Denver: Warren Johnson preview

Warren Johnson turns back the clock to prepare for Denver GM Performance Parts driver relishes opportunity for success at Mile-High Nationals SUGAR HILL, GA., July 14, 2003 - The NHRA's POWERade Drag Racing Series will kick off the second half...

Warren Johnson turns back the clock to prepare for Denver
GM Performance Parts driver relishes opportunity for success at Mile-High Nationals

SUGAR HILL, GA., July 14, 2003 - The NHRA's POWERade Drag Racing Series will kick off the second half of the 2003 season with a stop at one of the most picturesque tracks on the circuit, Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, CO. The traditional site of the Mile-High Nationals, this family-owned facility is nestled into the side of a mountain just outside of Denver, and offers a spectacular view of the city below.

However, the scenery is not the only aspect of this race that is breathtaking, as Bandimere's 5,860-foot elevation challenges competitors to compensate for the lack of oxygen at this altitude. The Pro Stock division is the most heavily affected of all the professional categories, as their naturally aspirated engines strain to create horsepower. Although the task of taming the Colorado quarter-mile may seem daunting to some, for GM Performance Parts Grand Am pilot Warren Johnson, it is an eagerly anticipated return to his roots.

"You know you're in trouble when you get to town and the air is so thin that even the birds are walking" stated Johnson. "Even so, I look forward to our annual visit to Bandimere Speedway. It's a tremendous facility. There's not a bad seat in the house for the spectators, and although the cars may not go as fast, the racing is great."

"I actually have quite a bit of experience racing in the altitude. In the early stages of my career, I competed in the NHRA's Division Five, which included races in Denver as well as Pueblo and Castle Rock, each of which is located at well over 5,000 feet. Therefore, I have raced in both divisional and national events under these conditions, giving me a better backlog of information to work from than most people."

"Basically, you have to back up fifteen years to find a performance level equivalent to what you'll run in Denver, because we lose between 250 and 300 horsepower running in the thin air. However, today's engines are different, turning more rpm's, so you have to adjust accordingly. This includes changes in the gearing, as well as the mixture to the carburetor. The lack of power also means you can't use the same suspension set-up as you do at sea level. The bottom line is that you have to maximize what you have and use it as efficiently as possible."

Although many of his rivals would be content to simply complete this trying race without losing ground in the points championship, Johnson sees this event as an opportunity to claim his third win of the 2003 season and narrow the gap between himself and those ahead of him in the POWERade title chase.

"Many people approach this race with the attitude of keeping their losses to a minimum," explained Johnson. "Personally, I see it as just another race on the circuit, paying the same amount of points as all the rest, so I might as well try and win.

"From a performance standpoint, it's certainly not as fast as we like, but on the competitive side, I don't care if it takes an hour to cross the finish line, as long as I get there first. Some teams will go to Denver trying not to get embarrassed, while this GM Performance Parts Grand Am crew is going in with the mindset to make them all look bad."

Facts on Warren Johnson and the GM Performance Parts Racing Team entering the Mile High Nationals:

WJ is King of the Mountain:

This will be Warren's twentieth NHRA Pro Stock national event appearance at Bandimere Speedway, where he has three wins in eight final round appearances (leading all active Pro Stock drivers, and second all-time), with his most recent win coming in 2001. WJ's elimination round record on the mountain is a stout 42-16, for a .724 winning percentage, with only two first round losses (both to Bob Glidden) in his nineteen starts.

Bandimere Qualifying Stats:

In his nineteen previous races in Denver, Warren has been the No. 1 qualifier four times (1984, 1990, 1998 & 1999), and has only qualified outside the top half of the field twice. WJ's overall qualifying average in Denver is a very impressive 3.42.

One year ago:

WJ qualified seventh for last year's race in Denver with an elapsed time of 7.289 seconds and a top speed of 189.55 mph, and advanced to the semi-finals.

Winning Streak:

With his win in Atlanta, Warren Johnson has now won at least two races in 18 of the past 22 years. In addition, his current streak of winning at least one race a year for 22 consecutive years is the longest in NHRA history.

POWERade Points standings:

After the twelfth of 23 events, WJ stands third in the 2003 POWERade points standings with 759 points, 304 behind current leader Greg Anderson, and trails second place Kurt Johnson by 234 markers.

No. 1 in National event wins:

WJ's 90 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 at the 2003 Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals in Atlanta, Ga.

Career best elapsed time:

6.715 seconds, Englishtown 2003

Career best top speed:

205.69 mph, Englishtown 2003

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Greg Anderson , Bob Glidden