Photo: Chris Simmons
The most highly anticipated portion of the Johnson’s Horsepower Garage Southern Sportsman Showdown was unquestionably the Holley Performance $50,000 64-Car Shootout, and every driver on the property at South Georgia Motorsports Park (SGMP) knew that winning would come with massive bragging rights – along with the whopping check and a beautifully crafted trophy. Joel Warren was up for the challenge and dove right in, knocking out some of the best in the business to take home the biggest prize of the weekend.
Super Stock racer Warren, of Clinton, N.C., masterfully wheeled his SS/HA ’98 Pontiac Firebird to a final round meeting with heavy-hitter Britt Cummings, who was a touch too efficient in getting to the finish line and broke out. Warren launched with a .034-second reaction time and put together a 9.604-second pass at 123.00 mph on his 9.57 dial to get the win over a .031 and breakout 9.889, 129.98 on a 9.89.
“I’ve been looking forward to this race for months,” Warren said. “This was a blast. I knew with Jason [Line], Bo [Butner], and Dave [Connolly], this was a race I wasn’t going to miss.”
Warren scored an easy win in the first round when young Dylan Hough, competing in his first race, turned on the red light and left .003-second too soon.
The second round was one Warren won’t soon forget, as he got to race friend and cousin-in-law Steve Foley. Foley, also making the trek to SGMP from Clinton, was off the starting line first with his C/SA ’98 Camaro SS, but in this instance, that wasn’t a good thing. Foley suffered a loss due to the “first or worst” rule, as his .006 red light matched Warren’s precisely, but because Foley was first to offend, he was ousted from the match and Warren advanced.
“We race together a lot and he beat me last time we went bracket racing. I evened up with him this time,” Warren said with a smile. “Running him was good. That was fun.”
Next up for Warren was a third-round meeting with Jay Storey, whom he bested in a double-breakout. Warren was .027 on the tree with a 9.575 on his 9.58 dial, while Storey was .057 and 8.962 on an 8.97.
In the next round, Warren and Hayden Trumble were identical with their .047 reaction times, but again the round was a double-breakout, and again it was Warren with the win light. He clocked a 9.579 on his 9.58 dial to his challenger’s 9.952, 9.97 and scored a heads-up SS/HA meeting with Jeff Longhany in the semifinals. The two were separated by just .002 as they left the starting line, and Warren’s 9.466 at 138.24 over a 9.679, 132.32 got the respectable nod and set him on the path to victory.
“We never get a chance to race for this kind of money in Stock and Super Stock, and that’s where my heart is,” said Warren. “It’s what I grew up around. Any shot to be able to win that kind of money at a race of this caliber, I didn’t want to miss it.”