Denver: GM Racing eliminations summary

Pontiac's Warren Johnson captures 91st career victory DENVER, July 20, 2003 - Warren Johnson captured his third victory of the season today at the Mile-High Nationals driving his GM Performance Parts Pontiac past Chevrolet's Jeg Coughlin Jr. in...

Pontiac's Warren Johnson captures 91st career victory

DENVER, July 20, 2003 - Warren Johnson captured his third victory of the season today at the Mile-High Nationals driving his GM Performance Parts Pontiac past Chevrolet's Jeg Coughlin Jr. in an all-GM final round. It was Johnson's fourth career victory at Bandimere Speedway and his ninth final-round appearance at this event.

"The credit really goes to everyone who supports this program," said Johnson. "GM Performance Parts and Pontiac provide us with the opportunity and the funding to be successful and then it's up to us make sure we get the job done."

Johnson's GM Performance Parts Pontiac come into today's race qualified in the No. 9 position. It is only the ninth time in his 30-plus year career that Johnson has started a race from that spot, and in those nine events he had never advanced past the first round, until today.

The 60-year-old Johnson eliminated a formidable group of opponents that included George Marnell in round one, top qualifier and current points leader Greg Anderson in round two, and 2002 Mile-High Nationals champ Mike Edwards in round three.

Johnson's Grand Am got stronger as the afternoon wore on. The GM Performance Pontiac ran 7.247 seconds in the first session, 7.245 seconds in the quarterfinals and 7.229 seconds in the third heat. In the money round, Coughlin's Chevrolet launched first and took a slight but short-lived advantage. Johnson's Pontiac pulled ahead at the 330-foot marker and crossed the finish line with an elapsed time of 7.225 seconds at 191.05 mph. Coughlin's Chevrolet stopped the timers in 7.250 seconds at 190.75 mph. The margin of victory was .015 of a second or approximately eight feet at the stripe.

"We came out here and tested for three days right after St. Louis," said Johnson. "Kurt was exceptionally strong on the front half of the track, but real weak on the backhalf. I was good in the backhalf but weak in the front half. We looked at it at the shop and tried to figure out what we needed to do to adjust both cars. Kurt found the sweet spot on his ACDelco Cavalier right off the bat. Because we're running a new chassis that is considerably different from anything out there as far as its structural integrity, it's taking us a little bit longer to find the sweet spot, but we're honing in on it. This is only our third or fourth race in this Grand Am and it's starting to come around.

"It's always special when you're able to survive in these kind of competitive fields. I've always looked at it from the standpoint that there's no such thing as a bad win or a good loss - let's go for the throat every time."

Today's win was Johnson's 91st career victory and his 141st final-round appearance. Johnson's last win came in April at the Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals in Commerce, Ga. With 10 races left to be contested, the six-time NHRA champion has now accumulated 871 points, and trails first-place Greg Anderson by 250 points and second-place Kurt Johnson by 179 points.

"Today's win helps both Kurt (Johnson) and myself," said Johnson. "When Kurt lost in round two, and I was able to beat Greg (Anderson), that kept those two about even from a points standpoint. By winning another two rounds that just helped our program cut into the lead of those two by about 60 points.

"There are still 10 races to go, and even though we have our work cut out for us, we're definitely not out of it. What Kurt and I have both found as far as performance, especially when the tracks get warm and whatnot, is going to help both his Chevrolet and my Pontiac as the season goes forward. Kurt's obviously in better shape pointswise than I am, but we'll keep pecking away at it."

The next stop on the 23-event NHRA POWERade tour is the Car Quest Auto Parts Nationals on July 25 - 27 at Pacific Raceways in Kent, Wash.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Greg Anderson , George Marnell , Mike Edwards