Phoenix: GM Racing preview

Pontiac's Warren Johnson looks to defend CSK Nationals Crown at Firebird Raceway Tommy Johnson Jr., driving the new Chevy Impala SS, hopes to duplicate '06 Funny Car Victory PHOENIX, Feb. 20, 2007 - The opening round of the 2007 NHRA POWERade...

Pontiac's Warren Johnson looks to defend CSK Nationals Crown at Firebird Raceway

Tommy Johnson Jr., driving the new Chevy Impala SS, hopes to duplicate '06 Funny Car Victory

PHOENIX, Feb. 20, 2007 - The opening round of the 2007 NHRA POWERade season's Countdown to the Championship is in the record book following a Winternationals all-Pontiac Pro Stock final round between a pair of Gregs; Anderson and Stanfield, that is. Attention now shifts to Firebird Raceway in Phoenix, Ariz., and the 23rd annual Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals where the Pro Stock class will converge on the desert strip with seven GM-branded cars in the top-10, and a horde of others lurking just a few points outside the all-important elite-eight. Pontiac's Warren Johnson will be looking to defend his crown in Pro Stock, and Tommy Johnson Jr., driving the new Chevy Impala SS, will attempt to duplicate last year's Funny Car victory. Two-time winner Del Worsham is hoping to put his Chevrolet in the Funny Car winner's circle for a third time at this venue.

Greg Anderson's win at Pomona was Pontiac's 172nd all time in the NHRA Pro Stock category, and the three-time NHRA POWERade champion's third straight victory at Auto Club Raceway. Anderson's Pontiac posted a track-record top speed of 209.04 mph and also qualified in the No. 1 spot after matching teammate Jason Line for the track's e.t. record (6.634 seconds). Staggering statistics on Anderson over the last four years show that the Summit Racing Pontiac driver has won 43 percent (40 out of 93) of his races, and qualified in the No. 1 spot at 53 percent of the contests he's entered (43 out of 93) since his first championship title in 2003.

Among active Pro Stock competitors, defending event champ Warren Johnson leads the victory column at Firebird Raceway with three trips to the winner's circle (1998, 2001, 2006). For 13 years, the Professor of Pro Stock came up short at this venue, and at the time of his first Firebird Raceway victory in 1998, it was the only track on the NHRA circuit in which he was winless. In addition to his three victories at Firebird, the GM Performance Parts Pontiac driver has been runner-up four times (1988, 1991, 1997 and 2002), and captured No. 1 qualifying honors in 1993 and from 1995-1999.

Four other current competitors in GM-branded cars have posted wins at Firebird Raceway. ACDelco Chevy Cobalt driver Kurt Johnson and WileyX Eyewear/Sea Ray Boats Pontiac driver Jim Yates both have won twice; Johnson in 1999 and 2004, and Yates in 1996-97. Greg Anderson won the event in 2003 and Chevy driver Jeg Coughlin Jr. won the race in 2000.

Anderson's elapsed time of 6.671 seconds set in a Pontiac GTO in February 2006 is the current track record at Firebird, and Warren Johnson's Pontiac GTO holds the top-speed track record at 207.08 mph. Anderson was No. 1 qualifier at last year's race and was runner-up in the finals to WJ.

Tommy Johnson Jr. is the defending event champion in Funny Car at Firebird Raceway. During the last two years, the Skoal Racing Chevy Impala SS driver has won at least one of the first two events on the schedule (Pomona 2005) and that strong start has resulted in consecutive sixth-place finishes in the POWERade standings.

Another Chevrolet Funny Car driver holds the elapsed-time record at Firebird Raceway. Tony Pedregon's Q Racing Chevrolet posted the track's quickest mark in the category at 4.703 seconds in 2005.

In addition to Tommy Johnson's win in 2006, two Funny Car drivers currently in Chevrolets have won at Firebird Raceway. Del Worsham is a two-time champ at his primary sponsor's title event taking the CSK Nationals crown in 2002 and 2004. Cruz Pedregon was the Phoenix champ in 1993.

Chevy's Super Stock Stampede - Chevy's Super Stock Sportsman stamped during the season's first two events (including the CARQUEST NHRA Winternationals at Pomona, Calif., on Feb. 8 - 11, and the Lucas Oil Division IV season-opener at Houston Raceway Park on Feb. 16 - 18) has resulted in 240 of Chevrolet's 300 total points in the race for the 2007 Manufacturer's Cup. Chevy Cobalt Super Stock drivers who have already contributed to the red bowtie's 2007 manufacturers points lead include Peter Biondo, Tony DeFrank, Phil Mandella, Arnie Martell, Darren Breaul, Robert Burgin, Jay Higgins, Terry Pearson, Ken Howell, Norman Lapointe, Justin Lamb and Ryan McClanahan. Manufacturer's Cup points are awarded for 2007 models entered in Pro Stock, Super Stock and Stock with 60 points awarded for an eliminator victory, 40 points for a runner-up and 20 points for an eliminator qualification

Greg Stanfield (PiranaZ Pontiac GTO) following his final-round loss to Greg Anderson at Pomona - "Just call me the bridesmaid. I really felt like we had something for Greg in the finals. All in all, for having our backup engine in, we lost our good one in Las Vegas, to come out here and do this, this is awesome. Our goal coming in was to qualify and go a round or two. Now we're second in the points, but now it's time to go home and go to work, and try to go rounds at every race. That would put us in the top eight - we're excited. There are a pack of cars of about 10 or 12 that are real close, and right now Greg is just a tick better than the rest of us. They've raised the bar and it's our job to keep our heads down, work hard and catch up. We need to get our primary engine back together for Phoenix. We're also going to take the car back to the shop, go over a few things and see if we can pick it up a little bit. If we do, we'll be dangerous."

Greg Anderson (Summit Racing Pontiac GTO) after capturing his 44th career victory at the NHRA Winternationals - "We went forward with the DRCE3, it was a risky, all-or-nothing-move, but something we needed to do to gain extra ground through the year, and so far it looks like it was a pretty good decision. To start out like this with the '3' shows that it's an outstanding piece. I couldn't be happier. My hat's off to GM and the work they done with this engine. They've been so good to me over the years. Every time they design a new car, it comes out better, and every time GM designs an engine, it comes out better. To hit the ground running with the DRCE3 like it is, obviously GM has done their homework, they've designed a great engine, they plopped it in our lap and let us go to work on it. It's the future of the class."

Dave Connolly's (Torco Racing Fuels Chevy Cobalt) NHRA Winternationals post-race comments - "I felt like I could go a 'teen' on the tree, maybe hang him (Greg Anderson) out a little bit to try and throw him off his game, but that certainly didn't work at all. He was .004 and I missed it. My left foot didn't cooperate today and I definitely left some on the table. Still, we're happy with the performance of the car, our motors ran extremely well all weekend , and we were second or third fastest all week. To have both of our Chevy Cobalts qualify in the top half and run that close to Greg in the bad lane in the semis, that's a good way to start the season. We have an awesome car and we'll be ready to go again in Phoenix."

Defending CSK Nationals Funny Car champion Tommy Johnson Jr. (Skoal Racing Chevy Impala SS) - "The biggest thing I like about our team is that we didn't make a lot of changes. We made changes as far as the new body was concerned and some things to make things go quicker, but the biggest thing is that we didn't change any of the crew. We have one new addition and that's it. That's big as far as continuity and building chemistry with your team. If you look over the past few years, the teams that are really good are the ones that don't make changes. They have a good group of guys and they are able to build on that. Chemistry is something you can't buy - you have to build it over the course of a few race seasons. That's what we've done over the past few years at Don Prudhomme Racing and that's why we keep getting better and better."

Two-time CSK NHRA Nationals winner Del Worsham (Checker Schuck's Kragen Chevrolet) - "There's no getting around the fact it's (winning Phoenix) a big deal. We've won all over, and we've won some very big races including the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, but being handed that trophy in Phoenix is really special. We've been associated with CSK Auto since 1997, and they've been through good times and bad with us. They're one of the greatest sponsors in this sport, and to give a huge group of them a chance to celebrate, at their home track, is about as good as it gets."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Greg Anderson , Tommy Johnson , Cruz Pedregon , Greg Stanfield , Peter Biondo , Robert Burgin , Jason Line , Tony DeFrank , Dave Connolly , Ryan McClanahan , Tommy Johnson Jr.