WJ Looks to Get Back on the Winning Track in Atlanta GM Performance Parts GXP crew targets sixth win at Georgia quarter-mile Sugar Hill, Ga., April 22, 2008 -- There are many factors that go in to winning a NHRA Pro Stock race. Some are ...
WJ Looks to Get Back on the Winning Track in Atlanta
GM Performance Parts GXP crew targets sixth win at Georgia quarter-mile
Sugar Hill, Ga., April 22, 2008 -- There are many factors that go in to winning a NHRA Pro Stock race. Some are readily apparent, such as having a car, driver and crew capable of getting the job done. Others are out of the team's control, including the weather and condition of the racing surface. Beyond this are the intangibles, such as simple luck and having the proper mindset, with everyone on the team working together and sharing a confidence that victory is theirs for the taking.
Entering this weekend's Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals, Warren Johnson remains uniquely qualified to discuss the formula for competitive success, as his 96 career victories are the most in the history of the "factory hot rods". However, as he and his GM Performance Parts GXP racing team target a long-awaited return to the winner's circle in Atlanta, The Professor explains that even with his vast experience, it is far from a simple assignment.
"Winning is more of an art than a science," stated Johnson. "You have to know what to do and when to do it, and it's something that happens instinctively. Obviously, this GM Performance Parts GXP crew has done it well enough 96 times in the past, so now we have to pick up the ball and do it again.
"We had obviously lacked in the performance department for some time while we worked out our race program, getting the right people and components in place. However, we have now put ourselves in position to start winning again, and I believe it is just a matter of time before we do."
A key component to the Johnson-led crew's aspiration is their race car, which in its short three-race stint has seen both sides of the competitive equation, from qualifying No. 1 in Gainesville and setting top speed in each of the last three events to contacting the wall in Houston, requiring extensive repairs. Growing more familiar with its tuning envelope on every run, the team hopes to put all the pieces of this 210-mph puzzle in place this weekend.
"We continue to hone in on what this GM Performance Parts GXP wants," said Johnson. "Our primary objective is to nail the performance in the first sixty feet, because we own the back half right now. It's just part of the learning process you go through with any car.
"For example, if we had gone with our instincts in the second round in Vegas, I believe we would have had a good shot at getting around (son) Kurt. However, we went with what we thought the car wanted, and it bit us. Still, it was a valuable lesson in that we now know this car has some unique characteristics as well as others that are quite similar to previous cars we've had. As long as we treat it accordingly, we should be fine."
Under normal circumstances, Johnson and crew would be looking forward to racing on a very familiar track, as Atlanta Dragway is a half-hour north of the team's Sugar Hill shop. In addition, the NHRA's annual visit to the Peach State has historically been productive for the six-time champion, who has logged five wins in nine final round appearances in Commerce. However, any talk of a home-field advantage is quickly dismissed due to concerns with last minute repairs being made to the racing surface.
"As of late last week, they were still pouring asphalt at Atlanta Dragway, so we will all be dealing with an unknown quantity, a totally green racetrack," said Johnson. "I know they had been having issues with other lesser-powered cars getting down the track during previous events, so they had to so something.
"From what I understand, they put in new concrete for the first 100 feet, left the next 150 feet of concrete as it was, added new concrete from that point to the 1/8th mile, and poured new asphalt from the eighth mile to the finish line. By my estimation, that gives us three transition points to deal with in the course of the quarter-mile. Needless to say, it's going to be a challenge.
"However, it will be the same for everyone, so our pre-race preparation will not change. We'll head into the race expecting an average track, taking what we've learned about this GM Performance Parts GXP over the last few races and go from there, seeing what we have to deal with on Friday. As always, we'll make the best of it, seeing if we can serve up a fresh batch of lemonade."