Denver: Warren Johnson preview

WJ Will Use the Tale of the Tape to Tame Tricky Denver Track GM Performance Parts GTO crew targets sixth Mile-High Nationals win Sugar Hill, Ga., July 11, 2007 -- Throughout the course of a race weekend, racers in the Pro Stock category of...

WJ Will Use the Tale of the Tape to Tame Tricky Denver Track
GM Performance Parts GTO crew targets sixth Mile-High Nationals win

Sugar Hill, Ga., July 11, 2007 -- Throughout the course of a race weekend, racers in the Pro Stock category of the POWERade Drag Racing Series will rely on a variety of analytical tools to help them adapt their 1,400-horsepower race cars to the changing atmospheric and track conditions. Some are of a highly technical nature, such as the extensive data logging systems and computers used to break down the car's performance following each run.

Others are of a more cerebral origin, coming from years of experience and an extensive knowledge of both the car and track. However, there is one key resource employed by virtually every competitor that most fans use on a regular basis -- a video camera. This visual reference provides a link between the computer data and the team's observations, a confirmation to assist with deciding what direction any adjustments will take.

As one of the first among the "factory hot rods" to implement this tactic, Warren Johnson and the GM Performance Parts GTO Racing team have come to rely heavily on what they see in each run's tape, watching each one in ultra slow-motion, frequently pausing and rewinding critical segments before deciding what course to take. Entering this weekend's Mile-High Nationals in Denver, CO, Johnson hopes this week's cinematography leads to an award-winning performance, namely, his 97th career national event win.

"Videotaping has proven itself to be a key tuning tool," said Johnson. "After all, you can't see or feel everything inside the car, and having a tape of the run provides irrefutable evidence, unless of course, someone has their finger on the lens, which is usually the case on a really bad run.

"But, seriously, we've been taping runs since the 70's, adding the side angle about ten years ago, giving us all the angles we need given the time between rounds. At the very least, it is a backup in case of a computer failure, while under normal circumstances, it allows us to verify what the computer is telling us, since the data logger can be influenced by outside factors. After all, to make the best tuning decisions, you have to have as much information as possible, and the video camera gives us its share of valuable data. Hopefully, we'll put it to good use this weekend in Denver."

This weekend the world's best quarter-milers will head to one of the most picturesque stops on the circuit, Bandimere Speedway. Carved into the side of the Rockies in the Denver suburb of Morrison, this family-run facility is a favorite among fans and competitors. However, located at an oxygen-starved altitude of over 5,800 feet, it will send Pro Stock crew chiefs scrambling to adjust for the drastic drop in horsepower.

This weekend's event marks WJ's 24th appearance "on the mountain", and, with five wins in 10 final round appearances, he is well versed on what it takes to succeed there. With the races in the first segment of this year's Countdown to the Championship dwindling down, the Johnson-led crew knows a strong showing is vital to their championship chances, and look to use this race as the starting block for a surge in the standings.

"Having cut my teeth racing in Denver, Pueblo, Castle Rock and Continental Divide in the 70's and 80's, the altitude we'll see this weekend is not quite as daunting to us as it is to others," said Johnson. "We've gathered a lot of data during that time, which gives us a bit of a head start.

"We've always enjoyed racing at Bandimere Speedway. Much like the Norwalk facility we competed on two weeks ago, the Bandimere family does an outstanding job of maintaining the facility. Other than the fact that we go so slow that we have to keep the safety belts tight to prevent our heads from hitting the dashboard when we let the clutch out, it's one our of favorite places to race.

"Since we'll be running about a half second and ten miles per hour slower than normal, we'll have to get acclimated quickly, making the necessary engine, transmission and chassis changes to our GM Performance Parts GTO to maximize our performance. We've been fortunate to do well in Denver over the years, which is a trend we look to continue this weekend."

-credit: j2r

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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson