Bristol: Warren Johnson preview

Warren Johnson Looks to Solve the Puzzle in Bristol GM Performance Parts team aims to duplicate 2002 Thunder Valley Nationals win SUGAR HILL, GA., April 27, 2004 - In the 1980's there was a very popular toy named the Rubik's Cube. It was a...

Warren Johnson Looks to Solve the Puzzle in Bristol
GM Performance Parts team aims to duplicate 2002 Thunder Valley Nationals win

SUGAR HILL, GA., April 27, 2004 - In the 1980's there was a very popular toy named the Rubik's Cube. It was a puzzle in the shape of a cube, with each of its six sides comprised of nine smaller colored squares. The goal was to turn and twist it along its multiple axes until each side was of a single, distinct color. Although there were thousands of possible color configurations, there was only one correct solution, which people spent hours and sometimes days trying to find.

Through the first five races of the 2004 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing season, Pro Stock icon Warren Johnson could very well feel that his GM Performance Parts Grand Am is a 2,350-pound, 200-mph reincarnation of that 80's puzzle. Although "The Professor's" hot rod has shown signs of its tremendous power and speed, the crew continues to work tirelessly to find the one combination that will produce the consistency vital to their championship hopes. Entering this weekend's O'Reilly Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol, Tennessee, Johnson is confident that all the pieces are in the proper place.

"Our GM Performance Parts Grand Am has certainly shown flashes, but it has not yet been as consistent as we'd like it to be," said Johnson. "Our biggest challenge has been getting it to run in the first sixty feet. That was the one area we focused on in testing, and we were as fast as anyone in Atlanta this past week. Essentially, we had to completely rework the entire shock and spring package, as well as the configuration of the four-link.

"It's not that there is anything wrong with the car. The chassis design is just so radically different from anything else out there that we have yet to find its proverbial sweet spot. On a standard Haas chassis, you have a baseline set-up from the factory that you tune from, and it works on 99% of those cars. Unfortunately, our car, being different, is not completely comfortable with it. Just as Jerry (Haas) didn't arrive at the set-up overnight, and he was gathering data from more than eight cars. We're going it alone, and getting closer with every pass, so it's just taking time."

Of all the competitors in the Pro Stock pit area this weekend, Johnson is perhaps best qualified to discuss the intricacies of racing on the fabled Tennessee quarter-mile. Throughout his stellar 30-year career, Johnson is one of the few racers to have competed and won on both the original and the current Bristol Dragways. Ironically, he sees some similarities between the two editions.

"Back in the 1960's, the original Bristol Dragway was as good a track as there was in drag racing, much like the current facility is now," stated Johnson. "Of course, once new tracks were built in the '80's offering better amenities, it quickly became outdated, and when I raced there, it was nothing like it is today. Fortunately, Bruton Smith and his group came in, tore it all down and completely reworked it to where it is one of the showpieces on the NHRA circuit.

"As far as the spectators are concerned, it's a little like Denver, where there isn't a bad seat in the house. It's also a great facility for the racers, and they've paid a tremendous amount of attention to the racing surface, reworking it several times to make sure there's plenty of traction to allow us to take advantage of how smooth it is. I haven't been there since the last time they worked on it, but I'm sure it will be fine, as they know what we need. In any case, it will be up to the GM Performance Parts team to make sure we adapt to it better than our competition. It's time this puzzle gets solved."

In Warren's Words:

On how his program is constantly evolving -

"We always have a variety of items in process. We have four people at Warren Johnson Enterprises working full time machining and building new parts, after which we have to test them on the dyno to see if they will work or not. I believe we are the only team running the DRCE 3 (the third generation General Motors Drag Racing Engine), and its combination is significantly different from what we've run in the past, so it will take time to get it fully up to speed. It's starting to show significant promise, and we're only in the first phase of development."

Facts on Warren Johnson and the GM Performance Parts Racing Team entering The O'Reilly Thunder Valley Nationals:

* WJ is in elite company at Bristol: This will be Warren's fourth NHRA Pro Stock national event appearance at Bristol Dragway, where he has one win in 2001, and a 6-2 elimination round record for a .750 win percentage. WJ is also one of three current Pro Stock drivers (Rickie Smith, Darrell Alderman) to have won in Thunder Valley on the old racing surface, with five IHRA wins in 1979-81 and 1988 & 1989).

* Warren's Qualifying Stats in Thunder Valley: In his three previous starts at Bristol Dragway, WJ has one No. 1 qualifying position a year ago, with an outstanding 3.33 average starting position.

* One year ago: WJ captured the 129th No. 1 qualifying position of his career, with an elapsed time of 6.862 seconds with a top speed of 200.62 mph, and advanced to the semifinals.

* Winning Streak: Warren Johnson is looking to extend a streak where has won at least one race a year for 22 consecutive years, which is the longest in NHRA history.

* No. 1 in National event wins: WJ's 92 national event victories are the most ever in the history of the Pro Stock division and place him second on the all-time NHRA win list. His most recent win came last year at the Lucas Oil Nationals in Reading, PA.

* Career best elapsed time: 6.715 seconds, Englishtown 2003

* Career best top speed: 205.69 mph, Englishtown 2003


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Series NHRA
Drivers Darrell Alderman , Warren Johnson , Rickie Smith