Qualifying Holds the Key for Warren Johnson in Atlanta GM Performance Parts driver dismisses any mentions of home field advantage SUGAR HILL, GA., May 10, 2004 - Preparation for an NHRA national event takes long hours as teams work to ensure...
Qualifying Holds the Key for Warren Johnson in Atlanta
GM Performance Parts driver dismisses any mentions of home field advantage
SUGAR HILL, GA., May 10, 2004 - Preparation for an NHRA national event takes long hours as teams work to ensure their race car is in top condition. From massaging the 500-cubic-inch V-8 on the dynamometer to poring over data from previous races to determine what will be the starting set-up, no detail is left unattended.
The first test of the crew's efforts comes in the space of thirty seconds during the two days of qualifying. In each of their four six-second attempts, they will look to not only capture a top starting spot, but also find the right combination for race day. Entering this weekend's Summit Racing Southern NHRA Nationals presented by Pontiac, GM Performance Parts driver Warren Johnson sees that single combined mile of racing as the key to success on Sunday.
"With the level of competition in Pro Stock, there's no room for error on race day, so it is imperative to find the correct combination in qualifying," stated Johnson. "We don't have the luxury of time as they do in other forms of racing. For example, if the round-trackers miss the set-up, they have 500 laps to work on their car and get it right. In drag racing, we get four passes in qualifying, and if you miss the combination, you could be facing a short day on Sunday."
Naturally, every team has their own concerns to address as they prepare for this weekend's event. In the case of the Johnson crew, the focus is on delivering on their race car's winning potential by extracting consistent and competitive performance from it. Therefore, prior to their arrival at Atlanta Dragway, they will spend time at another facility making numerous runs in search of the winning set-up.
"In simple terms, we need to do a better job of adapting to the race track than we have so far," said Johnson. "The performance is there, we just have to find it before it's too late to use it. We have it pinpointed to something in the springs, shocks, four-link, clutch and weight distribution, which is about all you have in a Pro Stock race car.
"Therefore, we'll be putting some test laps on our GM Performance Parts Grand Am in the next few days. Unfortunately, Atlanta Dragway has been closed for the last two weeks for painting, so we'll head elsewhere and see what we can learn."
Of the 20 tracks on which the POWERade Drag Racing Series will compete in 2004, it would seem that the Johnson crew would have the greatest advantage at the Atlanta quarter-mile. Located less than a half-hour's drive from the team's Sugar Hill headquarters, it is also their favorite testing location. However, despite five wins in eight final round appearances, including his exciting hole-shot defeat of rival Greg Anderson in last year's championship round, "The Professor" is quick to discount any notion of a home-field advantage.
"With the difference in the track preparation from when we test at Atlanta to when we race at the national event this weekend, we might as well be starting from the other end," said Johnson. "With the way the NHRA prepares a track, the coefficient of friction will be completely different.
"For example, we'll run 6.75s at 2500 feet in testing, while we'll be lucky to go 6.90 during the race. It's the same for racers who live near other tracks across the country. The surface will be a relative unknown, with the only thing that doesn't change being the location of the bumps, knowledge of which is a negligible advantage at best. -cont- "Even though we'll be sleeping in our own beds, our job will be the same as it is at the nineteen other facilities on the circuit - to get down the track better than our competition. The GM Performance Parts Grand Am team worked that plan to perfection one year ago, and we have our sights set on doing it again this year."
In Warren's Words:
On whether racing at your "home track" is a distraction -
"Other than having a little less elbow room in our pit area, racing at home is really no different than any other race. We know we have a job to do, and we focus on doing it. As far as I'm concerned, they could hold a rodeo at the end of our pit area, and I wouldn't even notice."
Facts on Warren Johnson and the GM Performance Parts Racing Team entering The Summit Racing Southern Nationals presented by Pontiac:
* WJ is at home at Atlanta Dragway: This will be Warren's 24th NHRA Pro Stock national event appearance at Atlanta Dragway, where he has five wins in eight final round appearances, and a 41-18 elimination round record for a .695 win percentage.
* Warren's Qualifying Stats in Commerce: In his 23 previous starts at Atlanta Dragway, WJ has nine No. 1 qualifying positions, with an outstanding 2.65 average starting position, and has never qualified lower than seventh.
* One year ago: WJ qualified sixth with an elapsed time of 6.849 seconds with a top speed of 201.82 mph, and defeated Terry Adams, Kurt Johnson, Jeg Coughlin and Greg Anderson en route to his 90th career win, and second of the 2003 season.
* Winning Streak: Warren Johnson is looking to extend a streak where has won at least one race a year for 22 consecutive years, which is the longest in NHRA history.
* No. 1 in National event wins: WJ's 92 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 last year at the Lucas Oil Nationals in Reading, PA.
* Career best elapsed time: 6.715 seconds, Englishtown 2003
* Career best top speed: 205.69 mph, Englishtown 2003