Columbus: Warren Johnson preview

Warren Johnson looks to rediscover winning form in Columbus GM Performance arts Grand Am crew ready to rebound at Pontiac Excitement Nationals SUGAR HILL, GA., June 10, 2003 - Warren Johnson is arguably the brightest mind in the NHRA's ...

Warren Johnson looks to rediscover winning form in Columbus
GM Performance arts Grand Am crew ready to rebound at Pontiac Excitement Nationals

SUGAR HILL, GA., June 10, 2003 - Warren Johnson is arguably the brightest mind in the NHRA's ultra-competitive Pro Stock division. Having competed almost since the category's inception in the early 70's, he has played a vital role in making the "factory hot rods" what they are today, with his many innovations earning him the nickname of "The Professor of Pro Stock". With 90 wins and six championships, Johnson continues to be one of the most feared competitors in the POWERade Drag Racing series, with his GM Performance Parts Grand Am a threat to win every race entered.

However, at the last national event in Joliet, IL, Johnson proved he is also human. For only the fourth time in his storied career, spanning over 400 races, he was a reluctant spectator on Sunday. Rather than bemoaning his misfortune, he began an immediate analysis of the situation, came up with the solution, and, in true "W.J." fashion, heads into this weekend's Pontiac Excitement Nationals confident of regaining the form that saw him win twice in the first ten races.

"Our problems in Joliet came down to a simple mental mistake," explained Johnson. "We simply didn't make the necessary corrections during qualifying. Ironically, the solution was something so obvious that we totally disregarded it, and it came back to bite us.

"I thought of the answer while driving to Charlotte after the race. As soon as I got back to the shop, I got on the computer and checked our runs to confirm it. I feel pretty optimistic that our GM Performance Parts Grand Am will be back on track when we get to Columbus."

One factor favoring Johnson's return to the winner's circle is the location of this weekend's event. Located just outside of Columbus, Ohio, National Trail Raceway is the site of WJ's first NHRA national event elimination-round win, a first round victory over Scott Shafiroff in 1975. Since that time, he has won four races in nine final round appearances in the Buckeye state, and been the No. 1 qualifier eight times.

Johnson's confidence is also bolstered by his ever-increasing familiarity with his new race car. Although the Columbus event will be only its third race, W.J. is pleased with the potential this new Grand Am has shown and hopes to use his experience with the Ohio racing surface to deliver on its promise.

"We've been quite successful at Columbus, and I would attribute that to its resemblance to our home track in Atlanta," detailed Johnson. "The elevation is similar to that of Atlanta Dragway, as well as the weather at this time of year. Therefore, by testing in Commerce we get a fairly good idea of what to expect when we get to National Trail Raceway.

"We're also getting more comfortable with this new GM Performance Parts Grand Am. We've made a few changes since Joliet that we plan to test before this weekend, and it's already shown that it will be a tremendous improvement over our previous car. We just have to learn to treat it correctly. All things considered, I believe we are entering a period where Kurt's and my cars should be at the forefront, starting with this weekend."

Facts on Warren Johnson and the GM Performance Parts Racing Team entering the Pontiac Excitement Nationals:

WJ knows the way in Columbus: This will be Warren's 28th NHRA Pro Stock national event appearance at National Trail Raceway, where he has won four times (1985, 1993, 1999, 2001) in nine final round appearances, while compiling a 46-22 elimination round record.

"The Professor" is No. 1 at National Trail: In his previous 27 races in Columbus, WJ has eight No. 1 qualifying performances, and has qualified lower than fourth only five times (with four of those coming in his first six races (1975 - 1981). Warren's average qualifying performance in Columbus is 2.67.

Did you know? Warren Johnson scored his first national event elimination round win at National Trail Raceway, defeating Scott Shafiroff in the first round in 1975. (Incidentally, WJ's elimination round record now stands at 760-322.)

One year ago: WJ qualified third for last year's Columbus race with an elapsed time of 6.878 seconds and a top speed of 199.82 mph, and advanced to the quarterfinals.

Winning Streak: With his win in Atlanta, Warren Johnson has now won at least two races in 18 of the past 22 years. In addition, his current streak of winning at least one race a year for 22 consecutive years is the longest in NHRA history.

POWERade Points standings: After the tenth of 23 events, WJ stands third in the 2003 POWERade points standings with 686 points, 204 behind his son and leader Kurt Johnson, and trails second place Greg Anderson by 202 markers.

No. 1 in National event wins: WJ's 90 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 at the 2003 Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals in Atlanta, Ga.

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 Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Greg Anderson