Gainesville: Warren Johnson preview

WJ Preps to Cement Status as Top Gator in Gainesville Swamp Young GM Performance Parts GTO crew heads to Florida buoyed by Phoenix win Sugar Hill, Ga., March 14, 2006 - Warren Johnson has had a special relationship with Gainesville Raceway...

WJ Preps to Cement Status as Top Gator in Gainesville Swamp

Young GM Performance Parts GTO crew heads to Florida buoyed by Phoenix win

Sugar Hill, Ga., March 14, 2006 - Warren Johnson has had a special relationship with Gainesville Raceway from the very first moment he pulled into the famed Florida quarter-mile in 1976. Back then, he was a relative unknown in the NHRA's still nascent Pro Stock division, a Minnesota native racing on a shoestring budget. Behind the wheel of his big-block Camaro, Johnson took on the very best of that era, qualifying fourth and advancing to the first final round of his career.

Thirty years later, as Johnson and his GM Performance Parts GTO crew return to the Sunshine State for this weekend's ACDelco Gatornationals, "The Professor" has cemented his place among the legends of the sport with six championships, 96 national event wins and 136 No. 1 qualifying performances. Gainesville Raceway has played a key role in that success, as his nine wins there are the most among all professional categories. However, he is far from satisfied, and enters this edition looking to add to his stellar Gators resume.

"If I could put my finger on why we have done so well in Gainesville, I'd bottle it and apply it to every racetrack we go to," said Johnson. "Historically, the surface has been pretty decent. They've resurfaced it a couple times, and extended the concrete a few years ago, but it has remained fairly consistent. As always, a lot will depend on how it is prepared prior to the event, which has been somewhat a point of contention so far this year.

"I'm not sure if the surface at Gainesville Raceway fits our style, or whether we do something without realizing it, but that track has always been good to our GM Performance Parts GTO team. But even without an explanation, we'll take our record at the ACDelco Gatornationals and see if we can improve on it even further this weekend."

Johnson comes into the Gatornationals as the most recent Pro Stock winner in the POWERade Drag Racing Series, taking home the title in Phoenix, AZ just over two weeks ago. As the latest in a string of exciting wins over his career, WJ has taken that success in stride, preferring to focus on the road ahead. However, one benefit it has provided is the tremendous boost in confidence for his young, hard-working crew, marking their first win together.

"There's a certain art to winning, it's not all science," stated Johnson. "You have to make the right decisions at the proper time, and be aware of the process involved. With this young crew, winning has made them more conscious of their surroundings and how decisions are made relative to the next round, experience that will prove invaluable in future races. Besides, now that we have gone to a final together and won, they'll have even more enthusiasm, if that's possible. All in all, it's a tremendous uplift for the entire organization.

"But even with the win we're not about to stand still. Since returning from Phoenix, we've been working non-stop to prepare for the races ahead, trying to improve the overall performance of our GM Performance Parts GTO. We've spent time at the shop stockpiling parts and tested on three different occasions. Obviously, we won't know exactly how we stand until we race on an NHRA-prepared track against our competitors, but we feel we've made progress in the key areas, establishing some what of a sweet spot in our tune-up. I think we'll be in good shape this weekend."

Quick Notes on Warren Johnson & the GM Performance Parts GTO team entering the ACDelco Gatornationals:

Gainesville has been The Professor's Personal Classroom: This will be Warren's 27th career race at Gainesville Raceway. In his previous 25 starts, he has 9 wins in 10 final round appearances to lead all professional categories, and an impressive 55-16 elimination round record for a stellar .775 win percentage

Warren Starts Up Front at the Gators: In 25 Gatornationals starts, WJ has eight No. 1 qualifying performances (with five coming in consecutive years from 1993-1997), and a strong average starting position of 3.615. During that time, WJ has only four starts outside the top half of the field.

One year ago: Warren qualified ninth with an elapsed time of 6.683 seconds with a top speed of 206.65 mph, and advanced to the semi-finals.

Career Best Elapsed Time: 6.679 seconds, Gainesville, FL, 3/20/05

Career best top speed: 207.50 mph, Englishtown, NJ, 6/19/05

-j2r-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson