Memphis: Warren Johnson preview

WJ is Ready to Regain His Momentum in Memphis GM Performance Parts GTO crew preps for a strong rebound in Tennessee Sugar Hill, Ga., September 10, 2007 -- To put it simply, when it comes to drag racing, GM Performance Parts GTO pilot Warren...

WJ is Ready to Regain His Momentum in Memphis
GM Performance Parts GTO crew preps for a strong rebound in Tennessee

Sugar Hill, Ga., September 10, 2007 -- To put it simply, when it comes to drag racing, GM Performance Parts GTO pilot Warren Johnson has seen and done it all. In a Hall of Fame career spanning four decades, he has competed at tracks across the country, racing on virtually every type of surface under every atmospheric condition imaginable.

In addition, with well over 500 NHRA Pro Stock races under his belt, "The Professor" has endured both ends of the competitive spectrum. For example, his 96 national event wins, 150 final round appearances, 136 No. 1 qualifying performances and 840 elimination round wins are the most in the history of the "factory hot rods", just as his 401 round losses are the most recorded in this highly competitive category.

Armed with this unequaled wealth of experience, Johnson is well prepared to handle whatever is thrown at him. Therefore, coming off an uncharacteristically subpar performance in Indianapolis, the six-time champion is keeping things in perspective heading into this weekend's O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals in Memphis, TN.

"Going into Memphis, we can't concern ourselves with points or where we are in the Countdown," said Johnson. "Our primary goal for this weekend is to just get back on the positive side of the ledger. Certainly, we had a negative result at our last outing, and you can't change history, but you had better learn from it. What matters now is that our GM Performance Parts GTO crew takes something away from the experience, making sure we don't repeat it.

"Since we got back to the shop, we've looked at where we were with our race car. While the crew examined it from nose to stern, I went through every run we made this year, as well as some things that we did last year, and came up with our game plan for Memphis. I think we'll have a pretty good set-up for this weekend.

"The approach we'll be using is not extremely different, but when you are dealing in thousandths of a second, every change can have major implications, so you had better look at everything carefully. For example, we found a failure in the electrical wiring which was giving us faulty data. Basically, it was sending us an e-mail using smoke signals. As a result, we were making changes that we wouldn't have under normal conditions. Having found and corrected that problem, we should have a better handle on making the proper adjustments."

This year's event marks Memphis Motorsports Park's 20th anniversary as part of the POWERade Drag Racing Series. Having been a part of every national event held at this multipurpose motorsports facility, WJ is well versed on what it takes to succeed at the River City quarter-mile, with his four Memphis wins to date doubling the total of his nearest Pro Stock competitor. Acknowledged as one of the more challenging surfaces on the NHRA circuit, the racers' assignment is further complicated by this year's schedule change, which has the race one month later than last year's edition, providing a different set of tuning conditions. Undaunted, the Johnson-led crew is simply looking forward to getting back to work.

"Since we're running this race a month later than we used to, the track should be a little better, simply because it should be cooler," said Johnson. "In addition, it should be more comfortable for the fans and sponsors who come out to Memphis Motorsports Park. However, it won't make the track any smoother.

"I believe the track was initially built on a landfill, which, combined with its close proximity to the Mississippi River, makes the ground fairly unstable, so the track is always moving around. Despite numerous repair efforts, it's always been a little rough. Still, we're all in the same sandbox, and I believe this GM Performance Parts GTO team is ready to bounce back with a strong showing.

"We're going into Q1 (the first qualifying session) with the same objective as everyone else, to make a good solid pass, getting qualified so we can tune it up from there. You don't want to be too aggressive to where you shake the tires, or be too soft so you don't even get down the racetrack. Basically it comes down to making an educated guess. Looking ahead to this weekend, I believe we'll be conservatively aggressive out of the box. We're heading to Memphis looking to qualify well, go rounds on Sunday and have some great barbecue, in that order."

-credit: j2r

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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson