Native Son WJ Looking to Add to his Minnesota Memories Having reined in their GTO, GM Performance Parts crew is ready to race in Brainerd Sugar Hill, Ga., August 9, 2006 -- Throughout its 148-year history, the state of Minnesota has made its...
Native Son WJ Looking to Add to his Minnesota Memories
Having reined in their GTO, GM Performance Parts crew is ready to race in Brainerd
Sugar Hill, Ga., August 9, 2006 -- Throughout its 148-year history, the state of Minnesota has made its share of contributions to everyday life in the United States. From Tonka Trucks and snowmobiles to staplers, Snickers and the canned ham, people of all ages and walks of life have benefited from the creative genius of innumerable Minnesotans.
This 32nd state has also left an indelible imprint on the sport of drag racing, particularly in the Pro Stock category, where several standout drivers call the Land of 10,000 Lakes home. None, however, has made a bigger mark in the National Hot Rod Association both on and off the track than six-time champion Warren Johnson. With roots stretching back to his days at Minnesota Dragways, this Virginia, MN native has single-handedly rewritten the record books while simultaneously advancing the technology of the "factory hot rods."
This weekend, Johnson will look to add another entry to his lengthy list of North Star state successes as he and his GM Performance Parts Racing team compete in the Lucas Oil Nationals in Brainerd, MN. Not surprisingly, "The Professor" is focused less on the homecoming and more on how to return his GTO to the winner's circle.
"Racing in Brainerd is always an experience," stated Johnson. "I have people come up to me and ask if I remember them from third or fourth grade, but unfortunately I have to ask them for a hint, because we've obviously aged a little since then. Besides, I haven't seen a lot of these folks in 30 or 40 years. The good part is that, no matter what we do on the track, it's always a tremendous homecoming.
"Brainerd has always been one of our most popular races in terms of attendance, and I believe the spectators' enthusiasm is certain to increase even further with the new ownership that has just taken over. I expect it will be another jam-packed, action-filled event, and we might even have a little drag racing thrown in for good measure!"
In addition to making his annual trip back to his home state, Johnson will also be marking an anniversary of sorts this weekend, completing one full year of competition with his current GM Performance Parts GTO. It has been an interesting time, with highs such as their win in Phoenix earlier this season, mixing with periods where the right tune-up was an extremely elusive target. However, coming off a strong showing in Seattle and a career-best elapsed time in Sonoma, CA two weeks ago, Johnson is confident they are back on track and ready to challenge for the win at Brainerd International Raceway.
"The first time we raced this GM Performance Parts GTO in Brainerd last year, we qualified No. 1 and set both ends of the track record, which we thought was a good omen," stated Johnson. "At the same time, we weren't totally happy with how the car was set up, chassis wise. As a result, we never got as good a handle on it as we would like, no matter how much we tested, which certainly affected our performance earlier this year.
"Throughout that period, there were several people suggesting we switch to our new car, but I was concerned with moving whatever issues we had with the older chassis to the new one. Fortunately, I had some time to think things over during the Western Swing, back tracking to the previous car, and we were able to trace things down to the components that caused our problems. Ironically, I'm not sure we could have come to this same conclusion simply by testing.
"We repaired what we needed in Seattle, and the car immediately responded. We'll take what we have found so far and fine-tune it before applying it to the new car, which will probably happen by Indy. It was just a case of getting back on course. Now that we appear to be able to apply the power to the ground properly, we can go back to working on finding horsepower, which will only help our performance.
"We feel pretty good about our GM Performance Parts GTO's chances this weekend. I feel we can qualify in the top half of the field, after which we'll wage war on the competition in eliminations."
Quick Notes on Warren Johnson & the GM Performance Parts GTO team entering
The 25th annual Lucas Oil Nationals:
WJ has been in Brainerd from the start: This will be Warren's 25th career NHRA national event at Brainerd International Raceway. In his previous 23 starts, he has four wins (which is tied with Bruce Allen and Bob Glidden for the most by a Pro Stock driver) in five final round appearances, and a 43-19 elimination round record for a .692 win percentage.
WJ's Qualifying Stats in Brainerd: In 23 BIR starts, WJ has five No. 1 qualifying performances, 18 starts in the top three positions and a 4.74 average starting position.
One Year Ago -- Track Record Holder: Warren scored the 136th No. 1 qualifying position of his career (the most among the NHRA professional categories), as well as both ends of the BIR track record with a 6.698-second, 206.57 mph pass, and advanced to the semifinals.