Columbus: Warren Johnson preview

WJ Aims for an Efficient, Error-Free Weekend in Columbus GM Performance Parts GTO Crew Ready to Get Back on Winning Track Sugar Hill, Ga., May 16, 2006 -- In the first seven races of the 2006 POWERade Drag Racing season, the NHRA's Pro Stock...

WJ Aims for an Efficient, Error-Free Weekend in Columbus
GM Performance Parts GTO Crew Ready to Get Back on Winning Track

Sugar Hill, Ga., May 16, 2006 -- In the first seven races of the 2006 POWERade Drag Racing season, the NHRA's Pro Stock category has lived up to its reputation as the most competitive division in all of motorsports, with a different winner in each event. With every one of the sixteen racers who qualify for Sunday's final eliminations having a legitimate shot at the title, it takes the combination of a near-perfect effort and a little racing luck to end the day in the winner's circle.

At every stop so far, Warren Johnson and the GM Performance Parts GTO Racing team have shown themselves to be contenders once again this season, with strong runs both in qualifying and eliminations. However, with only one national event win in Phoenix followed by a string of early exits, they enter this weekend's Pontiac Performance Nationals in Columbus, OH determined to eliminate the miscellaneous issues that have dogged them recently and return to the winning form for which they are known.

"We have all the parts and pieces, but we just haven't been able to put them in the right order on a consistent basis," stated Johnson. "Our performance in the so-called 'bad' sessions in Bristol and Atlanta has shown that our GM Performance Parts GTO is capable of running near the front, if not out front, so it's just a matter of taking that combination and getting it to work under all conditions.

"We may have been a little too conservative when we should have been aggressive, trying not to shoot ourselves in the foot, which might have allowed some of our competitors to get around us. It's really no one's fault but our own, which fortunately we can fix.

"For example, both (son) Kurt and I tested on Monday after Atlanta. The conditions were almost identical to the day before, and by feeding our cars more of what they needed, we both ran in the 6.6-second range with speeds over 207 mph, confirming what we thought. All this has done is given us a new game plan and made us even more determined to excel at the upcoming races."

Should Johnson indeed decide to modify his approach for this weekend's event, it will come on a track with which he is quite familiar. This will be "The Professor's" 31st appearance at National Trail Raceway, which is only three shy of all national events held there. It is the site of his first elimination round win as, in only his second Pro Stock start ever, he stormed from the 13th starting position and upset veterans Scott Shafiroff and Wayne Gapp before falling to eventual winner Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins in the semifinals, giving the straight-line set a preview of the greatness that was to follow. Ironically, 31 years, 96 national event wins, 469 starts and 1,192 round wins later, one of the things the drag iracing con remembers most as he returns to Columbus was how he supplemented his income in the early days in Ohio.

"Racing in Columbus has always presented its own unique challenges," recalled Johnson. "For example, in the 70's when the Raders owned it, the pit area at National Trail was a grass field. Since you really couldn't make any money racing, I used to bring my lawn mower with me and rent it out to other racers for $10 a shot so they could mow their spots and work on their race cars. I did that for about four or five years and made some extra cash.

"Thirty years later, we're still adapting to conditions at National Trail Raceway. It's always been a tricky track, as witnessed a couple years ago when we had two Pro Stock cars crash in the first round of eliminations. We also never seem to run as well as the atmospheric conditions would indicate, even after the track was resurfaced, so traction continues to be at a premium. It's the same for everyone, so you just have be cogniscent of it and adjust your tune-up accordingly.

"It's been a strange year for Pro Stock, with seven winners in the first seven races. Although that certainly wears on the competitors, it's great for the fans and for the category. Even so, we will go into Columbus with the same attitude we enter every race, namely to win. Other than the possibility of rain, I don't think the track is going to throw us any curves, so this GM Performance Parts crew will make sure we are as prepared as we can be, adjusting to whatever we encounter, with everything including our Pontiac GTO, the driver and the crew making sure to do their jobs as best as possible."

-j2r-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson