Commerce: Warren Johnson preview

WJ Works to Head from the Hall to the Atlanta Winner's Circle GM Performance Parts GTO crew preps for a Hall of Fame performance at home track Sugar Hill, Ga., April 25, 2007 -- Warren Johnson's week leading up to the Summit Racing Equipment ...

WJ Works to Head from the Hall to the Atlanta Winner's Circle
GM Performance Parts GTO crew preps for a Hall of Fame performance at home track

Sugar Hill, Ga., April 25, 2007 -- Warren Johnson's week leading up to the Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals promises to be unlike that of any other competitor heading over to Atlanta Dragway this weekend. The first two days will be spent in typical fashion, with Johnson and his GM Performance Parts GTO crew spending long hours at their shop in Sugar Hill, preparing for the rigors of competition.

However, on Wednesday morning, the six-time champion will drive over to Talladega, AL to the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, where, following two days of celebratory functions, he will be formally inducted as part of the Class of 2007, joining fellow racing legends Junie Donleavy, Ray Hendrick, Jack Ingram, Wayne Rainey and Bruton Smith. Although acknowledging this function will cut into his normal pre-race routine, Johnson readily admits this is one honor for which he is more than willing to make time.

"With Atlanta Dragway only a half hour away from our shop, under normal circumstances, this week I'd be working in Sugar Hill until just before they called our GM Performance Parts GTO to the lanes for the first qualifying session," quipped Johnson. "However, this year, we'll be taking a breather to participate in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, where I am proud to be a part of this year's class. Considering the caliber of the people being inducted alongside of me, as well as those admitted beforehand, this is certainly an honor, and one I would not miss.

"Of course, considering I am the only one in my class that has to hurry back to work on Thursday night after the ceremony, I either must be doing this wrong or having way too much fun to give it up. In any case, it's an experience I am truly looking forward to."

Fortunately, The Professor's vast experience at Atlanta Dragway should help compensate for his curtailed preparation time. Besides making his 27th national event appearance at the Commerce quarter-mile this weekend, since moving to the Atlanta area in the 80's, the venerable racing facility has also been one of Johnson's favorite testing sites. With five wins in eight final rounds and 10 No. 1 qualifying performances, he is well familiar with what it takes to succeed on his home track, but minimizes any notion of a home track advantage. However, based on his team's recent surge in performance, he is cautiously optimistic about his chances, especially considering the NHRA's newly-constituted championship format.

"The NHRA has its own unique way of preparing a racetrack for competition," said Johnson. "Therefore, if you test on a national event track prior to the event, the only valid information you will gather on the racing surface is where the bumps are and how to adjust your gear ratios to the climatic conditions. Fortunately, the forecast is calling for the warmest temperatures of the season, which, coupled with the 1100 feet of altitude, will make it significantly different from anything else we've seen so far this year.

"Historically, our program has done well under challenging conditions, as I cut my teeth on tracks from Pueblo, Colorado to Nebraska and Kansas and everywhere in between, where I learned to adapt to racing under just about every conceivable circumstance. Combining that with the forward momentum we have generated in the last few races, we could be in an excellent position."

-credit: j2r

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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson , Wayne Rainey