GTO Sets The Pace In Pro Stock Qualifying At BIR Warren Johnson Drives New Pontiac To NHRA Record 136th Pole BRAINERD, Minn., August 13, 2005 - Led by GM Performance Parts Pontiac driver Warren Johnson, a pair of GTOs set the Pro Stock...
GTO Sets The Pace In Pro Stock Qualifying At BIR
Warren Johnson Drives New Pontiac To NHRA Record 136th Pole
BRAINERD, Minn., August 13, 2005 - Led by GM Performance Parts Pontiac driver Warren Johnson, a pair of GTOs set the Pro Stock qualifying pace this weekend at the Lucas Oil Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway, with the "Professor's" Pontiac pulverizing the track e.t. and speed record with a run of 6.698 seconds at 206.57 mph. It was the 136th career pole for the six-time NHRA champion and northern Minnesota native, and the second time since it entered competition four races ago that a GTO has captured the No. 1 starting spot.
"The GTO is definitely more stable downtrack," said Johnson. "The aero package is basically identical to the Cutlass as far as front and rear numbers, which was really a car ahead of its time as far as a racecar envelope was concerned. The GTO has the same numbers, but it has a smaller frontal area and therefore it takes less horsepower to push it through the air. The GTO has tremendous stability, and in my estimation, it is the best car out here right now."
Johnson debuted his Pontiac GTO in grand fashion by driving to his fifth career pole at this race and his sixth of 2005. Including the three four passes made on the car earlier this week on Wednesday at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill., Johnson has still only made a total of seven runs on his new Pontiac GTO. The four-time winner of the Lucas Oil Nationals is currently second in the points standings and looking for his first victory at BIR since 1996.
"We could tell that the GTO, aero wise, was so significantly better than what we had before," said Johnson. "We felt it was in our best interest as a team to work on this thing and get it out here as soon as possible. We tested in St. Louis, it threatened to rain, and they pulled the clocks, so we really only got three runs on it there. We came up here and kept pecking away at it. Although there are a lot of things that we have to learn about the car, I'm happy with where it is right now. Obviously there is a lot of work to do because there are going to be a lot of other guys with GTOs out here shortly who will also gain from the immediate benefits that this body style has shown."
Qualified in the No. 2 spot behind Johnson is the defending race champion, Greg Anderson, whose Summit Racing Pontiac GTO ended time trials with a 6.700 e.t. at 206.35 mph. Since throwing his new Pontiac into competition at the Mile-High Nationals, Anderson's GTO has now entered raceday qualified second or better twice, in the No. 4 position once and seventh at the last event in Sonoma (Calif.), a race which he won.
"We had our chance to move up to No. 1 but we didn't get it done," said Anderson. "We're pretty pleased though with our GTO. She's definitely making nice runs. We've made four good passes already this weekend, and there is no question that the left lane is where want to be tomorrow. If we can stay there all day then we have a good chance of winning the race."
The quickest Chevy Cobalt in the 16-car field belongs to Kurt Johnson. Johnson's ACDelco Chevrolet improved during both sessions of Saturday time trials to advance to the No. 3 starting spot after running 6.721 seconds at 205.13 mph in the final round.
"We changed some stuff on the engine over the week, freshened up the pistons, rods, and it was close on the dyno, but it didn't want to run the last 600 rpm," said Johnson. "That was kind of showing up on the last 300 feet of the racetrack. It just wasn't happy. The O2 sensors were off, everything was a little crazy, so we finally took a good look at what the car was telling us and we started going in that direction. We started getting after the motor and got it better, but then again, the first thing we did was change the four-link around, which is something we haven't had to do in a long time. We climbed from being 10th all the way to fifth, and ended up being third, so we're pretty pleased. We feel this ACDelco Chevy is a racecar we can win with tomorrow."
Other Chevrolets to make the starting grid included Rickie Smith (qualified fourth), Dave Howard (qualified sixth), Ron Krisher (qualified eighth) and Dave Connolly (qualified 15th).
"We now have a total of six runs on the car and two of them (during testing) didn't count," said Krisher. "We're trying to figure out 15 different combinations on this new Cobalt all at the same time. We have a little different power than we did before and we have a little less understanding of this car. We have a ratio problem going down the track, it's crossing too high and we have to bring it down. We're trying to figure out the best way to resolve it, whether it's with wing, or the rearend ratio, to get to where we have to go. We can't afford to gamble right now because we're not sure what these kind of moves will do on a new car. We're sorting our way through it one peck at a time."
Jason Line is qualified seventh in a Pontiac and Jim Yates will begin Sunday eliminations in the No. 12 position.
"Right now this Pontiac Grand Am is running pretty good," said Yates. "We're really killing it down low getting the first 330 feet of the race track covered pretty quickly, but I think we're giving up a little bit downtrack to the new GTOs and Cobalts. If we could pick up from the eighth-mile to the finish line, where the aerodynamics of the newer cars come into play, then we move up pretty significantly in the field. Right now the e.t. and speed at the finish line is what counts. We're working on the engine tune up to see if there is something we can do to step it up a little bit, and we're wiggling around with the engine tune-up trying to make a little more horsepower that will help us run more speed."
In Funny Car, Tommy Johnson Jr. had his best qualifying effort of the season, driving the Skoal Racing Chevy Monte Carlo to the No. 2 spot with a run of 4.751 seconds at 326.24 mph.
"We were shooting for a 4.77," said Johnson. "We knew the conditions were going to be good today and it's unusual when you get Saturday conditions as good or better as Friday night. You have to take advantage of that whenever you can. There were 4.70s being thrown out all over the place so we were shooting to improve on our 4.80. The Skoal Racing Chevy Monte Carlo performed better than expected early in the run and that helped us on the top end. That 326 mph is about the second or third fastest speed we've ever run. This is a great time of the year to have this Chevy Monte Carlo performing like it is, especially going into the Skoal Showdown at Indy. This team is really strong and we're only going to get better and better as the year goes on. If you're going to make a run for the championship, you have to get better and this is the perfect time."
"Qualifying dictates a lot of things. We have lane choice, and also your opponents know that they have to run really good to beat you. If we can get some breaks, avoid tire smoke, and manage to run good all day, then maybe we can put this thing in the winner's circle."
Qualifying for the Lucas Oil Nationals can be seen on ESPN2 on Saturday, August 13, beginning at 6 p.m. Eastern. Final eliminations will be telecast on ESPN2 on Sunday, August 14, starting at 7 p.m. Eastern.