NHRA: Johnson Gobbles Gators!
16 March 1998Gainesville, Fla. -- Warren Johnson stormed to his second straight win, his seventh Mac Tools Gatornationals title, and his 65th career victory today at Gainesville Raceway. The rain that caused a one-week postponement of the event was just a memory, as ideal weather conditions produced record-setting performances in virtually every category.
In a replay of the preceding event in Phoenix, Johnson defeated arch-rival Jim Yates in the final round, 6.873/200.66 mph to 6.935/198.10 mph. Johnson's victory vaulted him into first place in the championship standings with a 16-point lead over Yates (325 to 309).
Johnson swept the table in Gainesville, earning a $25,000 bonus from the MBNA World Record Club for setting the national Elapsed Time record at 6.873 seconds. W.J. topped 200 mph in six consecutive runs during qualifying and eliminations, and set the national speed standard at 201.20 mph -- a performance that earned him the "Crew Chief of the Race" award. Johnson became the winningest driver in the 29-year history of the Gatornationals with seven victories.
"Not a bad day at the office!" Johnson declared after his $55,000 payday. "In the early rounds of eliminations, we struggled to find the right setup for the GM Goodwrench Service Plus Firebird. Fortunately the track came to us by the final round.
"Everybody comes out here with the same intention -- to fire their best shot," Warren reported. "Some days it works and some days it doesn't. There's no real way to predict when and how you're going to win races, let alone any kind of winning streak. When I win a race, I'm happy just to win one in a row!"
Johnson's son, Kurt, and Yates both bettered the existing 6.883-second e.t. record set by Warren in April, 1997. W.J. reclaimed the record in the final round with a 6.873 e.t. -- the quickest Pro Stock run in NHRA history. "It feels good to get the record back," said Johnson. "Jim (Yates) had it, and we just kind of picked his pocket on the last run."
Drag racing fans relish the prospect of another record-setting event next weekend when the NHRA tour travels to Houston Raceway Park, a track that's famous for fast times.
WARREN JOHNSON GM GOODWRENCH SERVICE PLUS
NHRA GATORNATIONALS RACE SUMMARY
QUALIFYING: Warren Johnson qualified No. 5 at 6.919/201.11
Round 1: Warren Johnson (6.898/201.20) defeated Robert Patrick (6.961/199.24)
Round 2: Warren Johnson (6.926/200.44) defeated Mike Edwards (6.979/198.01)
Semi-Final: Warren Johnson (6.931/200.66) defeated Jeg Coughlin, Jr. (6.956/199.64)
Final Round: Warren Johnson (6.873/200.66) defeated Jim Yates (6.935/198.10)
LOW ET: Warren Johnson, 6.873 seconds (national record) TOP SPEED: Warren Johnson, 201.20 mph (national record)
PRO STOCK STANDINGS: (after 3 of 22 events; victories in parentheses):
1. Warren Johnson (2) 325 points 2. Jim Yates (1) 309 3. Jeg Coughlin 223 4. Mark Osborne 165 5. Kurt Johnson 164
NEXT EVENT: March 19-22, NHRA Pennzoil Nationals presented by HiLo/O'Reilly Auto Parts, Houston, Texas (TV: March 22, 5:00-7:00 p.m. Eastern, ESPN2 -- check local listings)