NHRA: Warren ‘The Professor’ Johnson wins ‘Unfinished Business’ battle of retired drag racing greats

Photos courtesy NHRA
2 Comments

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.

Pro Stock great Warren Johnson won the “Unfinished Business” matchup of drag racing greats Saturday at Gainesville (Florida) Raceway. Photo courtesy NHRA.

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.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

Roczen Progressive Ecstar Suzuki
Align Media
0 Comments

ANAHEIM, California – Ken Roczen will make the move from HRC Honda to H.E.P. Motorsports with the Progressive Ecstar Suzuki team, ending a long and eventful offseason that saw his split from his longstanding team after he committed to running World Supercross (WSX).

“H.E.P. Motorsports is thrilled to announce that the team has signed Ken Roczen as its premier rider for the 2023 season,” the team announced on Instagram. “Former AMA Motocross champion Roczen will be aboard a Suzuki RM-Z450. Roczen, who won his most recent championship on a Suzuki, will be reunited with the brand and bring his exciting style, determination, and grit back to the RM Army.

“Ken Roczen will compete in the upcoming 2023 Supercross and Motocross Championship series which is set to start on January 7 at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California.”

For Roczen, it is a return to the bike of his youth and on which he had some of his greatest professional success.

“This thing has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks in the making, but there was so much uncertainty,” Roczen told NBC Sports during Monster Energy Supercross Media Sessions. “It was a very unique situation. I just finally signed two nights ago, so it’s really only legit once the ink hits the paper. It’s been in the works for a long time, but there were just a lot of questions and a lot of input from a lot of other teams too.

“Good things take time, and I’m okay with that. I grew up riding Suzuki. Ot’s like a homecoming. It’s a special feeling”

Roczen won the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on a Suzuki before making the move to Honda. That year he won nine of 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second as he easily outpaced Eli Tomac by 86 points. He finished third in his next Pro Motocross outing in 2018 after sitting out the outdoor season in 2017.

“I am beyond excited to reconnect with Suzuki for the 3rd time in my career. We’ve had a lot of success in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in our future.” Roczen said in the Instagram post.