On Track Incident has WJ & Crew Thrashing on Friday in Houston The first day of qualifying at the O'Reilly Spring Nationals in Houston, TX provided Warren Johnson and his GM Performance Parts Pontiac GXP Racing team with a little more excitement...
On Track Incident has WJ & Crew Thrashing on Friday in Houston
The first day of qualifying at the O'Reilly Spring Nationals in Houston, TX provided Warren Johnson and his GM Performance Parts Pontiac GXP Racing team with a little more excitement than they had hoped for. After opening with a solid 6.679-second pass, which came with the top speed of the day in Pro Stock at 208.42 mph, WJ came back in the evening session looking to pick up the pace even further.
Running in the left hand lane opposite his son Kurt, The Professor seemed to have things well in hand when a major malfunction in his engine sent smoke billowing throughout the car, blinding Johnson. Despite his best efforts to retain control, the car spun into the other lane, eventually contacting the wall with the right front and right rear corners.
With his opening effort holding him in the provisional ninth position for Sunday's final eliminations, Johnson and his crew, with assistance from son Kurt and his ACDelco Cobalt team, immediately began to assess the damage and start the lengthy procedure necessary to have the car ready to return to the track.
"Right now, I'm upset more than anything else, because this GM Performance Parts GXP was running so well. It all started when the engine dropped a valve. There was no warning or signs of trouble -- it just blew up. We haven't had a chance to go over the engine and see why it did, but since we have never had that happen before, we know something was awry.
"Unfortunately, the new belly pan that was mandated for 2008 may have contained some of the oil, but it also served to funnel all the smoke inside the car, effectively blinding me. It was so thick I couldn't even see the windshield. The sad part is that if I could have seen where I was going, I believe I could have stopped it without any further problem at all.
"My troubles were complicated even further by this new, taller wicker bill we have to run for some unknown reason. It puts so much down force on the back that it effectively creates lift on the front end of the car, reducing the amount of steering control a driver has. This made it even harder for me to keep the car under control. These are issues that I have mentioned throughout the year that need to be addressed before something worse happens than a bent race car.
"Fortunately, at first glance it appears the damage is mostly cosmetic, and we already have all the pieces to fully fix it waiting for it at Jerry Haas' shop in Missouri. It should take them about 3-4 days to get it fully repaired. For the time being, however, we'll straighten out some of the tubing in the front end, patch up the body as much as we can, replace the headlight and taillight assemblies so the NHRA will recertify it as a race car, and this little beauty will be ready to go."