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The Warren Report: NHRA Gatornationals Edition

1 March 1998

Media Contact:  Rick Voegelin/408-761-2201

THE WARREN REPORT: NHRA Gatornationals Edition

NOTES AND QUOTES for the NHRA Mac Tools Gatornationals
Gainesville Raceway, Gainesville, Fla., March 5-8.


"I'm optimistic about our chances for success in Gainesville. That track should play right into our hands, especially with some of the things we worked on over the winter to gear up for the conditions we expect at the Gatornationals. We seem to be able to do things with this new GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac that we have never been able to do before."


The Mac Tools Gatornationals has been very, very good to Warren Johnson. He's scored six of his 64 career victories at Gainesville Raceway -- the most victories W.J. has posted at a single venue. Johnson has also won the Winston Finals six times, but two of those wins came at Orange County International Raceway in 1982-83 before the season-ending race was relocated to Pomona Raceway.


Johnson has been the No. 1 qualifier at the Gatornationals five straight years. His No. 1 qualifying streak began in 1993. Johnson has qualified in the top half of the field (8th or better) 16 times in the 18 Gatornationals he has attended. If Warren qualifies fourth or better, the competition may be in trouble: W.J. has gone to the final round seven times after qualifying in the Top Four.


In spite of the success that Warren Johnson has enjoyed at the Gatornationals, the 1987 event stands out as one of his most forgettable races. After winning the season-opening 1987 Winternationals, Johnson failed to qualify for the next event in Gainesville. That was the last time that W.J. was a DNQ. Since then, he has qualified for 194 consecutive national events, the longest active qualifying streak in NHRA drag racing.


Johnson won the preceding event in Phoenix, ending a 13-year victory drought in the Arizona desert. Firebird Raceway was the only track on the NHRA circuit where W.J. had not won before. The victory was made even sweeter when he defeated defending NHRA champion Jim Yates in the final. Last year in seven races with Yates, the score was 6 to 1 in Yates' favor.

"I don't keep track of that stuff," Warren asserted with a smile. "I just know that I had the best seat in the house for the final round and a clear view ahead of me at the finish line.

"Now that we've finally figured out how to win in Phoenix, I'm hoping that we're good for about 18 more wins this season," W.J. joked.


Johnson will attempt to extend his winning record at every NHRA event when the tour visits the new Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill., for the first time in May. Johnson's record at new facilities is formidable: He won the inaugural Sears Craftsman Nationals in Madison, Ill., last May, and he won the inaugural Pennzoil Nationals in Richmond, Va., in 1995. He also won the inaugural Lone Star Nationals at the Texas Motorplex in Dallas last May -- a new event at a familiar venue.


Warren Johnson's year-by-year results at the Gatornationals:

     Year      Qualified      Result
     1976      4              Runner-up
     1977      7              Second Round
     1978      7              Semi-Final
     1979-82   Did not enter
     1983      3              First Round
     1984      4              Winner (over Iaconio)
     1985      2              Winner (over Glidden)
     1986      8              Runner-up
     1987                     Did not qualify
     1988      1              Semi-Final
     1989      5              Second Round
     1990      2              Second Round
     1991      2              Winner (over Alderman)
     1992      3              Winner (over Eckman)
     1993      1              Winner (over Morgan)
     1994      1              Winner (over Alderman)
     1995      1              Second Round
     1996      1              First Round
     1997      1              Semi-Final