The Professor’s holding class

As a technological exercise, auto racing attracts a lot of highly intelligent people who natural curiosity is forged in an unquenchable addiction to go faster than the other guy. In drag racing, it led a farm kid from frigid, rural Minnesota to become one of the sport’s great thinkers, innovators and competitors. In Pro Stock, where hundredths of a second can cover an entire qualified field on race day, Warren Johnson assembled a veritable army of horsepower encompassing himself, son Kurt and hired guns like Don Beverley after he relocated to the warmer climes of Georgia. WJ, as they call him, ranks high on the National Hot Rod Association’s list of its 50 greatest drivers. When Oldsmobile existed as a brand at General Motors, and too briefly became its primary force in pro-level drag racing, Johnson carried the crest in competition and did much of the serious engine research. He is one of the great and influential figures in modern drag racing and now, in retirement, his story is being told.

This is the latest entry in the series, or progression, of admirable drag histories that are in the catalog of CarTech publishing, which offers the Johnson saga here, and which like the subject also hails from Minnesota. Its 176 softcover pages are the work of California drag journalist and publicist Kelly Wade, whose narrative benefits immeasurably from an obvious close connection to the Johnson clan, and the richness their tales deliver to the text. This is a comprehensive, chronological story that is chockablock with facts and photos, such as the oft-overlooked reality that in 1999, WJ set top speed of the meet in Pro Stock at every one of the NHRA’s national events that year, the first driver in Pro Stock to accomplish that level of domination. The book includes a priceless photo of The Professor’s first win in Pro Stock – I was there – when he holeshotted the great Lee Shepherd in the final round of the 1982 Summernationals at the fabled Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey. Like all these CarTech drag histories, you’ll love it.

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