WJ Looks for Some Mountain Medicine to Cure His On Track Ailments Strong record in Denver bodes well for GM Performance Parts GTO team Sugar Hill, Ga., July 11, 2006 -- When a normally successful participant in any competitive endeavor ...
WJ Looks for Some Mountain Medicine to Cure His On Track Ailments
Strong record in Denver bodes well for GM Performance Parts GTO team
Sugar Hill, Ga., July 11, 2006 -- When a normally successful participant in any competitive endeavor experiences less than expected results, they will immediately take corrective action in order to regain their winning form, which usually entails additional practice to verify that no aspect of their game has been adversely altered. For example, a baseball player mired in a hitting slump will spend extended time in a batting cage working on their swing. At the same time, they will also look for any edge that will assist them in getting back on track, including looking forward to competing at a location where they have excelled in the past.
The same scenario applies in the world of NHRA drag racing. Since winning at the second stop on the POWERade Drag Racing circuit in Phoenix, AZ, Warren Johnson and his GM Performance Parts GTO Racing team have, by their own admission, struggled to find the consistency necessary to duplicate that effort. They have worked tirelessly, testing whenever possible and spending countless hours going over the race car at their shop in Sugar Hill, GA. Although the turnaround is far from complete, there have been some flashes of brilliance in recent races. Therefore, they enter this weekend's Mile-High Nationals in Denver, CO determined to put all the pieces together and return to their winning ways.
"Naturally, our goal is to run well all the time, but, unfortunately, as of late that has not been the case," stated Johnson. "Therefore, we look to take advantage of any opportunity to get our program back on track, and Denver looks like the perfect place to start our resurrection. Historically, we have performed well at Bandimere Speedway, and we had a good test there a few weeks ago. I was pleased with what we learned, and believe we can even step it up a notch further when we go back for the Mile-Highs this weekend."
Aiding in the Johnson crew's recuperative efforts is their long history of prior successes at Bandimere Speedway, site of this weekend's event. Located on the outskirts of Denver near the town of Morrison, this picturesque facility offers dramatic views and tremendous competition as participants strive to make horsepower in the 5,860-foot altitude. Despite the challenging conditions, it has been a track where "The Professor" has taught repeated lessons, as evidenced by his five wins (including three of the last five years) in 10 final round appearances, four No. 1 qualifying performances and a stellar 51-17 elimination round record. Arriving in the Centennial State as the defending Mile-High Nationals winner, Johnson credits his early days of competing at tracks across the Rockies with his skill for adapting to racing in the thin air.
"I'm not entirely sure there is a secret to our success on the mountain, because we've had an equal amount of success racing in Gainesville, where the conditions are the exact opposite end of the spectrum," related Johnson. "I guess you could say that I'm good at racing under extreme conditions, because I love a challenge. It's just that I've raced there for so long, including in Pueblo, where it's five to six hundred feet higher and Continental Divide, which is also over 5,000 feet.
"I also competed in the altitude before the advent of computers, so I had to learn to race under these conditions using the tried and true method of reading spark plugs, retarding timing and doing whatever it takes to make the car run faster. Without having all the modern day tuning tools at my disposal, I developed a better feeling of what needed to be changed, instead of relying on a computer to tell me what to do."
This race also marks the start of the second half of the season, increasing the importance of getting off to a good start. Confident that they have regained control of their 1,400-horsepower hot rod, Johnson has a renewed sense of confidence heading into Denver and the three-race West Coast Swing.
"The race car has not been our problem," stated Johnson. "We just have not been attacking it properly. We put some additional data acquisition equipment in it, which took some fine tuning to get it to work properly, and over the last few races we've shown that we can bring it back to life. It started to run fairly well in Englishtown, but we had a slip-up in St. Louis. Having gotten that out of our system, we can get back to work this weekend in Denver.
"Entering the second half of the season I actually feel a lot better about our GM Performance Parts GTO than I did at the start of the year, because there were a few areas I didn't think we were strong in, which showed in a couple of races. I think we have shored that area up, so we can come back and improve significantly from here on out."
Quick Notes on Warren Johnson & the GM Performance Parts GTO team entering The 27th annual NHRA Mile-High Nationals:
WJ Has Mastered Climbing the Mountain: This will be Warren's 23rd career NHRA national event "on the mountain." In his previous 22 starts at Bandimere Speedway, he has five wins (including one year ago), and a strong 51-17 elimination round record for a .750 win percentage.
Warren Qualifies Well in Morrison: In 22 Bandimere starts, WJ has four No. 1 qualifying performances, 19 starts in the top half of the field and a 4.13 average starting position.
One Year Ago -- Defending Champion: Warren qualified second with a 7.112-second elapsed time with a top speed of 194.24 mph, and defeated Erica Enders, Ron Krisher, Jim Yates and David Connolly en route to the 95th national event win of his career.