Columbus: Warren Johnson preview

Warren Johnson Looks to Marshal a Win in Columbus GM Performance Parts team Aims for Fifth Ohio win at Pontiac Performance Nationals Sugar Hill, Ga., May 16, 2005 -- Throughout his illustrious career, GM Performance Parts Pontiac pilot Warren...

Warren Johnson Looks to Marshal a Win in Columbus
GM Performance Parts team Aims for Fifth Ohio win at Pontiac Performance Nationals

Sugar Hill, Ga., May 16, 2005 -- Throughout his illustrious career, GM Performance Parts Pontiac pilot Warren Johnson has accomplished just about everything one could as a competitor in the NHRA's POWERade Drag Racing Series. A six-time Pro Stock champion, his 94 wins are the most in the history of the category, and his 133 No. 1 qualifying performances lead all professional categories. In addition, "The Professor" has set numerous records and has been responsible for various innovations, with the most recent being the third generation General Motors Drag Racing Competition Engine (DRCE III), which only he and his son Kurt are currently using in competition.

However, at this weekend's Pontiac Performance Nationals in Columbus, Ohio, Johnson will experience something completely new, as he has been named the event's Grand Marshal.

"I guess they've found another hat for me to wear in this sport," joked Johnson. "I'm not quite sure what the position entails, but I guess we'll be able to live through it. One thing is for certain -- it will be different than anything else I've experienced at a racetrack, and that's saying something. In all seriousness, I do appreciate Pontiac for recognizing me in this fashion, but I hope they understand that my attention will be focused elsewhere throughout the weekend."

Ever the opportunist, Johnson sees an extra benefit in this latest honor, as it offers him the potential of adding yet another distinction to his stellar racing resume. Considering the combination of his four prior wins in the Buckeye State and his GM Performance Parts Pontiac's strong performance in the season's first seven races, the possibility of being the first Grand Marshal to pull his race car into the winner's circle certainly exists. However, as he readily admits, the assignment is not an easy one.

"I'm not sure if a Grand Marshal has ever won the race he was honored in," said Johnson. "I guess I can see it as yet another challenge, although the racing surface in Columbus in itself a stern test.

"National Trail Raceway has always been somewhat of an anomaly on the NHRA circuit. You never run as fast as the weather conditions, the track elevation and the racing surface indicate you should run. Part of that may have been due to our running there in the summer, when it was hot and muggy.

"Now that we have returned to racing in Columbus in the spring, we will have to see how it affects the performance in all categories. If the weather cooperates, I believe you will see everyone pick up. Of course, we are all dealing out of the same deck, so we'll just go there and see what we can do."

This race will also mark the first time in 2005 that the straight-line set will be racing on consecutive weekends. Although the short week puts extra pressure on the teams, it poses an advantage for those competitors who have a handle on their race car. With two wins, three final rounds and six semi-final finishes in the first seven races, WJ is therefore looking forward to getting back on track this weekend.

"If you have a race car that is relatively predictable, it certainly eases the decision making process when you look to improve its performance," explained Johnson. "Therefore, when racing on back-to-back weekends, it is a plus to have a consistent race car. Fortunately, our GM Performance Parts Pontiac has been responding well to our adjustments, even as we continue to learn its performance parameters. Therefore, I believe we should be in pretty good shape in Columbus. After all, I plan on being the fastest Grand Marshal this race has ever seen!"

Notes on Warren Johnson and the GM Performance Parts Pontiac Racing team entering the Pontiac Performance Nationals:

* WJ's Stats in Columbus: This will be Warren's 30th NHRA appearance at National Trail Raceway, where he has four wins in nine final round appearances, the most by any active Pro Stock driver. Overall WJ has an elimination round record of 46-24 in his previous twenty-nine Ohio races for a .657 win percentage.

* The line starts with WJ at National Trail: In twenty-nine previous races in Columbus, Warren has eight No. 1 qualifiers, 23 starts in the Top Four and only four starts outside the top half of the field. WJ's average starting spot at the Georgia quarter-mile is 2.897.

* One year ago: Warren qualified eighth with an elapsed time of 6.833 seconds and a top speed of 202.21 mph, but fell to his son Kurt in the first round.

* No. 1 in National event wins: WJ's 94 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 Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol, TN.

* Career Best Elapsed Time: 6.679 seconds, Gainesville, FL, 3/20/05

* Career best top speed: 206.70 mph, Gainesville, FL, 3/20/05


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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson