Warren Johnson is King of the Mountain in Denver SUGAR HILL, GA., July 20, 2003 - GM Performance Parts Grand Am pilot Warren Johnson scored a dramatic win at today's NHRA Mile-High Nationals in Denver, CO. After qualifying ninth, Johnson...
Warren Johnson is King of the Mountain in Denver
SUGAR HILL, GA., July 20, 2003 - GM Performance Parts Grand Am pilot Warren Johnson scored a dramatic win at today's NHRA Mile-High Nationals in Denver, CO. After qualifying ninth, Johnson defeated George Marnell, Greg Anderson and Mike Edwards in the earlier rounds to reach his third final round of the 2003 season.
Facing rival and defending Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin, Johnson recorded his quickest elapsed time of the day at 7.225 seconds, with a top speed of 191.05 mph to score his third POWERade win of the year, fourth at Bandimere Speedway, and 91st of his career.
"Today's win was extremely rewarding for our entire team," stated Johnson. "Not only does it allow our GM Performance Parts team to gain 60 points on the two drivers ahead of us, but by defeating Greg (Anderson) in the second round, we were able to keep Kurt in close proximity to the points lead. The bottom line is that it's always special when you win."
Heading into Sunday's final eliminations, a Johnson victory seemed far from certain. Although "The Professor" has been a contender for the win at any Pro Stock event contested at Bandimere Speedway for the past 20 years, throughout qualifying, the team struggled to find the right set-up to tame the combination of the thin air and tricky racing surface.
For only the sixth time in 417 starts, Johnson would start final eliminations in the ninth spot. Ironically, in his previous five starts from this position, he had not been able to advance to the second round. However, any concerns were quickly dispelled in his first round encounter against George Marnell, when Johnson bettered his qualifying effort by two hundredths, recording a 7.247-second elapsed time with a top speed of 190.46 mph to earn the round win.
"A lot of our wounds in qualifying were self-inflicted," detailed Johnson. "We had tested here for three days after the St. Louis event. Kurt was exceptionally strong in the front part of the track, but weak in the back half, while I was exactly opposite. We looked at our notes at the shop and tried to figure out exactly what we needed to do to adjust both cars.
"Kurt found the sweet spot on his Cavalier right off the bat. Our GM Performance Parts Grand Am is much newer, with a chassis whose structural integrity is radically different than anything else out here. Therefore, it took us a little longer to get it dialed in. This is only our fifth race with this car, and it's coming around nicely."
Johnson's assignment would not get any easier in the second round, as he would face No. 1 qualifier and current POWERade points leader Greg Anderson, who had recorded the quickest elapsed time in every session throughout the weekend. With the 2003 season entering its second half, this race took on added significance, as Johnson could ill afford to let his opponent extend his lead in the title chase.
As expected, Johnson responded to the challenge, using a near-perfect .013-second reaction time to gain over a one hundredth of a second starting line advantage, and then out ran Anderson with a 7.245 second elapsed time and a top speed of 190.48 mph to score the all-important victory.
"With ten races left in the season, we are definitely in the hunt. With the gains Kurt and I have made in performance, especially relative to warmer conditions, I think we're in excellent shape. We're still figuring out all the nuances on this GM Performance Parts Grand Am, and once we do, it's going to be an exceptional race car. Kurt's obviously in a better position than I am, but we're doing our best to keep pecking away at it."