Warren Johnson Looks to Get off to a Quick Start in St. Louis GM Performance Parts team keys on improving sixty-foot performance SUGAR HILL, GA., June 22, 2004 - The standard distance for an NHRA national event competition is one quarter-mile,...
Warren Johnson Looks to Get off to a Quick Start in St. Louis
GM Performance Parts team keys on improving sixty-foot performance
SUGAR HILL, GA., June 22, 2004 - The standard distance for an NHRA national event competition is one quarter-mile, which translates into 1,320 feet. Whether a competitor wins, loses or even qualifies is determined by when his or her race vehicle breaks the infrared beams at the end of said distance.
However, as GM Performance Parts pilot Warren Johnson will readily attest, the strength of the run is most often decided in the first sixty feet, a distance that a current Pro Stock race car will cover in just under one second. Ironically, that is the main area on the track where the Johnson crew was most dissatisfied with their recent performance.
Therefore, upon his return from Englishtown, NJ on Sunday, Johnson spent long hours poring over reams of race notes, searching for any potential gremlins. Fortunately, heading into this weekend's Sears Craftsman Nationals in Madison, IL, The Professor is confident that a solution has been found.
"If you lose a considerable amount of time in the first sixty feet, it's virtually impossible to make it up in the remainder of the run, particularly in the warmer weather," stated Johnson. "That has been the problem we have been battling of late. We could run great sixty foot times on occasion, but not with any true regularity. I guess you could call it a consistent inconsistency.
"Once I had the time to sit down and review every run we had made throughout the season, I noticed an irregularity that first surfaced three or four races ago. Although it progressed as time went on, it was at such a slow pace that it really wasn't noticeable. Of course, hindsight is always 20/20.
"As soon as the problem was identified, we made the necessary changes to eliminate it. The final step will be to spend one day before heading to Madison testing to make sure our assessment of the situation was correct."
Having resolved any outstanding issues with their race car, The Professor and crew will now turn their attention towards taming the quarter-mile located in the shadows of the famous St. Louis Gateway Arch. This event will take on an added twist this year, as the professional categories will compete in the late afternoon and early evening to avoid the searing summer heat. As expected, it is a change welcomed by racers and fans alike.
"Anyway you look at it, holding this race at night makes sense," said Johnson. "During a previous day race at Gateway, I remember the fuel cars had tremendous difficulty getting down the extremely warm track, which is not a good scenario for the competitors or the spectators, who had to endure tremendous heat and humidity, just to be there.
"Everyone will be racing under the same conditions, so it doesn't make a difference if it's during the day or at night, as long as there is enough lighting so I don't hit anything. Although the air will be a little better at night, which is conducive to making power, the big factor will be the track temperature. It should be relatively cool and consistent throughout, making it better for all involved.
"Our goals for this weekend are quite simple - to qualify our GM Performance Parts Grand Am in the top half of the field, and go some rounds on Sunday. That will get us back in the swing of things, and headed back to where we want to be, which is on top."
On how the Gateway Racing Surface has evolved -
"When we first started racing here in 1997, this was not a particularly good surface, particularly at the starting line. Ironically, that played into our hands, as we had extensive experience racing under such adverse conditions. As a result, we had a pretty good handle on the tune-up. The work they've done on the surface, combined with racing at night, should pretty much level the playing field."