Pomona: Warren Johnson preview

Warren Johnson Looks Forward to the Relaxation of Racing in Pomona Successful tests of new wheels has GM Performance Parts team set to defend Winternationals title SUGAR HILL, GA., February 16, 2004 - The 2004 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing season...

Warren Johnson Looks Forward to the Relaxation of Racing in Pomona
Successful tests of new wheels has GM Performance Parts team set to defend Winternationals title

SUGAR HILL, GA., February 16, 2004 - The 2004 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing season will kick off this weekend with the running of the Winternationals at Pomona Raceway in Pomona, California. Over the next 10 months, teams will compete in 23 races at tracks across the country in pursuit of the ultimate prize - the POWERade championship.

With six NHRA Pro Stock crowns to his credit, Warren Johnson is well aware of the demands that lie ahead. However, after a particularly hectic off-season, Johnson and the GM Performance Parts crew are actually anxious to start the year and return to their normal race routine.

"The entire GM Performance Parts Grand Am crew is looking forward to getting the season started in Pomona, because, believe it or not, the atmosphere should be more relaxing," stated Johnson. "When we're competing at national events, we are only at the racetrack for twelve hours a day, as opposed to the eighteen we've routinely been putting in at the shop during the winter getting ready.

"In addition to our normal preparations, we've been busy developing the DRCE III (the third generation of General Motor's Drag Racing Competition Engine), and getting a handle on the new bead lock wheels. As if that wasn't enough, we've had to spend time settling in to our new race transporter. Although the overall effect was to make a normally chaotic time and change into a state of absolute lunacy, we're confident all that hard work will come to fruition on the race track."

The subject garnering the most attention in the Pro Stock category during the off-season is the rule change mandating the use of bead lock wheels, which are designed to provide an added measure of stability and safety. Throughout testing, "The Professor" was at the forefront, with several strong runs culminating in his victory at the pre-season Pontiac Pro Stock Super Bowl. Ironically, this was not W.J.'s first visit to winner's circle using bead lock rims, as he had used a similar combination to win the Pro Stock title at Sonoma, CA in 1992.

"Back in 1992, the racetrack in Sonoma was a far cry from what it is today," recalled Johnson. "It was an old, rough surface with hardly any concrete, which was made even worse by track temperatures that were 140 degrees and higher. From my prior experience with marginal tracks, I knew we needed to stiffen up the sidewall and put as big a tire as we could fit on the car.

"Fortunately, I had anticipated these conditions, and brought a set of bead locks with me on to which we put a set of alcohol funny car tires. While everyone else was slipping and sliding, we went right down the track, covering the field by two tenths. The rest, as they say, is history."

Despite his off-season successes, Johnson is quick to downplay any notion that he enters the season-opener with an advantage.

"Heading into Pomona, I wouldn't say I'm any more comfortable or uncomfortable with the new combination than anyone else," said Johnson. "Certainly we've tested well, but we've also benefited from choosing to run a larger tire than some of our competitors for the last few years. Therefore, while this was an incremental jump for us, it was a larger task for others, as, in addition to finding the proper chassis set-up they also have to learn the right gearing set-up for the significant increase in tire size.

"We may have a bit of a head start, but I expect everyone will pick up on it rather quickly, because it's really not that dramatic a change. Hopefully, we can carry the momentum we've gathered during the off-season through the early part of the season and build up a good lead, but there are certainly no guarantees."

Johnson and crew come to California hoping for a repeat performance of last year's event, where they set both ends of the track record en route to WJ's 89th national event win.

"Naturally, winning the first race of the season as we did last year is the best way to start," said Johnson. "The only way it could have been better would be having Kurt (Johnson's son and driver of the ACDelco Cavalier) in the final against us.

"Based on our initial testing, we're pretty optimistic that the GM Performance Parts Grand Am will be in even better shape than we were at the beginning of last year. We've also found a few things on the dyno in the last few weeks that we believe will prove beneficial very shortly, picking up our entire program's performance. We're pretty upbeat about 2004, starting with the first race in Pomona."

In Warren's Words:

On his outlook for the Pro Stock category in 2004 -

"I believe the competition in Pro Stock will tighten up this year, which is hard to imagine, considering how close it has been in the past. With the new wheels, we're not going to be in the predicament of not having enough traction - in fact, most of the time we'll have more than we need. Once everyone learns how to de-tune their chassis for these conditions, it should close the field up even more, making the racing even better."

On having an edge at Pomona Raceway due to his experience -

"I don't believe my added experience has a significant effect. I may understand the characteristics of Pomona Raceway a little more than someone who has made fewer runs there, but the added traction provided by the new tire and wheel combination should even things out. In fact, the only advantage I may have is in knowing where the bumps are, and even that edge has been taken away since the track was resurfaced."

On his goals for the 2004 POWERade season -

"The main thrust of this entire campaign is to bring the championship back to our shop in Sugar Hill. Whether it's myself or Kurt makes no difference at all, as long as it ends up here."

Facts on Warren Johnson and the GM Performance Parts Racing Team entering The Winternationals:

* Pomona is WJ's Playground: This will be Warren's 46th NHRA Pro Stock national event appearance at Pomona Raceway, where he has nine wins in fifteen final round appearances, and an 90-34 elimination round record for a .730 win percentage. WJ's most recent win in Pomona came at last year's Winternationals. Overall, WJ has five wins in nine Winternationals final round appearances.

* Warren's Qualifying Stats in Pomona: In his 45 previous starts at Pomona Raceway, WJ has an outstanding 3.6 average starting position, with twelve No. 1 qualifying positions and only two starts outside the top half of the field. In fact, WJ was the top qualifier at every race in Pomona from 1993 -1996.

* One year ago: WJ qualified second with an elapsed time of 6.775 seconds with a top speed of 204.54 mph, and defeated Troy Coughlin, Kurt Johnson, Darrell Alderman and Allen Johnson en route to his 89th career national event win.

* Pomona Raceway Record Holder: WJ holds both ends of the Pomona track records, based on his 6.764 second elapsed time and 204.91 mph efforts from last year's Winternationals.

* Winning Streak: Warren Johnson has won at least two races in 18 of the past 22 years. In addition, his current streak of winning at least one race a year for 22 consecutive years is the longest in NHRA history.

* No. 1 in National event wins: WJ's 92 national event victories are the most ever in the history of the Pro Stock division and place him second on the all-time NHRA win list. His most recent win came last at the Lucas Oil Nationals in Reading, PA.

* Career best elapsed time: 6.715 seconds, Englishtown 2003

* Career best top speed: 205.69 mph, Englishtown 2003

-j2r-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Troy Coughlin , Darrell Alderman , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Allen Johnson