Reading: Warren Johnson preview

WJ is Driven to Return to Winning Form in Reading GM Performance Parts GXP crew prep to make a charge at the playoffs Sugar Hill, Ga., August 13, 2008 -- The true test of a champion does not come when he or she is at the top of their game.

WJ is Driven to Return to Winning Form in Reading
GM Performance Parts GXP crew prep to make a charge at the playoffs

Sugar Hill, Ga., August 13, 2008 -- The true test of a champion does not come when he or she is at the top of their game. Rather, it is their approach to the difficult times that truly measures their mettle. A prime example of this can be found in GM Performance Parts Pontiac GXP racer Warren Johnson. In a Hall of Fame Pro Stock career spanning four decades, The Professor has seen and done it all, with the one constant being his sheer determination to succeed.

With that in mind, it can be argued that the 2008 POWERade Drag Racing season may prove to be one of the six-time champion's stiffest challenges. Through the first 16 races, Johnson has been among the very best in qualifying, with 11 top half starts, including No.1 qualifying positions in Gainesville, FL and Bristol, TN. In addition, he has set top speed of the event ten times, bringing his NHRA-leading career total to a remarkable 216.

However, he has yet to translate this performance into success on race day, with a semifinal finish in Joliet an uncharacteristic highlight of his season to date. Even so, Johnson remains resolute in his pursuit of victory, and enters this weekend's Toyo Tires Nationals in Reading, PA committed to finding a way back to the winner's circle and into the Countdown to One.

"This has certainly been a trying year, but everything we've gone through has only increased our determination," said Johnson. "This GM Performance Parts GXP will win, period, end of story. There is no reason to even consider anything else. Throughout the course of the season we have identified the majority of the problems, and have been nicking them off one at a time. Unfortunately, we are now at the stage where we need to be knocking three off at once.

"Obviously, our primary target is the reaction time. Power is not an issue -- we just have to get it to the ground in a timely fashion. We're firmly convinced that it has something to do with the car, and although we have yet to pinpoint exactly where the problem lies, we have a short list of suspected areas. We'll start working on those as soon as I get to the track on Thursday. Over the last few races we've been able to improve our performance in the first sixty feet. Now we just have to get it to respond in those first seven inches. Once we do that, we'll be in good shape."

One aspect of this weekend's race working in Johnson's favor is its location. Nestled among the trees just outside of Reading, Maple Grove Raceway has been a part of the NHRA professional circuit since 1985, with WJ taking part in every edition. During that time, he has recorded four wins in nine final round appearances and 15 finishes of the semifinals or better, which is the gold standard in the Pro Stock category. An added benefit of this continuous success is a virtual library of tuning notes which the team can reference throughout the course of the weekend, which will hopefully help put the team in a favorable position on Sunday night.

"I would expect the performances to be pretty good in Reading this weekend," said Johnson. "Given the fact that it's a decent track with half the elevation we had in Brainerd and similar temperatures in the forecast, I believe we'll see some low 60's out there.

"You can also virtually guarantee there will be plenty of enthusiastic Pro Stock fans in the stands, which is typical of most of the racetracks on the East Coast. We've been fortunate to do fairly well at Maple Grove over the years, which is a trend we certainly need to continue this year with our GM Performance Parts GXP. In the words of Larry the Cable Guy, it's time for us to git-r-done!"

-credit: j2r

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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson