Repairs Completed, WJ Qualifies Ninth in Houston After contacting the wall on their second qualifying attempt on Friday evening at the O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals in Houston, TX, Warren Johnson and the GM Performance Parts GXP Racing team ...
Repairs Completed, WJ Qualifies Ninth in Houston
After contacting the wall on their second qualifying attempt on Friday evening at the O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals in Houston, TX, Warren Johnson and the GM Performance Parts GXP Racing team endured a long night of repairs simply to get their car ready to get back on the track. Fortunately, their place in Sunday's final eliminations field was fairly secure, having made a solid 6.679-second, 208.42 mph run in the opening session, eventually earning them the ninth starting spot.
Completing their work and being cleared by the NHRA officials just prior to Saturday's first session, their initial attempt was stymied by a slight water leak, which forced them to shut off after completing their burnout. However, they were able to come back in the final session on Saturday afternoon, recording a competitive 6.708-second elapsed time with the top speed of the round at 208.33 mph. Having made a successful pass with the new engine and chassis combination, Johnson turned his attention towards fine-tuning his set-up for race day.
"First of all, I want to commend both my GM Performance Parts and Kurt's ACDelco crews on the tremendous effort to get this car fixed, as well as the assistance of Gary Burns at Gay Pontiac, who went out of his way to deliver a new headlight assembly to the track last night. I'd also like to thank my fellow competitors who stopped by and offered their assistance.
"Missing that run this morning hurt, effectively putting us two runs behind on our tune-up. If we had gotten that run in, we might have been able to tune this up a little better for the afternoon. Unfortunately, things just didn't work in our favor, as we had a few drops leak out of our overflow tank and they shut us off.
"Considering everything we had to do to this GM Performance Parts GXP just to get it back on track, that wasn't a terrible run this afternoon. We had changed so many things, coupled with the fact that we still weren't 100% confident with where we need to be with the tune-up on this engine that we decided to make a baseline run and work from there, and that's exactly what we did.
"We had never used this motor at a national event before, so we really didn't know what to expect. Even though that was a less than optimal run, we had the top speed of the session, which indicates that at some point in its power curve it's acceptable. We will use this piece for tomorrow, and then I'll go back and build a couple more that we believe will be better than the one I sacrificed yesterday.
"We feel pretty good going into tomorrow. We don't have lane choice, which I hope will not be an insurmountable issue, and, as long as we make a good run, I believe we should be able to run with the best of them."
Some facts on the repair:
* Both crews stayed at the track until 2:00 a.m. working on the car, with the GM Performance Parts team concentrating on the chassis and rear part of the car, while Kurt Johnson and the ACDelco team pieced the shattered nose back together.
* The primary damage was to the right front corner and right rear quarter-panel of the GXP's body. A front tubing hoop which holds the fuel cell in place also needed to be straightened. Ironically, this car has been in the GM Aero Lab in Warren, MI just ten days ago.
* However, the truly costly damage was to the engine, which propelled WJ to the No. 1 qualifying position and top speed of the event in Gainesville, as well as the current top speed here in Houston at 208.42 mph. It is a total write-off, with only the intake manifold and possibly the valve covers being salvaged.
* A backup motor has already been installed.
* This was only the 14th run this car had ever made, and sixth in national event competition.
* A key assist in the repair was provided by Fred Simmonds of GM Racing, as well as Gary Burns from Gay Pontiac in Dickinson, TX, who went to the dealership after hours and delivered a new GXP headlight assembly to the team here at HRP at about 9:00 p.m.
* Numerous teams in the pit area offered their assistance, both in parts and manpower.
* The repair work performed here will allow the car to complete the event. However, it will then head directly to Jerry Haas' shop in Missouri to have a new nose and right rear quarter-panel fitted, as well as any other necessary repairs to bring it to as new condition.
* The GM Performance Parts livery will also have to be reapplied once the body damage is completely repaired. Fortunately, it is a vinyl wrap, for if the car had to be repainted, it would also have to be rewired.
* The car received approval to return to the track from the NHRA Technical Department at 10:00 a.m. this morning
* WJ estimates that, including the motor, the cost of repair should exceed $150,000.