Sugar Hill, Ga., October 5, 2005 -- Following a two-week delay due to Hurricane Rita's untimely arrival, the NHRA's POWERade Drag Racing Series makes its annual visit to the Texas Motorplex this weekend with the running of the O'Reilly Fall ...
Sugar Hill, Ga., October 5, 2005 -- Following a two-week delay due to Hurricane Rita's untimely arrival, the NHRA's POWERade Drag Racing Series makes its annual visit to the Texas Motorplex this weekend with the running of the O'Reilly Fall Nationals. Even with the inclusion of the normally scheduled Chicago race in the middle, Warren Johnson and the GM Performance Parts Pontiac GTO Racing team have made the most of the added fortnight, logging extra hours at their shop in Georgia and spending a day testing in Illinois. Although on-track results will provide the ultimate proof, in Johnson's estimation, it has been time well spent.
"We'll find out for sure this weekend, but we believe we found something that will pick up our performance in the first 60 to 330 feet, which is an area we have been working on," stated Johnson. "In addition to having extra time at the shop to work on our engines, the postponement allowed us to spend a day testing in Chicago after the race, which was our first true test with this GM Performance Parts GTO since before its debut in Brainerd.
"We made seven runs, working on a variety of things, which we feel were highly productive, as our performance improved with every one. We now have a total of ten test runs on it, which is the least I have ever had on any car after having it for two months. We'll leave the set-up the same for the first qualifying session, see where we stack up and go forward from there. Those test results have us cautiously optimistic heading into Dallas this weekend."
This week, the team will tackle one of the most unique tracks on the NHRA POWERade circuit, the all-concrete quarter-mile at the Texas Motorplex. Although the surface is capable of delivering national record performances, its narrow racing groove leaves both the crew chief and driver little room for error. As the most successful Pro Stock driver in the track's history with five wins in eleven final round appearances, The Professor is more than qualified to explain what is needed to succeed in the Lone Star State, including how to make the most of a potentially disastrous situation.
"The Texas Motorplex was originally touted as the first 'supertrack', with its all concrete surface," recalled Johnson. "While that's fine in of itself, it does create an extremely narrow groove, because it is a high-traction surface and people don't have the normal problems in the transitions associated with the concrete and asphalt tracks. If you do get out of the groove, you can certainly get yourself in trouble.
"I remember a few years ago during the Friday night qualifying session, it was extremely humid, making the groove extremely slippery. I got out of the groove, and the only way I could keep it straight was to let it brush the wall and then pull the parachute to slow it down. Although I gave the car a Darlington stripe, I was able to bang the quarter panel out and win the race. It's not the recommended way of doing it, but we made the best of the situation, which is exactly what we're hoping to do with our GM Performance Parts GTO this weekend. We should be fine."