After racing through life as a six-time champion in the National Hot Rod Association, Warren Johnson is maintaining a rapid pace when it comes to being inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame (IMHOF).
Johnson, 63, figured he would have to wait a few more years before hearing his name called as an IMHOF member. Instead, he is going in as part of the Class of 2007, along with Bruton Smith, Jack Ingram, Junie Donlavey, Ray Hendrick and Wayne Rainey.
“When I looked at some of the distinguished names on the list of the 20 finalists (for induction this year), I pretty much dismissed my chances of being included in the final cut,” Johnson admitted. “I was rather amazed when I received the call letting me know that I was among the six inductees. To have my name listed alongside such racing legends … is quite an honor.”
Johnson won 96 Pro Stock races in his 30-year NHRA career and captured the title in the POWERade Pro Stock division six times. He is No. 7 on the list of the NHRA’s 50 Greatest Drivers, and becomes only the seventh member of the drag racing community to be inducted into the IMHOF, joining Wally Parks, “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, Shirley Muldowney, Joe Amato and Bob Glidden.
Johnson gives much of the credit for his achievements to the team he has assembled around him at Warren Johnson Enterprises.
“Whatever success I have enjoyed is strictly the result of the quality of the people I have had working with me over the years,” Johnson said.
But it was Johnson who built and expanded that team. He said he was able to do so because he viewed drag racing as more than just a sport.
“I have attacked this arena differently than some of my Pro Stock contemporaries, in that I have always seen this as a business, and treat it as such,” said Johnson, who is known as “The Professor” to many of his friends and colleagues. “Therefore, more than anything else, I had to make a profit at the end of the year. Without a profit, there is no business. It’s a philosophy that has served me well for over 30 years.”
Johnson won his first race in 1963 at Minnesota Dragway, near his hometown of Fridley, Minn. He began racing NHRA Pro Stock fulltime in 1975, finishing second in the point standings in ’76 and fifth in ’77.
Johnson took a brief break from the NHRA circuit from 1979-81. During that time, he won back-to-back IHRA Pro Stock titles and competed in a number of “barnstorming” match-race events.
He returned to the NHRA and won his first national event at the 1982 Summer Nationals. That began a streak in which Johnson won at least one national event for 20 consecutive years. He dominated Pro Stock in the 1990s, winning championships in 1992, ’93, ’95, ’98 and ’99. He won 30 percent of the races during that decade and appeared in 44 percent of the final rounds. Johnson closed the decade by running the top speed at every event on the schedule during the 1999 season.
While induction into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame could be considered an ideal way for him to cap his career, Johnson gives no indication that he is ready to slow down.
“I doubt this will be my swan song,” Johnson said. “The only certainty is that I’ll know it when it gets here, and since I haven’t seen the day I’ll leave the sport yet, I’m not about to try and forecast it. After all, I still have to make a living at this.”
About the International Motorsports Hall of Fame & Museum
Opened in April of 1983, the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and Museum is dedicated to the preservation of the history of motorsports. Each year, the annual International Motorsports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony is held on the grounds of the museum to honor those men and women chosen for induction from among the greatest names in all of motorsports. This year’s black-tie ceremony consists of a reception, banquet and awards ceremony and is set for Thursday, April 26, 2007. Individual tickets are $125 and a table for eight may be reserved for $1,000 by calling (256) 362-5002. Visa, Mastercard and Discover are accepted. The IMHOF and Museum and Pitshop Retail Store are open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., 7 days a week with the exception of major holidays. Admission to the museum is $10 for adults, $5 for kids age 7 to 17 and free for kids age 6 and younger. Tours of Talladega Superspeedway are also available at a cost of $5 for adults, $4 for kids age 7 to 17 and free for kids age 6 and younger. A discounted combo tour of both facilities is also available.
About Aaron’s Dream Weekend At Talladega Superspeedway
Talladega Superspeedway officials are preparing to welcome back fans for its first races of the 2007 NASCAR season during the Aaron’s Dream Weekend, featuring the Aaron’s 312 NASCAR Busch Series and Aaron’s 499 NEXTEL Cup Series races, set for April 27-29. Tickets for and more information about the Aaron’s Dream Weekend are available by calling 1-877-Go2-DEGA (462-3342) Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. CDT, or by logging onto www.racetickets.com. For our hearing impaired guests, please call TDD 1-866-ISC-TRAK (1-866-472-8725). You may also purchase tickets in person at Talladega Superspeedway’s Ticket Office from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. CDT, Monday – Friday.