Denver: Warren Johnson preview

WJ Looks to Elevate His Grade in Denver's Friendly Confines GM Performance Parts crew will call on The Professor's previous Colorado successes to overcome lack of high-altitude testing Sugar Hill, Ga., July 8, 2008 -- For most of his ...

WJ Looks to Elevate His Grade in Denver's Friendly Confines

GM Performance Parts crew will call on The Professor's previous Colorado successes to overcome lack of high-altitude testing

Sugar Hill, Ga., July 8, 2008 -- For most of his thirty-plus years of competition in the Pro Stock category, GM Performance Parts Pontiac racer Warren Johnson has been known as "The Professor" for his studious approach to the sport. Therefore, with the 2008 POWERade Drag Racing season reaching its midpoint, the six-time champion naturally took time to grade his own team's performance in the first twelve races. As expected, everyone was held accountable during his stern but fair evaluation, with two specific areas targeted for improvement heading into this weekend's Mile-High NHRA Nationals in Denver, CO.

"So far this season, I would give ourselves a 'C', simply because we have yet to win any races," said Johnson. "Looking at the results, our GM Performance Parts Pontiac has pretty much had the performance we need, but we haven't been able to capitalize on it by going rounds and getting to the winner's circle.

"We have two areas that we have to work on. First, we need to improve on our consistency, making good runs every time out. Second, we have to get a new alarm clock for the driver. If we can address those issues, we should be able to bring that grade up rather substantially."

Having established a plan for improvement, the Georgia-based crew will look to immediately put it into action at Bandimere Speedway, site of this weekend's race. Nestled in the side of a mountain, this family-owned facility offers a tremendous view of the city of Denver and the entire South Platte River Valley. Teams will have little time to admire the scenery, however, as they will be struggling to find horsepower in the wafer-thin air.

The difficulty factor is raised even higher for WJ & company, as their recent issues with their transporter precluded any testing prior to the race. Fortunately, having cut his racing teeth at tracks around the Denver area, The Professor is well-versed in how to adapt to the trying conditions. Armed with a virtual encyclopedia of high-altitude tuning notes, he arrives in the Centennial State determined to add to his stellar Mile-High resume.

"We only race in these extreme conditions once a year, putting a high priority on finding the right tune-up as quickly as possible," explained Johnson. "Every adjustment is magnified as far as its importance due to the lack of horsepower. We have the same tires and traction that we have at sea level, but three hundred less horsepower to get us down the track. I'm not saying it's slow, but I do pack a lunch for every run.

"Seriously, though, I'm pretty well acclimated to racing in the altitude, being originally from Division Five. After all, I grew up racing at Castle Rock and Continental Divide, which were tracks outside Denver, and at Pueblo, which is a thousand feet higher than we'll be this weekend. That experience should come in handy this weekend, as we were unable to test at Bandimere because we probably won't have a tractor to pull our trailer until right before we leave for the Western Swing. It will be a bit of a gamble, especially in light of the changes made to the racing surface since last year, but we should be well-equipped to handle whatever gets thrown at us."

-credit: j2r

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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson