 Winston Finals, Pomona, Calif. Johnson qualified No. 2, but did not race when final eliminations were postponed one week due to rain. Having already clinched the No. 2 spot in the championship standings, W.J. honored his previous commitment to race in Japan, where he became the first international Pro Stock champion.

* ENGLISHTOWN RECORD Warren Johnson's year-by-year Mopar Parts Nationals results:

     Year          Qualified   Result
     1975          14          Second Round
     1976          5           Second Round
     1977          9           First Round
     1978          7           First Round
     1981          11          First Round
     1982          4           Winner (over Shepherd)
     1983          5           Second Round
     1984          2           Second Round
     1985          2           Second Round
     1986          2           Winner (over Coonce)
     1987          2           Second Round
     1988          2           Second Round
     1989          7           First Round
     1990          2           Second Round
     1991          1           Second Round
     1992          1           Winner (over Smith)
     1993          1           Winner (over K. Johnson)
     1994          7           Second Round
     1995          1           First Round
     1996          2           Runner-up (to Yates)
     1997          2           First Round
     Total Races   21
     Wins          4
     Runners-up    1
     Semi-Finals   0
     Second Round  10
     First Round   6

Kurt Johnson's year-by-year Mopar Parts Nationals results:

     Year          Qualified   Result
     1993          2           Runner-up (to W. Johnson)
     1994          1           Semi-Final
     1995          3           First Round
     1996          12          First Round
     1997          9           Second Round

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Bruce Allen , Steve Schmidt , Mike Edwards