WJ Wins in Phoenix

W.J. BREAKS "PHOENIX JINX" WITH ATSCO NATIONALS VICTORY! "The Professor" Dominates in First Phoenix Victory: Qualifies No. 1, Runs Low ET and Top Speed, Defeats Yates in Final Round Phoenix; February...


"The Professor" Dominates in First Phoenix Victory: Qualifies No. 1, Runs Low ET and Top Speed, Defeats Yates in Final Round

Phoenix; February 22, 1998 -- For Dale Earnhardt, it was the Daytona 500; for Warren Johnson, it was the ATSCO Nationals. W.J. ended his "Phoenix Jinx" today at Firebird International Raceway by winning the ATSCO Nationals for the first time in his career. Warren has now won every event contested on the NHRA circuit at least once.

"It took Dale 20 years to win the Daytona 500, so I'm glad it only took me 14 years to win this race!" Warren said with a grin after notching his 64th NHRA national event victory. "Without a doubt, this was the longest drought I've experienced at a race track. Finally we put everything together this weekend and won for a change." One week after "The Intimidator" was victorious in Daytona, "The Professor" put his black GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac in the Firebird Raceway winner's circle. Johnson had been a bridesmaid three times previously at Firebird Raceway, scoring runner-up finishes in 1988, 1991, and 1997.

Johnson, drag racing's own "man in black," dominated the second round of the 22-race NHRA Winston Drag Racing series. He qualified No. 1, set a new track elapsed time record at 6.964 seconds, and ran the fastest Pro Stock speed of the event at 197.97 mph.

Johnson defeated his archrival Jim Yates in the final round. W.J. was first off the starting line against Yates (.430 to .452 reaction times), and ensured the victory with a decisive performance advantage (6.974/197.49 to 7.020/196.80).

Warren dispatched No. 16 qualifier Tom Martino in the first round of eliminations, and then dodged a bullet in the second round when he defeated an out-of-shape Mark Pawuk in spite of damaging his best engine. Johnson's GM Goodwrench Service Plus crew quickly installed a replacement for the semi-final round confrontation with Pete Williams. The back-up powerplant produced another six-second e.t. to advance Warren to his 103rd career final round.

After rain washed out the first day of qualifying, the field was set with only two qualifying runs on Saturday. Johnson won the Pro Stock "pole" for the 90th time in his career -- the most No. 1 qualifying spots among active NHRA Pro Stock drivers.

Johnson credited a new chassis for his winning performance in Phoenix. "Right now this GM Goodwrench Service Plus Firebird is the best race car that I've ever driven as far as being able to tune it to track conditions," W.J. declared. "I think we're going to have the best year we've had in a long time."

Johnson will continue his quest for a fourth NHRA title at the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla., on March 5-8. Warren has no "Gainesville Jinx" to overcome; he's already won the Gatornationals six times!


QUALIFYING: Warren Johnson qualified No. 1 at 6.964/197.49 ELIMINATIONS: Round 1: Warren Johnson (6.986/197.88) defeated Tom Martino (7.082/194.80) Round 2: Warren Johnson (7.146/195.82) defeated Mark Pawuk (7.819/137.17) Semi-Final: Warren Johnson (6.988/197.93) defeated Pete Williams (7.052/196.85) Final Round: Warren Johnson (6.974/197.49) defeated Jim Yates (7.020/196.80)

LOW ET:  Warren Johnson, 6.964 seconds (track record)
TOP SPEED:  Warren Johnson, 197.97 mph 

PRO STOCK STANDINGS: (after 2 of 22 events; victories in parentheses): 1. Jim Yates (1) 213 points 2. Warren Johnson (1) 191 3. Jeg Coughlin 145 4. Mark Osborne 132 5. Scott Geoffrion 103

NEXT EVENT: March 5-8, NHRA Mac Tools Gatornationals, Gainesville, Fla. (TV: March 8, 5:00-6:30 p.m. Eastern, TNN -- check local listings)

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeg Coughlin , Mark Pawuk , Warren Johnson , Tom Martino , Scott Geoffrion
Teams Williams