Baytown: Warren Johnson preview

In the Wake of a Tragedy, The Professor Assigns Homework GM Performance Parts GTO driver suggests thorough examination of Medlen incident Sugar Hill, Ga., March 28, 2007 -- This weekend, the POWERade Drag Racing Series heads to Baytown, TX for...

In the Wake of a Tragedy, The Professor Assigns Homework
GM Performance Parts GTO driver suggests thorough examination of Medlen incident

Sugar Hill, Ga., March 28, 2007 -- This weekend, the POWERade Drag Racing Series heads to Baytown, TX for the fourth event of the 2007 season, the O'Reilly Spring Nationals. Under normal circumstances, one of the primary discussions heading into the race would concern performance, with competitors making sure their race cars would be ready to extract every ounce of performance each time down the quarter-mile.

However, in the wake of Eric Medlen's untimely death following a testing accident in Florida, talk has deservedly concentrated on fond remembrances of the talented young racer's life. While naturally echoing the sense of loss and sadness expressed by all, GM Performance Parts GTO pilot Warren Johnson wants to make sure that the necessary lessons are learned from this tragic event.

"Wally Parks founded the NHRA over 50 years ago to provide competitors a safe place to race," said Johnson. "That premise remains in effect today. Drag racing is certainly a sport, but it is also how we make our living, so I am adamant about minimizing the risks involved. We have sadly lost one of our brightest young stars and as much as we all would like, we can't change that. What's important now is how we move forward."

Throughout his 36-year Pro Stock career, Johnson has taken an active role in the area of racer safety. From being the first to employ the Funny Car-style roll cage in a Pro Stock race car to the energy-absorbing seat he designed a few years ago in conjunction with experts from the open-wheel racing community, "The Professor" has worked as hard at protecting competitors and fans as he has at finding horsepower. In this case, however, his goal is not to assign blame or suggest a solution. Instead, he offers a well-chosen analogy as to how he believes those in power should proceed.

"I know everyone agrees that losing even one life is totally unacceptable," stated Johnson. "Therefore, I suggest that we handle this accident, as well as any on-track incident, much like the NTSB approaches a plane crash. In other words, reconstruct the event, examining every detail no matter how minute, bringing in whatever experts are needed. Every element involved that day needs to be considered from the weather and racetrack to the car, its driver and the safety equipment, painstakingly inspecting each piece individually and together, until we find out exactly what happened.

"We may end up realizing that there was nothing we could have done better, or we could learn something new that will help in the future. In either case, the information gathered is important to preserving the safety of those involved. Doing that, while continuing to try our very best on the track this weekend, is the only way to truly honor the memory of a great kid taken from us way too soon."

-credit: j2r

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson , Eric Medlen