Gainesville: Warren Johnson Saturday notes

WJ Powers to the Number One Qualifying Position in Gainesville Warren Johnson made a strong first impression in his brand-new GM Performance Parts Pontiac GXP on Saturday, powering to the number one qualifying position at the ACDelco ...

WJ Powers to the Number One Qualifying Position in Gainesville

Warren Johnson made a strong first impression in his brand-new GM Performance Parts Pontiac GXP on Saturday, powering to the number one qualifying position at the ACDelco Gatornationals in Gainesville, FL. This marks the 137th No. 1 qualifying effort of Johnson's Hall of Fame career (the most by any NHRA professional competitor), ninth at Gainesville Raceway, and first since the 2005 race in Brainerd, MN.

With qualifying reduced to only two attempts due to Friday's rain at Gainesville Raceway, Johnson made the most of the opportunity, posting the quickest and fastest run in each session.

After opening with a stout 6.682-second, 207.53 mph pass in the early afternoon, The Professor came back on his second attempt with an even stronger 6.665-second clocking, matching his son Kurt's time, who, ironically, had run in the lane beside him.

However, the senior member of the Johnson racing family edged out his talented son for the top spot by virtue of a top speed tie-breaker, with WJ's 208.36 mph speed bettering his son's 207.27 mph effort. Incidentally, this is the 35th time that the Johnsons had captured the top two starting positions at an NHRA national event,

"It's a great way to start off with our new GM Performance Parts GXP. Ironically, the last time we qualified number one before today was in our very first race with the Pontiac GTO, which this car replaces. I just hope history doesn't repeat itself, because that was the only pole position we won with the GTO.

"In all seriousness, we're off to a pretty good start this year. I believe we had the fastest GTO at the first two races, which we felt showed we had power capable of qualifying in the top half of the field. This new car seems to be a little quicker in the back half, which is where the speed is coming from. We had run 211 mph in Valdosta two days ago when, as we found out upon our arrival here in Florida, the car was actually 25 pounds too heavy, so we were pretty excited about our chances here, and things so far have worked in our favor.

"This GXP has obviously got potential. It still isn't happy yet as far as going dead straight, so we have a few areas to work on, but we're going to approach them rather gingerly, tickling it until we get it right.

"This chassis is the latest evolution in the process. We took things we learned on the GTO and incorporated them in his latest Cobalt, and information gathered on Kurt's car was used in the development of this newest chassis. This has really allowed us to work effectively together. We're continually working on new things, and always try to make at least two of everything so if it works out to be better, we can both take advantage of it.

"But, in the end, it's a good day for both Kurt's and my teams. We have had the GM Performance Parts and ACDelco crews working on both cars to get them used to what real teamwork is about, and the results are starting to show. But we still have work to do here. Certainly the weekend is off to a good start, but tomorrow is when things really get interesting."

-credit: dpm

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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson