Former Pro Stock multi-champion Warren “The Professor” Johnson lived up to his nickname, taking all of his opponents to school to win NHRA’s “Unfinished Business,” a competition that brought eight drag racing legends out of retirement this weekend as part of the 50th annual Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals at Gainesville (Florida) Raceway.
Johnson, of Duluth, Georgia, was one of the most prolific drivers in the Pro Stock category during his three-plus decade racing career, earning six championships and 97 national event wins. And even though he’s retired now, he showed during Saturday’s semifinal and final rounds that he hasn’t lost a step on the quarter-mile.
Johnson defeated former three-time Top Fuel champion Shirley Muldowney in the semifinal round, and then beat former Funny Car great Ed “The Ace” McCulloch in the final round of the eight driver, single-elimination format.
Even though McCulloch got the jump at the starting line to begin the winner-take-all final round, Johnson roared back to win, posting a top elapsed time of 14.73 seconds to McCulloch’s 15.05 seconds.
Johnson’s prize for winning? Just bragging rights and a trophy, but that was fine by him.
“We had a lot of fun at this, but it was really for the fans,” Johnson told National Dragster’s Phi Burgess. “I didn’t do anything to the car but sit in the seat.”
McCulloch, who upset long-time rival Don “The Snake” Prudhomme in Friday’s first round of competition, defeated former Top Fuel champ Joe Amato in Saturday’s semifinal before meeting Johnson in Saturday’s final round.
But once that final round was over and Johnson was declared the winner, McCulloch proposed a grudge match race with Johnson, suggesting they switch cars. All drivers in Unfinished Business competed in equally-prepared Toyota Camrys.
Johnson accepted McCulloch’s challenge, the duo swapped cars and McCulloch ultimately won the “extra round,” covering the quartermile in 15 seconds flat to Johnson’s 15.10-second run.
“I rest my case,” McCulloch laughed to National Dragster. “(Johnson) was taking us to school all weekend. That was a lot of fun. I hope the fans enjoyed it.
“What NHRA and Toyota did with these cars and getting them wrapped and getting all of us old guys together, it was a lot of fun for us and the fans. The competitive nature came out in all of us.”