FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Media Contact: Rick Voegelin/408-761-2201 WARREN JOHNSON BREAKS 200mph PRO STOCK BARRIER! WJ Sets NHRA National Records at 6.894/200.13 mph in Pennzoil Nationals Qualifying Dinwiddie, ...
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Media Contact: Rick Voegelin/408-761-2201
WARREN JOHNSON BREAKS 200mph PRO STOCK BARRIER!
WJ Sets NHRA National Records at 6.894/200.13 mph in Pennzoil Nationals Qualifying
Dinwiddie, Va.; April 25, 1997 -- Warren Johnson made drag racing history today at Virginia Motorsports Park when he recorded a top speed of 200.13 mph in his GM Performance Parts Pontiac. Johnson's historic run at 7:27 p.m. EDT was the first 200 mph pass by a Pro Stock driver in NHRA national event competition. WJ's record-setting performance during the second round of qualifying for the Pennzoil Nationals earned him a $25,000 prize and the first membership in the Speed-Pro 200 mph Pro Stock Club.
"We knew we had the horsepower to run 200 mph," said Johnson. "Greg Anderson (Johnson's crew chief) made the right call on the clutch and chassis combination. Lo and behold, it all worked!"
Johnson covered the quarter-mile in just 6.894 seconds, the quickest Pro Stock run in NHRA history and the first pass in the 6.80's at an NHRA event. If his time is not bettered before the conclusion of the Pennzoil Nationals, he will take both the NHRA national elapsed time record and a $15,000 bonus from the MBNA World Record Club back to his race shop in Sugar Hill, Georgia. Johnson has already backed up both the new speed and e.t. marks within one percent as required by NHRA rules.
"When I ran 199 mph on my first qualifying run, we realized it was possible to go 200 here," Johnson reported. "We changed the transmission and rearend gear ratios, tuned the engine for the atmospheric conditions we anticipated in the second session, and adjusted the chassis attitude. I'm sure I wasn't the only driver gunning for 200 mph tonight!
"By the time I got to the 1/8th mile mark, I knew the elapsed time record was in jeopardy because the car went perfectly straight when it left the starting line," Johnson recalled. "Then in the last half of the run, the car bounced a few times going over the bumps, and for a nanosecond I thought that 200 mph was out of reach. When I crossed the finish line, the engine was turning 9400 rpm and the rear tires were spinning."
Johnson's 200 mph Pro Stock run was the last of the six great milestones in drag racing's modern era. It ranks alongside the first four-second elapsed times and the first 300 mph runs in Top Fuel and Funny Car, and the first 6-second e.t. in Pro Stock. Kurt Johnson, Warren's 34-year-old son, recorded the first 6-second Pro Stock elapsed time (6.988 seconds) in May, 1994, in Englishtown, New Jersey.
"I have a feeling of relief now that we've finally broken the last barrier," Warren revealed. "We've been chasing this for years. It happened just the way I envisioned it, with Kurt first in the sixes, and me first to 200 mph. Reaching these two milestones was an accomplishment for our entire team -- Kurt, his crew, and my crew together. No individual or single team could have achieved this alone. I'm also grateful to GM Performance Parts for providing the components and the support we needed to get the job done."
Johnson, a 53-year-old mechanical genius known as the "Professor of Pro Stock," was the first Pro Stock driver to break the 180 mph and 190 mph barriers in NHRA competition. Widely regarded as the reigning king of horsepower, Johnson has run the fastest speed at 120 national events in his 22-year career on the NHRA circuit -- more top speeds than any other Pro Stock driver in NHRA history.
Few expected that Virginia Motorsports Park would be the site of the most anticipated run of the season. "Everybody scratched this track off the list of possible venues for the first 200 mph run because it hasn't produced fast runs in the past," Johnson noted. "The weather conditions are typically warm and humid, and the track speed record was only 197.15 mph. But the asphalt is three years old now, and it's relatively smooth and seasoned. When we had good atmospheric conditions, it was simply a matter of being in the right place at the right time."
Johnson relied on the same 500-cubic-inch GM Drag Race Competition Engine that he used to set the elapsed time and speed records earlier this season. "The bad news for our competition is that we've got engines back in the shop that look significantly better than this one," Warren noted. "I predict that if we have these same conditions in another three months, we'll see low-6.80 runs."
Now that Johnson has garnered the prestige and prize money that come with breaking the 200 mph barrier, he is focused on winning the Pennzoil Nationals -- and on capturing his fourth NHRA championship.
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E-mail from: Rick Voegelin, 26-Apr-1997