Warren “The Professor” Johnson was born in Virginia, Minnesota an area that wasn’t known as a hot bed of drag racing, but the professor took advantage of the semi isolated conditions. While spending his days at work in a steel fabrication shop, he was enrolled in engineering classes at night. Warrens interest in cars and racing began around the age of 10 and he purchased his first car at 14, a 1949 Chevy.
By 1961 he had managed to put together a 1957 Chevy C/MP car in which he began his climb to fame and notoriety. In 1971 he was able to purchase a new Camaro, which he promptly stripped down and outfitted to meet the newest NHRA Pro Stock class. His first outing was a less than spectacular debuting at the 1971 NHRA US Nationals in Indianapolis. The experience made him more determined than ever to be in the winner’s circle. He and wife, Arlene, along with their son, Kurt, spent the next several years competing with the Camaro whenever and wherever they could. During this time, Warren was also building race engines for his competitors to finance his own drag racing endeavor and learning more about engine development as he went. In 1975 Warren added an “evil handling” Chevy Vega pro-stock car to his stable and it was the combination of the Vega, the backwoods track he competed on, and his desire to win that help make him into one of the greatest pro-stock builders and drivers ever.
1975 was the year that 32-year-old Warren made the decision to become a professional drag racer. With no sponsorship and very little available funds, he entered the NHRA Pro Stock arena. In 1976 Warren was able to finish in runner-up position for the NHRA Winston Pro Stock Championship, all while competing with his home built 1972 Camaro. From 1979 to 1981 Warren competed on the IHRA pro-stock circuit where he won back to back IHRA Pro-Stock Championships. To help with finances, he also barnstormed on the pro-stock match race circuit where he picked up additional knowledge about engines, suspension, and driving.
In 1982 NHRA replaced its old complex pro-stock roles with a straightforward formula of weight to inches. Warren again entered the NHRA Pro Stock war and notched his first national event when at the 1982 Summernationals in Englishtown, New Jersey. When Oldsmobile decided to launch a serious drag racing program in 1983, Warren was the person they contacted to develop the engine/program. It was Warren who reworked the big block Chevrolet V-8 to create one of the strongest and most durable power plants available. That engine, the drag racing competition engine, still remains the foundation of GM’s pro-stock engine program.
Warren won his first Winston Championship title in 1992 and literally dominated pro-stock in the 1990s winning championships in 1992, 1993, 1995, 1998, 1999, in 2001. The man who is affectionately known as “The Professor” has one a total of eight championships (six with NHRA and two with IHRA). In 1997 Warren became the first NHRA pro-stock competitor to exceed 200 MPH with a run of 200.13 MPH and the first with a sub 6.90 ET with a 6.89 second ET at Richmond Virginia. In 2006 he notched his 500th career race victory.
In 2007 Warren was inducted into the international Motorsports Hall of Fame. Later he was honored as one of drag racing’s 50 greatest drivers. In May 2010 he became the oldest professional national event winner in NHRA history by winning the Midwest Nationals in Madison, Illinois, at the age of 68. Along with these honors Warren was inducted into the NHRA Division 2 Hall of Fame in 2011, the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame in 2012, the Legends of Bristol Hall of Fame in 2013, and is the third winningest driver in NHRA competition. Warren has also contributed a lot toward the safety and reliability of pro-stock with his constant innovations which include: using a funny car cage, the seven point and nine-point seatbelts, and several engine/suspension modifications to name a few.