SUGAR HILL, Ga. - While visions of sugar plums danced in children's heads, Pro Stock racer Warren Johnson unwrapped his new 2001 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Grand Am in a preseason test in Bradenton, Fla. The five-time NHRA champion was as delighted with his new race car as a kid with a new toy on Christmas morning.
"This car will definitely run 6.70s," Johnson predicted. "There is no doubt about that."
Despite chilly temperatures and a stone-cold track, the Professor's new Pontiac turned competitive times in its debut at DeSoto Memorial Dragway. "The car ran 6.87 at 200.57 mph on its first full pass," Warren reported. "We made a series of suspension adjustments and ran consistently between 6.87 and 6.89.
"Everything worked just the way we wanted it to in the first test," he continued. "I'm very comfortable with the car. We learned its general characteristics, and now it's just a matter of continuing to fine tune the setup before the start of the season."
Johnson's new Grand Am has a longer wheelbase and a narrower overall width than the Firebird he campaigned last season. "You can feel the longer wheelbase because the car reacts a little more slowly and predictably going down the track," W.J. observed. "I'm so relaxed in the driver's seat that I'm thinking about putting a recliner in there!
"I think it's going to be an excellent race car," he concluded.
A second Grand Am from Jerry Haas Race Cars has joined the first Don Ness-built car in Johnson's race car stable. W.J. plans to test both cars in Florida and Arizona in January. The NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series will begin with the AutoZone Winternationals in Pomona, Calif., on February 1-4.
Johnson is already counting the hours until the start of the new season. He spent Christmas day in his shop fabricating a new throttle linkage for his race car. "I need more go," he explained with a laugh.
- Rick Voegelin