POMONA, Calif., Feb. 7, 2005 - GM Racing teams release the pause button from head-to-head competition that's been on hold since last November when drivers, cars and crews converge on Pomona Raceway for the 45th annual Car Quest Auto Parts Winternationals on Feb 10-13. It's the start of another exciting drag racing season, and since each driver's '04 tally card has been wiped clean, optimism runs high with the hopes of being crowned champion come November.
"You never know what you have until you make that first run at Pomona," said Summit Racing Pontiac Grand Am driver and defending Pro Stock champion Greg Anderson. "You use every hour that's available and keep trying to go forward and get better. That's what we've done and hopefully it turns out better than the rest of the pack."
Anderson, who was recently crowned Speed Channel Driver of the Year, will be chasing a third consecutive POWERade championship, something that hasn't been done in Pro Stock since Bob Glidden accomplished the feat during a five-year stretch from 1985-89. Anderson's Pontiac has been victorious at the last three events contested at Pomona Raceway including the 2003-04 NHRA Finals and the February 2004 Winternationals, and he's also won 14 of his last 16 eliminator rounds contested dating back to last September's national event in Chicago.
"I'm very confident that we're at the top of our game," said Anderson. "I'm a little scared, but I get a little scared at this time every year because you don't know what the competition has done in the last month or two. Everybody has elevated their game, and from some of the preseason testing I've seen already, several teams have made some gains. We're going to have to be better if we're going to repeat any of the things we did last year. I'm very confident that we can, yet at the same time I'm still concerned, but fear is a great motivator and I have that right now."
Warren Johnson begins his final full season behind the wheel of the GM Performance Parts Pontiac. "The Professor's School's Out Tour" will be a year-long celebration of Johnson's legacy on the sport of drag racing, and the six-time NHRA Pro Stock champion is pulling out all the stops in pursuit of another successful campaign.
"Nothing lasts forever and I've looked at it that I need more time in the shop to get the development work done to increase the performance of these cars," said Johnson. "It's something that I had to do. I'll certainly test drive, and I may sporadically run an event or two, but as far as a full-time position, I think it's something I need to do for Warren Johnson Enterprises, for Kurt's car, my car and whoever we put in my car in the future. We need to increase the performance of these vehicles and that's going to take more of my time. We're on a limited budget and we have to make every nickel count. I was born handicapped, with only two hands, so I need more hours."
Johnson is a five-time Winternationals champion (1987, 1993-94, 1997, 2003), has been runner-up at the season-opening contest four times (1985, 1986, 1991, 2000) and No. 1 qualifier five times (1999, 1996, 1993-95).
"Performance-wise our Pontiac Grand Am and Kurt's Chevrolet will be right there," said Johnson. "We actually expect to be at the head of the pack. We started honing in on it toward the end of last season, but didn't have enough time to produce all the parts and pieces that it takes to get the performance to where it needs to be. With the 84 days of offseason that we had, I think we can bring the performance up to where it needs to be, and Kurt and I will be in excellent shape this year."
Qualifying highlights of the NHRA Winternationals will be telecast on ESPN2 on Saturday, Feb. 12, beginning at 10:30 p.m. Eastern. A three-hour broadcast of final eliminations will telecast on ESPN2 on Sunday, Feb. 13, starting at 7 p.m. Eastern.
Pre-Event Stats & Facts
GM-branded Pro Stock cars (Chevy Cavalier, Pontiac Grand Am) have won 54 consecutive national events heading into the season-opening Winternationals this weekend at Pomona Raceway. Jeg Coughlin, driving a Chevy Cavalier, began the streak two-and-a-half years ago with a victory at Brainerd, Minn., on Aug. 18, 2002.
With 144 all-time Pro Stock victories, Pontiac will enter the 2005 NHRA campaign as the most successful auto manufacturer in the history of the category. Chevrolet is second on the all-time Pro Stock win list with 121.
Entering the new season, Greg Anderson has the longest consecutive qualifying streak in Pro Stock at 47 races. Only four drivers qualified in Pro Stock for all 23 events in 2004. They were Anderson (Pontiac), Bruce Allen (Pontiac), Jason Line (Pontiac) and Larry Morgan. Bruce Allen has qualified in 29 straight events and Jason Line in 23.
Dave Connolly put together an impressive series of four solid laps in his Bullet Motorsports Chevy Cavalier, and one more that was just good enough to get the job done en route to a victory at last Saturday's Pontiac Pro Stock Super Bowl at Houston Raceway Park. Heading into this weekend's Winternationals, the win is certain to serve as strong momentum builder for the 22-year-old Ohio native, who finished last season third in the POWERade Pro Stock standings.
When 21-year-old Erica Enders drives her Chevy Cavalier into the staging beams for her first qualifying run at Pomona Raceway, it will mark the first time in more than three decades that a woman has competed in the Pro Stock category. Enders captured 37 NHRA Junior Dragster victories including five nationals, and she and Ritchie Stevens are the only two Pro Stock drivers to have competed in the NHRA's Junior division.
Success and longevity are juxtaposed in NHRA Pro Stock Drag Racing. In addition to this being Warren Johnson's 457th contest in Pro Stock competition (dating back to 1971), Mark Pawuk will be entering his 371st event and Bruce Allen will be entering his 370th race. Pawuk, who began his professional career at Columbus in 1985, ranks second behind the Professor in races entered among active Pro Stock drivers. Allen, who actually entered his first Pro Stock race at the 1985 Winternationals, is third on the list.
Bruce Allen drove his Pontiac Grand Am to a seventh-place finish in the POWERade Pro Stock standings in 2004. It was the 13th career top-10 finish for the Arlington, Tex., resident which is second among active drivers only to Warren Johnson's 25 top-10 finishes.
Current Pontiac drivers who have previously won Pro Stock at the Winternationals include Greg Anderson (2004), Warren Johnson (1987, 1993-94, 1997, 2003), and Jim Yates (1996, 1998).
Kurt Johnson is the only current Chevrolet driver to have previously won Pro Stock at the Winternationals (2001).
The Winternationals mark the one-year anniversary of the introduction of the Chevy Monte Carlo Funny Car. In 2004 the Monte Carlo Funny Car charged to seven national-event victories, competed in 13 final rounds and captured six low qualifying awards. Since the inception of the NHRA Funny Car category in 1969, Chevrolet's have scored 71 all-time victories and made 147 final-round appearances.
In his best season ever as a Funny Car driver, Del Worsham led the Chevy red bowtie brigade in 2004 claiming three national event victories in the Monte Carlo and earning a career-best second-place finish in points. Worsham was runner-up at the 1993 and 2002 Winternationals and at last November's NHRA Finals at Pomona Raceway.
The brothers Pedregon, Tony and Cruz, are the only two current Chevy Monte Carlo drivers who have previously won Funny Car at the Winternationals. Tony won the race in 1999 and 2003, and Cruz was Winternationals champion in 1995. Tony was also runner-up in 2000-01. Current Chevy Monte Carlo Funny Car driver Gary Densham was runner-up in 1999 and Tim Wilkerson placed second in 1998.
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