Englishtown: Warren Johnson preview

Over 27 years, Warren Johnson has experienced it all in Englishtown GM Performance Parts driver looks for fifth win at legendary New Jersey track Sugar Hill, Ga., May 12, 2003 - Throughout his career, GM Performance Parts driver Warren Johnson...

Over 27 years, Warren Johnson has experienced it all in Englishtown
GM Performance Parts driver looks for fifth win at legendary New Jersey track

Sugar Hill, Ga., May 12, 2003 - Throughout his career, GM Performance Parts driver Warren Johnson has experienced many outstanding moments in Englishtown, NJ, site of this weekend's NHRA SuperNationals. With four national event wins (including the first of his career in 1982) in five final round appearances, and five No. 1 qualifying performances, Johnson's record at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park ranks among the best in the Pro Stock division.

However, among these many accomplishments, there is one notable New Jersey moment in 1976 where Johnson made headlines, but not for the normal reasons. Although his performance on that July day did include a new national top speed record (at 158.45 mph), it was what happened after the run that made it notable.

"You could say that in 1976 I took the scenic route in qualifying," recalled Johnson. "Naturally, this was well before my association with GM Performance Parts and ACDelco. We were running a Camaro with a prototype dual master cylinder, and had just set the national speed record. At the end of the run, first, the parachutes didn't open, and then the master cylinder failed, meaning we had no way of stopping other than riding the engine down.

"Things always happen for a reason. Earlier that morning I had gone to the far end of the track to see what was there. I always check the track religiously, but normally I just concentrate on the racing surface and the run-off area. That weekend, however, I walked all the way out to the two fences at the very end. One was a wooden fence, while the other was a chain-link fence with steel posts, with the space between those posts only six inches wider than my car.

"Somehow I maneuvered through both fences, missed all the posts and ended out on Pension Road (a small, two-lane road behind the track), suffering only cosmetic damage. We got back to the pits, put Caesar (the Johnson's Doberman) in the car to guard it, and went looking for parts to fix it. I had a guy named Ralph Romeo help me fiberglass it back together that day, and we were ready for eliminations."

Twenty-seven years later, Johnson and his GM Performance Parts Grand Am team return to the Garden State looking to continue their string of strong performances. With two wins and two No. 1 qualifying performances in the first seven races of 2003, W.J. seems poised to make a run at his seventh championship. However, there is always room for improvement, and "The Professor" is a tough grader.

"Right now, I'd have to give our team a B plus," stated Johnson. "We're not making perfect runs every time, and we're not the quickest or the fastest car out there, but we're competitive. That means we're racing well, but we have some work to do on the car and our set-ups. We also need to do a better job adapting to the conditions. But since we're still in a position to win races, and have done so twice, you can't grade it too low."

Another aspect that does not escape Johnson's attention is the stature of the event. Although the points and the pre-race preparation are the same, a win at this venerable facility is always special.

"The Englishtown race has always been one of the bigger ones on the schedule, one race every one wants on their resume" said Johnson. "But hitting the set-up is the key. From when it was known as the Summernationals, where the outside temperature could exceed 100 degrees, to today's event, where the weather could either allow national record runs or the slowest times of the year, the challenge remains in matching the car to the conditions.

"The way we see it, a good weekend will include qualifying our GM Performance Parts Grand Am No.1, winning the Pro Stock Challenge on Saturday, the race on Sunday, and not get a speeding ticket on the way to or from the track."

Facts on Warren Johnson and the GM Performance Parts Racing Team entering the NHRA SuperNationals:

* WJ Enjoys Englishtown: This will be Warren's 27th NHRA Pro Stock national event appearance at Englishtown, where he has accumulated four wins in five final round appearances, while compiling a 33-22 elimination round record. He has been equally effective in qualifying, with five No. 1 qualifying efforts, and an average starting spot of 4.12.

* E-town Record Holder: Warren Johnson holds the top speed track record at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, based on 203.77 mph performance in the first round of last year's eliminations.

* One year ago: WJ qualified third for in Englishtown with an elapsed time of 6.783 seconds and a top speed of 203.03 mph, but was upset in the first round.

* National Record Holder: WJ holds the NHRA Pro Stock national elapsed time record at 6.720-seconds, which he set in Houston last month. This marks the 10th time in his career that he has held the record.

* Winning Streak: With his win in Atlanta, Warren Johnson has now won at least two races in 18 of the past 22 years. In addition, his current streak of winning at least one race a year for 22 consecutive years is the longest in NHRA history.

* POWERade Points standings: After the seventh of 23 events, WJ stands third in the 2003 POWERade points standings with 552 points, 55 behind his son and leader Kurt Johnson, and a mere two points behind second place Greg Anderson.

* Doubling Up: Warren will be looking to win consecutive races for the 19th time in his career (including winning three in a row five times and four in a row once), having last done so in 2001, when he won the Columbus, Ohio and Madison, IL races.

* No. 1 in National event wins: WJ's 90 national event victories are the most ever in the history of the Pro Stock division and place him second on the all-time NHRA win list. His most recent win came at the 2003 Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals in Atlanta, Ga.

* Career best top speed: 205.16 mph, Houston 2003 (The fourth fastest pass in NHRA Pro Stock history.)

-j2r-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Greg Anderson