The "PRO" on the windshield of Warren Johnson's GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac isn't just a class designation. It is also a description of the driver. W.J. is one of the few professional racers who earns his living on the race track. This ...
The "PRO" on the windshield of Warren Johnson's GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac isn't just a class designation. It is also a description of the driver. W.J. is one of the few professional racers who earns his living on the race track. This weekend Warren's steel-gray eyes will be focused on the $105,000 in prize money that is on the line at the Matco Tools SuperNationals in Englishtown, N.J.
Johnson is a money racer. On Saturday, he will race for the $50,000 winner's check in the Holley Dominator Duel, a special "race within a race" that matches the eight elite Pro Stock drivers with the best qualifying records over the past year. A victory in Sunday's SuperNationals eliminations could add another $30,000 to his bank account - along with a $25,000 "double-up" bonus from NHRA.
"I don't know why those other guys are even bothering to show up," said Johnson with a sly smile. "NHRA might as well just write the check out to me and save everyone a lot of wear and tear on their parts."
Johnson's record justifies his self-confidence. He is the only driver who has qualified for all 17 editions of the Holley Dominator Duel. He's won it twice (1993 and 1995) and finished as runner-up four times. In 1993 he won on both Saturday and Sunday, a feat that would have earned the "double-up" bonus had it existed. He scored the first of his 83 career national event victories in Englishtown in 1982, and he's added three more titles to his record since then on the fabled New Jersey quarter-mile.
"I feel confident about this weekend," said the usually reserved five-time champion. "Although our results didn't show it, the last race in Atlanta was a turning point for our program. I ran the quickest e.t. in eliminations and Kurt ran the second quickest. I feel very comfortable with our combination going into Englishtown.
"Of course, we know that everyone else with new cars and new chassis is also continuing to improve," Johnson noted. "I suppose we'll just have to race them for the money and the points."
The SuperNationals kicks off a three-week cross-country trek that will take NHRA teams to New Jersey, Kansas and Illinois on successive weekends. With hundreds of Winston championship points up for grabs in the three upcoming events, Warren has an opportunity to break the gridlock at the top of the Pro Stock standings. Thirty-eight points separate the top three drivers, with W.J. sandwiched between points leader Jim Yates and his son Kurt. In the first seven races of the 2001 season, only Johnson and reigning champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. have visited the winner's circle twice.
If three national events and the lucrative Dominator Duel aren't enough to keep Warren busy, he will also compete in an annual Pro Stock invitational race in Budds Creek, Md., on his way to Englishtown.
"We have some new parts to investigate and some engines to break in," Warren reported. "We might as well get paid to run them down the race track."
For a pro like Warren Johnson, racing is strictly business. <pre>
WARREN JOHNSON'S ENGLISHTOWN RECORD Year Qual. 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 1998 6 Second Round 1999 1 First Round 2000 5 Second Round