WJ's Pro Stock History in Bristol Precedes the NHRA's Arrival GM Performance Parts Driver Looks to Add to Long Record of Success in Tennessee Sugar Hill, Ga., April 25, 2005 -- This weekend the POWERade Drag Racing Series will make its annual...
WJ's Pro Stock History in Bristol Precedes the NHRA's Arrival
GM Performance Parts Driver Looks to Add to Long Record of Success in Tennessee
Sugar Hill, Ga., April 25, 2005 -- This weekend the POWERade Drag Racing Series will make its annual visit to Bristol, Tennessee for the running of the O'Reilly Thunder Valley Nationals. It will mark the fifth year that the NHRA has held a national event with the Pro Stock category at the Bruton Smith-owned facility, which is one of the crown jewels on drag racing's premiere circuit.
However, GM Performance Parts Pontiac pilot Warren Johnson's experience with this legendary track goes back much further, as he participated in his first Pro Stock race at Thunder Valley in 1979, when both the track owner and sanctioning body were different than they are now.
"The first year I raced in Bristol was 1979, and comparing the facility then to what it is now is like describing the difference between night and day," stated Johnson. "Twenty-six years ago, it was a decent facility at best. For example, they had a definite problem in the left lane where water would drain from the mountain. You would never, ever choose the left lane, especially if it was warm, because the water would start coming up on that side, making it the proverbial one-lane racetrack.
"I'm not sure how much dirt Bruton Smith and his group moved after they purchased the track, but they literally moved a mountain to get enough room for both the spectators and a pit area to accommodate all the race teams. The footprint for the facility has to be twice as big as it was before. They've also fixed the track and the staging lanes, which went downhill and took you around the corner before getting to the starting line.
"Basically, they have transformed it from the crude track it was early on, to one of our better facilities overall. We race there once a year, but I wouldn't mind if they held a second race here as well."
Despite the many changes over the years, the one constant at the Tennessee quarter-mile has been Johnson's winning performance. Having scored six wins in nine final round appearances in Thunder Valley from 1979 through 1989, "The Professor" is one of only three drivers (including his son and stable mate Kurt) to have won a Pro Stock title in Bristol since the NHRA's arrival in 2001.
"We've been fortunate to do well at Bristol over the years, and we certainly want to repeat that success this weekend," said Johnson. "Its elevation of about 1500 feet is unique to our series, giving us tuning conditions that we face but once a year.
"We've raced there when it's been hot and when it's been cold, and it always seems like we have to worry about rain. Fortunately, with as many times as we have run in Bristol, we have data to cover virtually any situation, which helps us, not only with an opening set-up, but to also make the necessary adjustments to our GM Performance Parts Pontiac throughout the weekend."
Johnson arrives in the Volunteer State with a full head of steam, with one win, one semi-final finish and two No. 1 qualifying performances in the last two events. Sitting second in the championship points standings, he is cautiously optimistic about his chances for this weekend.
"Given that we have eight or nine cars capable of winning a national event at any given time, being competitive in that group says that at least you have a pretty substantial program," said Johnson. "Therefore, keeping in mind that we started the year with an untested race car and engine combination, the fact that we've been in contention for the win at every race so far has us pretty pleased with our GM Performance Parts Pontiac's performance.
"However, we are not about to let our guard down, and are continually working to better our performance. Our focus remains on making sure we get our fair share of the race wins, which I would consider all of them, starting with this weekend in Bristol."
Notes on Warren Johnson and the GM Performance Parts Pontiac Racing team entering the O'Reilly Thunder Valley Nationals:
* WJ in Thunder Valley: This will be Warren's fifth NHRA appearance at Bristol Dragway, where he won in 2002, and was the No. 1 qualifier in 2003. Overall WJ has an elimination round record of 6-3 in his previous four races.
* One year ago: Warren qualified tenth with an elapsed time of 6.860 seconds and a top speed of 201.58 mph, but fell in the first round.
* WJ's No.1 Qualifying Performances Often Come in Bunches: Warren will be looking to score three consecutive No. 1 qualifying performances, having been the top qualifier in Houston and Las Vegas. If he accomplishes this feat, it will be the fifth time he has done so in his career, which he did most recently in 1999, when he was the top qualifier at the Brainerd, Indianapolis and Reading races. WJ has also been the No. 1 qualifier at four consecutive races five times, at five consecutive races once, at six consecutive races four times, and once qualified No. 1 at seven consecutive races.
* No. 1 in National event wins: WJ's 93 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 three weeks ago at the O'Reilly Spring NHRA Nationals in Houston, TX.
* Career Best Elapsed Time: 6.679 seconds, Gainesville, FL, 3/20/05
* Career best top speed: 206.70 mph, Gainesville, FL, 3/20/05