Columbus: Warren Johnson preview

Warren Report: Columbus Edition Warren Johnson GM Performance Parts News & Notes for the Pontiac Excitement Nationals presented by Summit Racing Johnson aims to extend qualifying streak to 300 straight. COLUMBUS, Ohio -- It's been 16 long...

Warren Report: Columbus Edition
Warren Johnson GM Performance Parts News & Notes for the Pontiac Excitement Nationals presented by Summit Racing

Johnson aims to extend qualifying streak to 300 straight.

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- It's been 16 long years since Warren Johnson took a day off during an NHRA national event. If he qualifies his GM Performance Parts Grand Am at this weekend's Pontiac Excitement Nationals presented by Summit Racing, W.J. will extend his string of consecutive events to 300 -- the longest qualifying streak in NHRA history.

"Qualifying is just part of the program," said Johnson, the defending Pontiac Excitement Nationals champion. "If you're going to win, you first have to qualify. My approach is to take first things first, and that means getting in the show. If you don't accomplish that, you've wasted the weekend."

Johnson has entered 396 of the 468 Pro Stock races in the NHRA record book. The last DNQ (did not qualify) on his record was at the 1987 Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla. A new car and incessant tire shake teamed up to give W.J. an enforced vacation on race day. Johnson's streak has been in jeopardy several times since then: He qualified 16th in Brainerd, Minn., in 1989, and he made the field in the final session last year in Las Vegas with a dramatic "hail Mary" qualifying run. During that same period, he earned 111 of his 125 career No. 1 qualifying spots.

Given the intensity of the competition in Pro Stock this season, Johnson regards his qualifying streak as perishable.

"It has never been tougher to qualify," he declared. "When I started racing, Bob Glidden would qualify No. 1 with the No. 2 qualifier a tenth of a second behind. From No. 2 to No. 16 would be another tenth and a half. Now the Pro Stock class has reached the point that simply qualifying is a accomplishment. The top eight cars are seldom separated by more than a few thousandths of a second. We've had races this year with a spread of only .025 seconds for 16 cars. Pro Stock is the most competitive racing on the planet."

Johnson is one of only three Pro Stock drivers who have qualified for all 10 events contested this season. He foresees Friday's second session as the key to extending his streak.

"Conditions are usually at their best on Friday night," noted Johnson, who has qualified No. 1 eight times in Columbus. "At the last race in Joliet, 14 of the 16 qualifiers made their best run in that session. When it all comes down to one pass, the pressure is intense."

Adding to the difficulty of the task is the perplexing nature of National Trail Raceway.

"It's definitely a strange track," W.J. observed. "Brainerd (Minn.) and Columbus are the two tracks where the numbers never seem to add up. When you look at track elevation, the track surface and the atmospheric conditions, it seems we're consistently a tenth of a second slower than we think these cars should run. I don't know why -- maybe I'm better off not knowing!"

Back-to-back victories in Columbus and Madison, Ill., last year proved pivotal in W.J.'s championship season. Coming into this year's race, he trails Jim Yates by 64 points in the POWERade standings.

"Repeating last season's performance in Columbus and Madison would certainly help our cause, but right now the key is winning rounds," said Johnson. "We'll be racing at tracks where there are many unknowns. We don't know what to expect in St. Louis, Seattle and Sonoma, which all have new or resurfaced tracks. We debuted our Haas chassis one year ago with a victory in Columbus, and this particular design has proven to have a relatively wide operating window. We've tested other chassis, but up to this point we haven't found any that are quicker or more forgiving."

Johnson is methodical in his approach and relentless in his pursuit of victory. These are the characteristics that can help W.J. reach another milestone in his storied career this weekend in Columbus.

-wr-

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson , Bob Glidden