WJ Builds Drama, Starts Tenth in Memphis Entering the final qualifying session of the O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals, Warren Johnson and the GM Performance Parts GTO Racing team faced a tough assignment. Sitting outside the starting field ...
WJ Builds Drama, Starts Tenth in Memphis
Entering the final qualifying session of the O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals, Warren Johnson and the GM Performance Parts GTO Racing team faced a tough assignment. Sitting outside the starting field of sixteen, not only would he have to run quicker than the 6.837-second time posted by current sixteenth place Erica Enders, but he would have to do so in the heat of the Memphis afternoon, where temperatures had exceeded 100 degrees, with an equally oppressive humidity.
In addition, he would have to solve whatever issues had plagued his race car in the first two sessions at Memphis Motorsports Park, where it inexplicably shut off immediately after launching. Undaunted, the Johnson-led crew worked through the heat between rounds, looking for the combination that would get them in the field.
Fortunately, their efforts were rewarded when Johnson's car launched hard and rocketed straight down the track, tripping the finish line timers in 6.780 seconds with a top speed of 203.55 mph, earning the tenth starting position.
Despite the strong performance under the trying conditions, The Professor was not quite ready to declare the problem solved as he prepared for Sunday's final eliminations.
"I had been listening to reports about how unhealthy the American population had become, so I decided to conduct my own blood pressure check," joked Johnson afterwards. "However, we still have to get to the root cause of whatever caused our dilemma in the first place. Since it first cropped up in Brainerd, we had been making incremental changes, and thought we had it handled at the shop. That proved to be a negative assumption because it continued through the first two runs this weekend.
"However, with our backs against the wall prior to this last run, we changed everything on this GM Performance Parts GTO but the paint job. We knew we had the chassis straightened after Seattle, and felt this was an engine related issue because it flat shut off when you let the clutch out.
"I really didn't worry about it when we went up for the run, because once I let the clutch out, the car has to do its job. Fortunately, we were able to make a fair run and get ourselves in the show. Of course, we left a little on the table because we weren't sure where the tune up was going to be. Now that we can see what was happening, we can tune it up a little better for tomorrow.
"We have a box of parts to analyze, and even scarier than that, the problem may still be in the car, and it might just happened to make a good run. In any case, we're not going to fret or be overly optimistic. We'll just take whatever it gives us and make the best of it."