Warren Johnson is the most winning driver in the historically ultra-competitive Pro Stock category, and five of his 97 NHRA national event victories have come at Atlanta Dragway. None of those wins, though, hold the top spot in terms of best memories for competitor who owns six NHRA series titles and two from his days racing IHRA.
Another memory he does not hold in the highest regard is when he crashed his Pro Stocker during testing at Atlanta Dragway during a test session in 2010.
“We were only going to the eighth mile, and I’d already shut it off – but all of a sudden, it just got quiet,” he said. “I thought, ‘oh, this is going to hurt.’ ”
Johnson’s car slid on a patch of Georgia’s characteristic pollen, hit the wall, and flipped upside down. He emerged from the car uninjured, with no black and blue marks and no detectable soreness, despite the recorder calculating almost unbelievable G-forces at the hit.
No, Johnson’s fondest memory will now and forevermore be one that occurred before the track was even sanctioned for NHRA competition.
“I won my first IHRA national championship at Atlanta Dragway in 1979,” recalled the Minnesota native, who is a longtime Georgia resident with a still-humming race shop just 42 miles from the facility.
“That’s the one that stands out the most for me because I was in fourth place and had to win the race to win the championship. I’ve won races there a few times, and overall it’s been a good track for me,” concluded the man known as the Professor of Pro Stock.
Johnson, whose biography will be released this month on the CarTech Books label, was on site at Atlanta Dragway for this weekend’s 40th Lucas Oil NHRA Southern Nationals. It will be the final NHRA race held at the esteemed facility before it is shuttered at the conclusion of the season, and Johnson was invited to participate in a celebratory track walk honoring its history.
Johnson spent the morning greeting a throng of fans who came to walk the track with him, Greg Anderson, John Force, Antron Brown, Eddie Krawiece, and Angelle Sampey. Each track-walk participant received a Warren Johnson commemorative mini-helmet, and Johnson signed every one that was presented to him.
“We’ve always enjoyed the fans here. This has been a good track, and you hate to see it go. But I was here for the first, and I’m here for the last,” said Johnson.
Scroll down for more photos of Johnson at Atlanta Dragway’s final NHRA event.
You can preorder “Warren ‘The Professor’ Johnson, the Cars, People, & Wins Behind His Pro Stock Success” here.