A Workmanlike WJ Looks for a Vintage Performance in Pomona Sugar Hill, Ga., February 10, 2010 -- This weekend, the National Hot Rod Association will celebrate the 50th running of one of its most prestigious races, the Kragen O'Reilly ...
A Workmanlike WJ Looks for a Vintage Performance in Pomona
Sugar Hill, Ga., February 10, 2010 -- This weekend, the National Hot Rod Association will celebrate the 50th running of one of its most prestigious races, the Kragen O'Reilly Winternationals in Pomona, CA. There have been numerous changes and advancements since that inaugural event in 1961, from the sport ascending to national prominence to the establishment of four professional classes. However for almost 30 years, there has been one constant at the traditional NHRA season-opener, namely the participation of Pro Stock stalwart Warren Johnson.
Since qualifying third and defeating Lee Edwards in 1976, "The Professor" has steadily earned his place in Winternationals history, participating in every race since 1984, with his five Pro Stock wins second only to fellow Hall of Famer Bob Glidden, and the most among active competitors in the sport's most competitive category. Despite these many accomplishments and the prestige of this weekend's silver anniversary event, for WJ and his K&N Filters Pontiac crew it will simply be business as usual, as they look for a return trip to the winner's circle.
"Although I have raced in 30 Winternationals and won my share of them, I can't say that any one race stands out," said Johnson. "I think a lot of that has to do with the timing of the event. It's our first race of the season, and when you get to the track, you're still pretty much in turmoil, because you're still trying to wrap up everything you wanted to accomplish during the off-season.
"For that reason, we've always come into Pomona looking to get the race in so we can see how we fare against the competition before heading into the rest of the season. But even though the research and development work might not be complete, you still prepare for the race the same way as you do any other event, which explains our success in the past, and why this K&N Filters crew is looking forward to getting the year started."
Throughout his career, Johnson has been known for his off-season work ethic, and the past few months were no exception, with the research and development efforts starting within days after the end of the 2009 season. Although acknowledging that the true measure of success will come on the racetrack, the six-time champion nevertheless heads to the Golden State with a renewed sense of optimism.
"I feel I've had a more productive off-season this year than I've had in a long time in so far as projects as I have been able to finish," said Johnson. "Therefore, we feel pretty good heading into Pomona, although I would have preferred to do a little testing beforehand. Unfortunately, timing and Mother Nature were against us. Although the lack of testing certainly won't help our K&N Filters GXP, our notes should help us keep things under control. Whether we're ready or not, it's time to find out if we did enough work during the so-called off-season. I think we'll be in good shape."