Warren Johnson stops in Goldsboro
By Sam Atkins
Published in Sports on December 17, 2004 1:56 PM
Drag racing has changed a lot over the years and one man has contributed to its growing popularity.
Warren Johnson, or "The Professor of Pro Stock," as he is known by fans of the sport, is a six-time NHRA Pro-Stock Champion. He spent two hours at the Chevrolet-Cadillac of Goldsboro on Tuesday signing autographs and discussing with fans how things have progressed in racing.
There is better TV coverage than there used to be, which is great because it gives the sport more exposure, which leads to more sponsors and then more money for the sport, said Johnson.
When he began racing over 30 years ago, he had no help getting his car ready for the competition. Now there are 10 people who are making a living by being on his crew.
There are more safety features on the cars now. Johnson helped design and introduce various safety features like the energy-absorbing seat, which is a carbon fiber seat that, in case of an impact, is designed to absorb some of the energy before it gets to the driver.
Cars have dual parachutes and carbon brakes, which helps them stop faster at the end of the quarter-mile.
Johnson, 61, is a Minnesota native and lives in Georgia. He said he does as much work as possible on his car, including building its carburetor and engine. He enjoys having this control and knowing exactly how his car is going to perform. He played a leading role in the development of the powerful GM Drag Racing Competition Engine.
Drag racing is a quarter-mile long stretch and the first one to the finish line wins. Cars can cover the stretch in 6.6 seconds going 205 mph, said Johnson. There are 35 to 50 cars trying to qualify and the 16 fastest cars move on to the final elimination. After four rounds of elimination, the final two drivers go head-to-head.
There are 23 races on the schedule, which spans from February through November. The drivers travel all over the United States, including to New Jersey, Florida, California and Washington.
Johnson's car weighs 2,350 pounds with the driver inside and has between 1,300 and 1,400 horsepower. It will go 0 to 60 mph in less than one second and 0 to 100 mph in less than two seconds.
He has been with General Motors since 1992. He has won 92 races and has 130 number one qualifying performances, which is the most in the division's history. He was named as one of the NHRA's Top 50 drivers during its 50th anniversary celebration and he reset the national elapsed time and top speed records in 2003. His son, Kurt, also races in the same series.
Johnson said he does not mind being one of the older people still racing. He believes cars will continue to get more aerodynamic and faster in the next couple of years. He hits three Gs of acceleration at take off and is at one G at the finish line.
Several of his fans lined up to shake his hand and discuss all aspects of racing.
Richard Synger came with his daughter, Ashley, who has her own junior race car. Synger said he races about three times a month at the track in Kinston. He has been following Johnson his whole career, although he has never been to a race. He said he had been looking forward to meeting him all week.
"We wouldn't have missed this for the world," said Synger.
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