Baytown: Warren Johnson preview

Warren Johnson is quietly confident heading to Houston. GM Performance Parts Grand Am looks for second win of 2003 at O'Reilly Spring Nationals. Sugar Hill, Ga., April 8, 2003 - Less than one week after the conclusion of final eliminations in...

Warren Johnson is quietly confident heading to Houston.
GM Performance Parts Grand Am looks for second win of 2003 at O'Reilly Spring Nationals.

Sugar Hill, Ga., April 8, 2003 - Less than one week after the conclusion of final eliminations in Las Vegas, the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series finds itself back in action at the O'Reilly Spring Nationals in Houston, Texas. For the first time in the 2003 season, the straight-liners will be competing on back-to-back weekends.

Such proximity between events will be welcomed by teams whose cars have performed well in recent weeks. However, for others, who may have suffered mechanical problems or other difficulties, the shortened schedule will only increase the pressure to find a solution and perform. Having experienced both ends of this competitive spectrum during his illustrious career, Warren Johnson, driver of the GM Performance Parts Grand Am, takes a pragmatic approach.

"Although I don't think you would have to retrain us if we missed a weekend or two, as long as you have enough equipment, racing on consecutive weekends really doesn't matter to me," said Johnson. "The pre-race preparation is the same. It's just that you have less time to do it in."

The primary challenge facing competitors during the abbreviated work week will be adapting to the different conditions at Houston Raceway Park, something W.J. has done well in his nineteen previous appearances. Since qualifying second and advancing to the final round in his first race in Baytown in 1988, Johnson has accumulated five wins and been the low qualifier seven times. Therefore, he is well-versed on how to prepare for this weekend's event.

"There are certain things we will have to change on our GM Performance Parts Grand Am to transition from Las Vegas to Houston," explained Johnson. "For example, we know we will have more power than we had in Vegas, which will naturally dictate a change to the chassis as well as possibly the gearing. These are adjustments that, physically can be made rather easily. The difficulty comes in knowing just how much to change in order to maximize your performance.

"In addition, due to its location on very unstable soil, the racing surface at Houston Raceway Park is in a constant state of flux. Every time we go there, it seems like we find another bump to hit. You don't want to be making a gear change going over a bump, requiring further chassis adjustments. However, we will wait until we get to Texas and evaluate the race track before we make any wholesale modifications."

Johnson heads to Houston looking to further improve on his strong start, which has seen the GM Performance Parts team post one win and a semi-final appearance in the first four races.

"The conditions this weekend should be somewhat reminiscent of Gainesville, which was relatively fast," said Johnson. "If so, we have some changes that have perked up the performance in my GM Performance Parts Grand Am to equalize it with Kurt's ACDelco Cavalier that has performed so well at the last two races.

"Therefore, I believe we should have as good a shot as anyone if not better at the No. 1 qualifying position. We showed some evidence of this on Sunday in Las Vegas, where we were as fast as anyone in Pro Stock. The challenge will be to maintain that advantage for as long as we can, and maximize its benefits, starting this weekend in Houston."

Facts on Warren Johnson and the GM Performance Parts Racing Team entering the O'Reilly Spring Nationals:

* The Professor is well-schooled in Houston: This will be Warren's twentieth appearance at Houston Raceway Park. Throughout his career, WJ has five wins (in 1990, 1994, 1998, 2000 & 2001) in six final round appearances in Houston, with a .714 elimination round win percentage (25-10). In addition, he has been the No. 1 qualifier seven times, and has an overall qualifying average of 2.84.

* Potential milestone performance: With his next elimination round win, Warren Johnson will have won 750 rounds in competition. Overall, WJ has a 749-318 elimination round record, with his .702 winning percentage ranking seventh among all active professional drivers.

* Houston Raceway Park Record Holder: Warren holds the Houston Raceway Park track record for top speed in the Pro Stock category at 202.36 mph, which he established in 1999. WJ is also the current national top speed record holder, having run 204.91 mph earlier this year in Pomona.

* Flying the Stars and Stripes: At the request of their sponsors, Kurt and his father Warren Johnson have replaced the Chevrolet and Pontiac logos on the roofs of their race cars with the American flag to honor America and show their support for the troops.

* One year ago: WJ qualified third for last year's Houston race with an elapsed time of 6.829 seconds and a top speed of 201.58 mph, and advanced to the semi-finals.

* Winning Streak: With his win at the 2003 Winternationals, Warren Johnson extended his streak of winning at least one race a year to 22 years, the longest in NHRA history.

* POWERade Points standings: After the fourth of 23 events, WJ arrives in Las Vegas in third place in the 2003 POWERade points standings with 282 points, 101 behind leader Greg Anderson and 38 behind second place Kurt Johnson. Warren finished fourth in 2002, his twenty-first consecutive Top Five finish.

* No. 1 in National event wins: WJ's 89 national event victories are the most ever in the history of the Pro Stock division and place him 2nd on the all-time NHRA win list. His most recent win came at the 2003 Winternationals in Pomona, CA.

* Career best elapsed time: 6.764 seconds, Pomona 2003

* Career best top speed: 204.91 mph, Pomona 2003 (The fastest pass in NHRA Pro Stock history.)

-jgk-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Greg Anderson