Commerce, Ga., May 3, 2003 - Warren Johnson scored an exciting and historic victory in front of his hometown fans today by taking home the Pro Stock title at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals presented by Pontiac in Atlanta, ...
Commerce, Ga., May 3, 2003 - Warren Johnson scored an exciting and historic victory in front of his hometown fans today by taking home the Pro Stock title at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals presented by Pontiac in Atlanta, Georgia.
Johnson, who drove brilliantly throughout the day, powered through an all-star line-up en route to his 90th career win, and second of the 2003 season. W.J. capped his performance by scoring a holeshot win over Greg Anderson in the final. The GM Performance Parts Grand Am driver's nearly perfect .018 reaction time combined with a solid 6.853-second, 201.46 mph run to defeat Anderson's quicker 6.839-second, 202.94 mph pass.
"I certainly saw him (Anderson) in the other lane" recalled Johnson. "His car had been running particularly good speeds, and when I saw he was making a move on me, I hoped the track would be short enough that I would stay ahead. I felt that I had won, but wouldn't have bet the farm on it. In fact, I wasn't really positive until I saw the win light in my lane. It was certainly a satisfying win for the entire GM Performance Parts team."
After qualifying sixth, Johnson opened his day with an easy first round, as Terry Adams' red-light start handed the automatic win to "The Professor". This set the stage for a second-round encounter against his son Kurt, who had won three of the last four races and taken over the lead in the POWERade Championship points standings.
In a match-up of identically prepared cars, the elder Johnson knew any advantage could be the difference between winning and losing. Reacting almost instinctively to the starting-line "Christmas Tree", W.J. left the line .023 seconds ahead of his son, and his 6.845-second, 202.27 mph pass was enough to hold off the fastest run of the day in what proved to be the closest race of eliminations, as the elder Johnson won by only 22 ten-thousandths of a second.
"There's really no emotion involved when I race Kurt, other than pride in how well he is doing," explained Johnson. "We share information back and forth, and whenever we face each other, we take some comfort in knowing one of our cars will advance. He cut a .035 light against me, which in this day and age will get you to the winner's circle more often than not. Today I happened to come out on top, but both teams will benefit from the win."
W.J. then defeated 2001 Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the semi-finals to reach the championship round for the 140th time in his career. It was almost appropriate that Johnson would face Anderson in the Atlanta final, as the North Carolina native's career in racing had started as a crew member on Johnson's team.
Johnson had his work cut out for him, as Anderson was the No. 1 qualifier and had posted the quickest elapsed time in each of the previous three rounds. However, as with any other challenge, "The Professor" tackled it head on, making numerous adjustments to his race car to maximize his performance and chances for victory.
"We made wholesale changes to the car for the final, including using Kurt's carburetors," detailed Johnson. "Kurt had set the top speed of the event with them, and we had been struggling a little in the speed department, so we figured we had nothing to lose. We also made some changes in the clutch, which we had been battling all weekend. We put new clutch discs in for the final, which normally is taboo, installed the carburetors, made a few other adjustments, crossed our fingers and let it go."
The win, which was Johnson's fifth at Atlanta Dragway, was a popular one among the sell-out crowd, as the team's shops are located in Sugar Hill, which is just a short drive from the race track.
"It's great to win any time, but it's even better when you do so in front of your home crowd," exclaimed Johnson. "The spectators got their money's worth today, as there was outstanding racing in all the categories. The competition was as tough as ever in Pro Stock, we were fortunate to have our GM Performance Parts Grand Am come out on top."