Baytown: Warren Johnson preview

The Professor Works to have All Systems "Go" in Houston GM Performance Parts GTO team set to defend crown at O'Reilly Spring Nationals Sugar Hill, Ga., March 29, 2006 -- After a one week hiatus, the NHRA's POWERade Drag Racing Series...

The Professor Works to have All Systems "Go" in Houston

GM Performance Parts GTO team set to defend crown at O'Reilly Spring Nationals

Sugar Hill, Ga., March 29, 2006 -- After a one week hiatus, the NHRA's POWERade Drag Racing Series returns to action this weekend with the running of the O'Reilly Spring Nationals in Houston, TX. Warren Johnson and the GM Performance Parts GTO Racing team enter this event as the defending champions, and head to the Lone Star State ready to repeat their winning performance. However, in order to do so, they must take a page from one of Houston's most famous residents -- the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, better known as NASA, and have a safe and effective launch.

In the first three races, the incremental numbers and top speeds have shown that Johnson's GM Performance Parts GTO has been among the very best in the final eighth of a mile. However, in the early stages of the run, the team has battled to effectively transfer the 1,400 horsepower produced by their DRCE 3 engine to the race track. After extensive analysis and testing, "The Professor" believes he has a handle on the situation and hopes to have all systems "go" for liftoff at Houston Raceway Park.

"This weekend I guess we will be among many people in the Houston area looking to launch as quickly as possible," quipped Johnson. "Our GM Performance Parts GTO's numbers in the back half of the runs have been fine -- in fact, they are usually among the best in the class, along with (son) Kurt's. However, we have quite honestly struggled to get off the starting line.

"What has been most perplexing about our current situation is that it is obviously not an impossible task, because several of our competitors have already done it. It's hard to say that we have to back down on our horsepower, because that goes against one of the golden rules of racing. You don't back down on power, you just learn how to use it more effectively, which is what we have been working on. If we can get the performance in the first 60 to 330 feet, we can set sail from there."

As with any assignment, Johnson has attacked this latest challenge on multiple fronts. In the ten days since the last race, he has pored over his notes from the last four years, comparing the performance of previous race cars with his current model, looking for any indication of the cause of this current condition. A checklist with possible solutions was then created, followed by testing in both Gainesville and Atlanta to gauge their effectiveness. Although not quite ready to clear the tower, the six-time champion is cautiously optimistic that, at the very least, the countdown has resumed.

"Our test the day after Gainesville was effectively an extension of what we had done for the first round on Sunday, namely trying to get the car to go straight at the start," stated Johnson. "We confirmed that we had worked ourselves into an unfavorable condition as far as the chassis was concerned, and started working our way out of it. Our approach seemed to be working its way back to where we were as much as two years ago, because once you go off on a tangent, it's sometimes hard to back track. I believe we are now in a position where we will at least be competitive in the early part of the run.

"The changes you can make are dictated by what a particular track can take. Of course, you can't hang your hat on one particular set-up because the tracks vary so much, especially now that the NHRA is struggling to find the ideal surface preparation for the new tire the Fuel cars are using. That compounds our problems even further because you don't know what kind of racetrack you will have until you get there. The bottom line is that we have to come up with a set-up that is as forgiving as possible.

"For example, last year we had a set-up for Houston Raceway Park that went down the track on every run, and helped us to get to the winner's circle. Although we will rely on those notes heavily, as well as what we did on Sunday in Gainesville, we will still have to adapt them to whatever kind of conditions we are given. Fortunately, I have raced on just about every type of surface over the years, so we should be in good shape. It's just a matter of taking care of the details. We're definitely optimistic heading into Baytown."


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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson