THE WARREN REPORT: Warren Johnson GM Goodwrench Service Plus News and Notes for the Pontiac Excitement Nationals, Columbus, Ohio, June 16-18, and the Sears Craftsman Nationals, Madison, Ill., June 22-24 JOHNSON CHANGES HORSES FOR COLUMBUS RUN ...
THE WARREN REPORT: Warren Johnson GM Goodwrench Service Plus News and Notes for the Pontiac Excitement Nationals, Columbus, Ohio, June 16-18, and the Sears Craftsman Nationals, Madison, Ill., June 22-24
JOHNSON CHANGES HORSES FOR COLUMBUS RUN
Warren Johnson didn't win five NHRA Winston championships by being conservative. Now just 12 points away from first place in the championship race, W.J. is not about to race defensively. This weekend "The Professor" will debut a new Jerry Haas-built Pontiac Grand Am at the Pontiac Excitement Nationals at National Trail Raceway.
The newest car to wear the silver-and-black GM Goodwrench Service Plus colors has never made a run in national event competition - but that doesn't bother W.J.
"When we tested the new car at Atlanta Dragway this week, we told the management to make the track as ugly as they could," Johnson said. "We wanted the worst possible scenario to prepare for Columbus -- and the car went right down the track.
"We really tried to shake the tires, but couldn't," W.J. continued. "We went up 1,000 rpm on the starting line and even that didn't bother the car. I'm not saying that this car is any faster than my other car, but it certainly is more forgiving."
Warren's son Kurt campaigns a Cavalier that was also constructed in Haas' shop, so the team has a solid baseline for the chassis setup.
"The two chassis are identical except for shock absorbers," Warren noted. "At the end of the day of testing, we left the track with the same setup we started with."
This year's Pontiac Excitement Nationals will mark Warren's 26th national event at National Trail Raceway. With three victories, five runner-up finishes and eight No. 1 qualifying performances, W.J. is very familiar with the nuances of the venerable facility.
"National Trail never produces the results you expect," he observed. "The performance always falls short of predictions. When you consider the altitude, the atmospheric conditions and the track conditions, we should run five to eight hundredths quicker and two miles per hour faster at National Trail than we do. It's an anomaly."
One week later Warren will take on Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill. Johnson won the inaugural Sears Craftsman Nationals there in 1997, and he advanced to the semi-finals in last year's event.
"We don't have much of a book on Gateway," Johnson conceded. "The track isn't very old, and the racing surface was recently ground. We really don't know what to expect.
"The track will certainly be smoother than it was last year, but the variable is the amount of rubber that sticks to the surface. We can deal with a smooth track even if the traction is marginal - but a track that is bumpy is a real bear." <pre> WARREN JOHNSON'S PONTIAC EXCITEMENT NATIONALS RECORD Year Qual. Result 1975 13 Semi-final 1976 2 Runner-up (to Booth) 1977 9 First Round 1978 1 Second Round 1979 14 Second Round 1981 14 Did not run 1982 4 Semi-final 1983 4 First Round 1984 1 Second Round 1985 3 Winner (over Allen) 1986 1 Runner-up (to Leal) 1987 3 First Round 1988 2 First Round 1989 3 Second Round 1990 2 Semi-final 1991 3 Runner-up (to Alderman) 1992 4 Second Round 1993 1 Winner (over K. Johnson) 1994 1 Second Round 1995 1 Runner-up (to Schmidt) 1996 3 Runner-up (to Harris) 1997 11 Second Round 1998 2 First Round 1999 1 Winner (over J. Coughlin) 2000 1 Second Round
WARREN JOHNSON'S SEARS CRAFTSMAN NATIONALS RECORD Year Qual. Result 1997 2 Winner (over Yates) 1998 1 Second Round 1999 11 First Round 2000 7 Semi Final