Memphis: Warren Johnson preview

WJ is Ready to Handle the Heat in Memphis GM Performance Parts GTO crew targets fifth win at Memphis Motorsports Park Sugar Hill, Ga., August 16, 2006 -- For the last calendar year, Warren Johnson and the GM Performance Parts Racing team have...

WJ is Ready to Handle the Heat in Memphis

GM Performance Parts GTO crew targets fifth win at Memphis Motorsports Park

Sugar Hill, Ga., August 16, 2006 -- For the last calendar year, Warren Johnson and the GM Performance Parts Racing team have competed with the same Jerry Haas-built Pontiac GTO. In that time, they have entered 24 NHRA national events and conducted numerous test sessions at tracks from Florida to Georgia, scoring a No. 1 qualifying performance in Brainerd in its first race and a thrilling win in Phoenix earlier this year.

However, at this weekend's O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals in Memphis, TN, Johnson and his 1,400-horsepower hot rod will enter one last race together, as the most successful driver in Pro Stock history prepares to bring out a new, updated chassis at the following event. Although a Hollywood writer would script this as the perfect setting for one last sentimental win, the pragmatic Johnson will be all business as he returns to Memphis Motorsports Park.

"A race car is just another tool at our disposal, much like a 9/16' wrench, with its efficiency subject to the skill of the person using it," opined Johnson. "Although it took us some time to sort it out, this particular GM Performance Parts GTO has been really coming around over the last three races. It has performed predictably, responding to the changes we have made. We did have the motor shut off on us in the first round last weekend, but that was due to a mechanical issue that we have since taken care of. Other than that, it has been fine.

"We are planning to use our new car in Indianapolis, but that is subject to our being able to complete and successfully test it before then. If not, we would have no problem using this particular chassis. In any case, our objective will remain the same as it is this and every weekend -- to win."

Located in the Memphis suburb of Millington, Memphis Motorsports Park is a multifaceted motorsports facility, combining a dirt oval track and a road course with the quarter-mile drag strip. The site of an NHRA national event since 1988, its tricky racing surface and wilting weather conditions challenge crew chiefs and drivers to find the right combination to deliver a winning performance. With more wins than any other Pro Stock driver on the Volunteer State quarter-mile, Johnson knows a key component to race day success will be maintaining lane choice.

"The track in Memphis has a series of bumps, particularly the right hand lane, which is traditionally two to three hundredths slower," detailed Johnson. "Therefore, if things go as they have for us this season, I will be in the right lane for the good session in qualifying this weekend. However, given the fact that we're not usually racing under premium atmospheric conditions in Memphis you're not going to go that fast, so the bumps don't affect you as badly as if we had great conditions.

"Looking at the forecast, it appears we'll also have to deal with the tremendous heat, much like we did last year. As we do at every race, we'll tune for the conditions as far as gear ratio and suspension set-up as well as the available amount of horsepower, which in our case is mostly dictated by Mother Nature. We'll also have to take whatever steps we can to protect ourselves, staying hydrated and finding whatever way we can to stay as cool as we can. Naturally, the conditions will be the same for everyone in the pit area, so we will deal with it as best as possible.

"The bottom line is that we need to reward these fans with a good show. Year after year, despite conditions ranging from torrential rain to suffocating heat, they keep coming back to support us. Hopefully, our GM Performance Parts GTO crew can pay them back with an entertaining race. Besides, before we put this particular tool back in the drawer for one last time, we might as well park it in the winner's circle."

Memphis hasn't raced without WJ: This will be Warren's 19th career NHRA national event at Memphis Motorsports Park. In his previous 23 starts, he has four wins (which is tied with John Force for the most by any NHRA professional driver) in five final round appearances, and a 25-11 elimination round record for a .694 win percentage.

WJ's Qualifying Stats in Millington: In 17 Memphis Motorsports Park starts, WJ has three No. 1 qualifying performances, 11 starts in the top three positions and a 4.18 average starting position.

-credit: j2r

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson , John Force , Jerry Haas