Baytown: Warren Johnson preview

So Far, the 2005 Season Has Followed The Professor's Curriculum GM Performance Parts Team optimistic about chances at O'Reilly Spring Nationals Sugar Hill, Ga., April 4, 2005 -- Through the first three races of the 2005 POWERade Drag Racing...

So Far, the 2005 Season Has Followed The Professor's Curriculum
GM Performance Parts Team optimistic about chances at O'Reilly Spring Nationals

Sugar Hill, Ga., April 4, 2005 -- Through the first three races of the 2005 POWERade Drag Racing season, things have gone pretty close to the way Warren Johnson and his GM Performance Parts Grand Am Racing team have planned. Despite starting the year with a completely new race car and engine combination, Johnson and his veteran crew have established new career bests in elapsed time and top speed, been in contention for the win at every race, and reached the final round at the season-opener in Pomona, CA.

Sitting second in the championship standings entering this weekend's O'Reilly Spring Nationals in Houston, TX, Johnson is optimistic about his chances to continue this positive trend.

"At the beginning the season, before we even got on the track, I saw where we were headed in terms of power and reliability," said Johnson. "When asked about my outlook for the upcoming year, I predicted that either Kurt (son, and driver of the ACDelco Cavalier) or I should win the championship.

"Having completed the first three races, I still firmly believe that. Quite obviously, we've already had the potential to win a few races, and if we're able to pick up the pace a little more, that will only improve our chances. I'm confident that we will both win our share. Of course, it's up to us to get the job done."

Bolstering the Johnson team's positive stance heading to Houston Raceway Park is the still-untapped potential of their raceday combination. Even after three races, their experience with the total package remains relatively limited as their focus between events has remained on the development of the DRCE III powerplant. Therefore, the knowledge gained from each pass down the racetrack should only help to extract additional performance.

"To this point in the season, we only have a total of 20 runs on our GM Performance Parts Grand Am, which under normal circumstances, is just a good day of testing for this team," quipped Johnson. "We're confident that we have only seen the tip of the iceberg. For example, even though we ran that 6.67 in the semi-finals at Gainesville, which was during the hottest part of the day, we still feel as if we left a little on the table. The car left well, and had good incremental times, but it moved around more than we would have liked, so that is one area we will work on.

"Since returning from Florida, we've concentrated on our engine program, assembling additional pieces to help through the back-to-back races ahead. Of course, we didn't want to build spares until we knew what we had was at least in the ball park. Having determined that we're competitive, we can now start building and fine-tuning.

"However, we have a test session planned before we head to Houston. So far, we've basically been tuning this car at the race track, and it has responded favorably. But we now have a laundry list of items we'd like to try without the pressure of a national event to confirm a few things while also exploring new directions. It's all part of putting ourselves in the best position possible to win races, starting this weekend."

Another 2005 development that receives "The Professor's" approval is the return to parity among the "factory hot rods". Having been an active and contributing participant in the Pro Stock division virtually since its inception, Johnson knows its appeal to the fans lies in razor-close competition, with virtually any car in the field having a realistic chance of reaching the winner's circle. With different winners in each of the first three races, and fields qualifying closer than ever, Johnson is optimistic about the future.

"In reality, we have about ten cars in the category that have a legitimate shot at winning races, which is great for the health of the category," said Johnson. "After all, we are here to put on a good show for the fans, and if you can predict the winner, that's not very entertaining. Now we're in a situation, once again, where anyone can win. Fortunately, both my GM Performance Parts Grand Am and Kurt's ACDelco Cavalier can be counted among the contenders. If the early results are any indication, it promises to be a very interesting year in Pro Stock, and we plan to do our share to make it so."

Notes on Warren Johnson and the GM Performance Parts Grand Am racing team entering the O'Reilly Spring Nationals:

* WJ is a Winner at Houston Raceway Park: This will be Warren's 22nd appearance at Houston Raceway Park. In his 21 previous starts, he has five wins in six final round appearances, which is second only to John Force's seven wins for the most among all professional categories. In addition, WJ has a 35-16 elimination round record at HRP for a .686 win percentage.

* Warren Starts Up Front in Houston: In 21 previous races at HRP, Warren has eight No. 1 qualifying performances, only one start outside the top half of the field and a 2.76 average starting position.

* One year ago: Warren qualified third with an elapsed time of 6.737 seconds and advanced to the quarter-finals.

* Most recent HRP win: 2001, when he qualified second and defeated Greg Anderson, Jim Yates, Bruce Allen and Mark Pawuk en route to the 83rd win of his career.

-j2r-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mark Pawuk , Warren Johnson , Bruce Allen