Returning to Charlotte Reminds WJ of His Work in NASCAR GM Performance Parts GXP driver once assisted legendary stock car racer Sugar Hill, Ga., September 10, 2008 -- The name Warren Johnson is synonymous with drag racing's Pro Stock...
Returning to Charlotte Reminds WJ of His Work in NASCAR
GM Performance Parts GXP driver once assisted legendary stock car racer
Sugar Hill, Ga., September 10, 2008 -- The name Warren Johnson is synonymous with drag racing's Pro Stock category. After all, in a Hall of Fame career spanning four decades, the GM Performance Parts Pontiac GXP racer has done it all, from winning races and championships to playing a major role in the evolution of the "factory hot rod" from a production-based vehicle to a purpose-built racing thoroughbred.
However, as the POWERade Drag Racing Series makes its first foray into the heart of NASCAR country for this weekend's inaugural Carolina NHRA Nationals in Concord, NC, the man acknowledged by fans and fellow competitors as "The Professor of Pro Stock" recalled a time when a legendary figure from the stock car circuit, whose name is quite familiar to those in the Tar Heel State, had come to him for assistance, eventually offering an opportunity to join his organization. Although he did provide his fellow racer with some much needed mechanical help, fortunately for his many legions of fans, WJ opted to remain on the quarter-mile.
"I did some engine work for Junior Johnson back in 1976, which, as I recall, picked up their program significantly," said Johnson. "I believe he had heard about me from A.J. Foyt, for whom I had also done some work. I did the top side of Junior's motors back in Minnesota, while they did all the short blocks in North Carolina.
"It was a rather interesting experience. I was at his shop on numerous occasions, and at that time, their technology was significantly behind us, as this preceded the major sponsorships and engineering work that are common today. Since then, however, with the major influx of cash in that series, they have been able to catch up and perhaps even surpass us in certain areas.
"At one point, he asked me to join his team on a permanent basis. However, being from Minnesota, where that type of racing was virtually non-existent, I had already started my career in drag racing, and was just starting to do well, so that's where I stayed. Maybe if I had been raised down south, and grown up around stock car racing, my decision might have gone the other way, but I have no regrets about the path my career has taken. Ironically, thirty or so years later, we'll be coming back to the Charlotte area to drag race with our GM Performance Parts GXP."
Located in the Charlotte suburb of Concord, the Zmax Dragway will be making its competitive debut this weekend. Even before the race has begun, this latest offering from Bruton Smith's Speedway Motorsports group has established itself as the new gold standard in drag racing. However, in addition to looking forward to the many amenities awaiting both the racers and the anticipated sellout crowds, Johnson is also looking to expose fans accustomed to watching cars run in circles to the fast-paced, highly competitive nature of quarter-mile competition.
"After testing there last week, the GM Performance Parts crew is looking forward to getting back to Concord for the race," said Johnson. "It was good when we were there, and with more rubber on it, it can only get better. We had a good test, and armed with that information, we look to be strong right out of the box.
"It will also be good to put on a show in what is considered the middle of NASCAR country. With all of the media exposure, we have already seen a tremendous amount of crossover in many forms of motorsports. However, being able to have a race at such an incredible facility right in these people's back yards where they can come out and watch it will be great.
"We had a comparable situation when we first raced in Richmond. Prior to our arrival, most of the fans had only been exposed to circle-track racing, simply because there wasn't a suitable drag racing facility in their area. However, once we started racing at Virginia Motorsports Park, people came out, liked what they saw and came back in subsequent years. I believe we'll have similar situation here in Concord, which will help everyone out in the long run."