Baytown: GM Racing Saturday summary

Warren Johnson's Pontiac Grand Am earns no. 1 qualifying spot at Spring Nationals. BAYTOWN, Tex., April 12, 2003 - Warren Johnson's Friday night run of 6.720 seconds put the Pro Stock elapsed-time national record firmly back in the Pontiac Grand...

Warren Johnson's Pontiac Grand Am earns no. 1 qualifying spot at Spring Nationals.

BAYTOWN, Tex., April 12, 2003 - Warren Johnson's Friday night run of 6.720 seconds put the Pro Stock elapsed-time national record firmly back in the Pontiac Grand Am camp. After two additional qualifying sessions today, the "professor's" new performance quarter milestone remains the quickest pass of the weekend, good enough to give the six-time NHRA champion his first No. 1 qualifying spot of the season.

"Given the caliber and number of cars that are out here in Pro Stock, there's no guarantee you're going to qualify No. 1 anymore, let alone get into the field," said Johnson. "Just getting into one of the first 16 spots is your primary goal, and then getting into the first half of the field becomes your secondary objective. We take it as we can out here because there are so many variables you have to contend with. You're never certain as to what the condition of the track is going to be, although the weather has obviously been at a premium this weekend. We haven't seen these kind of conditions in some time.

"Every so often these kind of conditions will crop up, but be as it may, you still have to capitalize on the opportunity. I'm sure there were other cars that could have run as quick as we did given the proper setup. We were just fortunate to hit it as well as we did. There probably wasn't a whole lot left in our GM Performance Parts Pontiac last night."

For the 59-year-old Johnson, it was his 128th career raceday pole position and the most recent chapter in an illustrious professional career that spans four decades. The GM Performance Parts Pontiac driver also continues a streak in which he's earned at least one No. 1 qualifying position every year since 1988. Johnson will earn an additional 20 points if his national record holds through tomorrow's eliminator.

"There are probably six or seven racers out here who have the capability of winning the championship this year," said Johnson. "And right now there are two or three cars that have performed a little better than the others at this point. But it's a long season also, and when you look at the different conditions we will face throughout the year, the guys that are running fast now may not be able to maintain that momentum for the whole 23-race schedule. There's such a variety of track and atmospheric conditions that we race under that it really opens it up to a number of quality teams. I don't see a runaway this year by any stretch of the imagination."

Kurt Johnson's ACDelco Chevy Cavalier will start Sunday eliminations from the No. 2 qualifying position. Johnson's 2003 red, white and blue Chevrolet roared to a national-record top speed of 205.57 mph and is the quickest Cavalier in the field.

The quickest elapsed time of the day belonged to Texas' own Bruce Allen. Allen drove his Pontiac SC/T Grand Am to the No. 5 qualifying position with a career-best run during the morning session of 6.742 seconds. With an improvement of .001 of a second under last night's lap, Allen's Pontiac was one of only two previously qualified cars that actually ran quicker in today's warmer, more humid air conditions.

"That's about as good as we can run - we pretty much drained it," said Allen. "You don't get to do that very often. We've now run fast in both lanes, and to be low of the day in this quality field, as tight as it is, is quite an accomplishment. I also think it's a good indication of where our program is right now. This Pontiac SC/T Grand Am is an awesome racecar. It works so well, and combined with our power output, our program has come a long, long way.

"We have a pretty good setup and a pretty good feel for what we're going to need tomorrow. Last night, we were a little more aggressive than we needed to be and that was primarily because we didn't get enough information off our first pass to make a good call for the later round. To run a 6.74 last night was good for us, and having that information, we adjusted well and made an outstanding run this morning."

Greg Anderson has his SC/T Grand Am parked in the No. 3 qualifying position with a career-best time and speed of 6.727 seconds at 205.41 mph.

"I feel pretty good about of our chances tomorrow," said Anderson. "The car still doesn't feel quite as good as it did at the last two or three races, but we're gaining on it every run. We messed up a little bit last night during the fast qualifying session - both driver and car. You got to give Warren (Johnson) credit. He did a great job at the right time. We didn't and he got the record. We'll just have to make it up tomorrow and get those 20 points back in round wins.

"We're confident. Obviously, our Pontiac Grand Am was one step ahead of everybody else when the track got hot, so hopefully we can build on that.. We're in good shape."

Mike Edwards had his best qualifying effort of the year finishing in the No. 4 position. Edwards used his 2003 Pontiac to post career-best performance numbers with a run of 6.736 seconds at 204.17 mph.

"This Pontiac Grand Am has made consistent runs all weekend," said Edwards. "We're making some headway. It's getting hotter here in Houston so hopefully we'll be able to put together a nice raceday setup for tomorrow.

"This weekend we've been spot on and it's been a great effort by our whole team. We've kind of teamed up with Terry Adams and Barry Grant on a three-car effort where we're sharing information, and it's really helped all of us. We've been running with Frank Iaconio's engines and he's been a big part of our success so far even though we're still working to get our in-house engine program up to speed."

Ron Krisher is seventh in a Chevy Cavalier, Mark Pawuk is ninth in a Grand Am, Jeg Coughlin Jr. is 12th in a Cavalier and Jim Yates is 14th in a Grand Am.

"Today in the heat we shook the tires pretty hard and were still seventh in the session," said Yates. "That gives us something to tune up for. The track's going to be hot tomorrow and at least now we know what to expect. Our job now is to work on the car and get it ready. We have very few runs on this Grand Am and usually we never bring out a new car with that few runs on it. So we're kind of tuning it up as we go at the national-event level. That's now a healthy thing to do when you're chasing a championship, but e'll be a lot better tomorrow than we were today."

With a bump of 6.768 seconds, this is the quickest Pro Stock field in NHRA history. Seven cars shattered the previous national-record e.t. of 6.750 seconds and 30 cars posted numbers under the previous track-record elapsed time of 6.822 seconds.

There were 35 cars that attempted to make the 16-car eliminator. Of those cars appearing in tomorrow's race, six are Pontiac SC/T Grand Ams and six are Chevy Cavaliers. Only .048 of a second separates the starting field.

Mark Pawuk (Summit Racing Pontiac SC/T Grand Am) - "We're still not where we need to be, but I feel this Summit Racing Pontiac Grand Am has enough power to be in the middle of the pack. Marcus Bowen has taken charge of our crew chief duties and he's done a great job this weekend. We've made four very nice, consistent runs and we have a little bit left to fall back on. I got out of the groove last night, it's hard for me to see when it gets too late, but the car got pretty loose down track and I think we could have run a little faster. Just to be in the show though is all that matters. I'd like to be in the top half, but at the same time we're only two-thousandths out of the top eight, three thousandths off the old national record and less than two hundredths off the top qualifier. We stayed on Monday in Las Vegas and learned some things. We've made a big gain here in less than a week and it bodes well on the direction this race team is going. We may stay on Monday and test as well. We'll stay focussed on what we have going on, keep running this Grand Am the way we are here, and hopefully we can start going some rounds. The car's finally jumping up on the tire. When it does that it's going to be fast. To be within striking range of low e.t. is encouraging because good things can happen on raceday when you're that close." No. 9 qualifier - 6.753ET/203.55MPH

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Mark Pawuk , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Greg Anderson , Ron Krisher , Bruce Allen , Barry Grant , Terry Adams , Mike Edwards