Pontiac's Warren Johnson surpasses another career landmark ATLANTA, May 12, 2003 - Ingenuity. Dedication. Teamwork. For nearly 30 years, GM Performance Parts Pontiac driver Warren Johnson has carefully mixed together these three essential ...
Pontiac's Warren Johnson surpasses another career landmark
ATLANTA, May 12, 2003 - Ingenuity. Dedication. Teamwork. For nearly 30 years, GM Performance Parts Pontiac driver Warren Johnson has carefully mixed together these three essential ingredients to create one of the most formidable teams in all of motorsports. Last Sunday at Atlanta Dragway the "Professor" of Pro Stock surpassed another remarkable milestone with his 90th career victory.
"When I chose this as my vocation, I pretty much established that I had to be successful," said Johnson. "Otherwise I wouldn't be able to survive. Obviously, the wins had to be a part of it, but we never envisioned how many we would get. In fact, when I started in 1976, only Bob Glidden had more than five or six at that point in time. When Glidden ultimately hit 85, he established the precedent that if you kept your nose to the grindstone, those wins will come as long as you have a strong work ethic and a solid program. A solid program consists of the knowledge of what it takes to put it all together, consistent sponsor support and employees that are as dedicated as Kurt (Johnson) and myself."
Johnson's most recent victory was marked by little if no fanfare at his bustling race shop northeast of metro Atlanta. Instead, it was back to the engine dyno for more testing in a never-ending quest to stay ahead of the competition. The six-time NHRA champion's win over Greg Anderson at the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals, and Kurt's recent surge to the top of the points standings is just further evidence that the team's long-term goals and objectives are right on target. With 116 total victories in 184 final rounds, the Johnson's are the most successful Pro Stock tandem in NHRA history.
"Our program is geared for the long haul," said Johnson. "If we fall off the pace a little bit as far as performance, we don't get excited about it to the point where we're making wholesale changes. We make methodical, calculated adjustments to get it back on track as far as effectiveness. We just keep plodding along on our own course and eventually we get to where we need to be."
The Johnson Enterprises' current road map has ably guided both Warren and Kurt through an impressive two-car victory rampage dating back to last season's NHRA Finals in Pomona, Calif. Over the course of the last nine events, the pair have banded together for six victories and two runner-up finishes. The 40-year-old ACDelco Chevy Cavalier driver has captured four of those races while the elder Johnson has won two.
Since last November's ACDelco Nationals in Las Vegas, either Kurt's Chevy Cavalier or Warren's Pontiac Grand Am have raced in every championship heat with the exception of the CSK Nationals last February. And even though Kurt runs the 2003 Chevrolet, and Warren competes in an SC/T Grand Am, a fluid transfer of technology and information exists between the two camps.
"Both of these cars are prepared with the idea that one of them is going to win the race," said Johnson. "We don't care which car wins the race or the championship as long as it's either Kurt's Cavalier or my Grand Am. Our approach is that we have two equally prepared racecars and nearly everything we have is identical between the two. We can take the engine from one car, put it in the other, and everything is the same - rear ends, axles, everything is interchangeable. The idea behind that is that we do a lot of research and development to find the best parts. Once we arrive at a particular configuration of a part, then that part is applied to both cars. That's the reason for the success of our two-car program.
"Because I did all of the aero work on both the Cavalier and the Grand Am, I understand the differences between the two cars and it's not that significant. We know that the Cavalier will run a little bit more speed, but the Grand Am was an excellent car to start with and is tremendous overall."
Although approaching his 60th birthday later this year in July, Warren Johnson still maintains a rigorous schedule that out performs individuals half his age. But its that kind of tempo that has set the tone for his success as an engine builder and a Pro Stock competitor.
"I've always been blessed with good health and I stay pretty physically fit compared to most people my age," said Johnson. "I also do so much work that it's almost like physical conditioning. Some people go to the gym and lift weights and I just lift a lot of parts all day. I've always been able to work 16, 18, 24 hours if I have to, ever since I could remember. Long hours really don't bother me. That's probably because I've learned to pace myself over long periods. It also helps that I'm doing something that I really enjoy. If I didn't, then it would become a job. Now what I have is the opportunity to succeed and there's a significant difference."
With his second win of the season at Atlanta Dragway, Johnson now puts himself back into position to make a run at a seventh NHRA championship. He is just two points behind second-place Greg Anderson and 55 points behind first-place Kurt Johnson. A little less clear in the professor's vision, but coming more into focus is another major landmark - his 100th career victory.
"When I was able to get the support of Oldsmobile starting in 1983, and then later with GM Performance Parts and Pontiac, that certainly set our program on sail," said Johnson. "Since then I've had the backing of great sponsors and the resources to do things I couldn't do before. At the same time it was a huge a boost of confidence in our program knowing that other people had faith in what we were doing. We've been extremely fortunate to be associated with GM now for over 20 years.
"Kurt (Johnson), Greg (Anderson), myself and Jeggie (Coughlin) on occasion, there have been about three to five cars that have shown the potential to make a championship run. Now it's a matter of Kurt and I staying consistent to get the job done. At the same time, we've been working extremely hard on the performance side of both cars since the end of the last third of last year. It's been a slow process, but now that we've got the performance end of it established with our existing equipment, we're starting to work on new parts and pieces. Hopefully that will enable us to pick up the pace even more as we approach midyear."
Pontiac Motorsports Supernationals Notes:
* On the eve of the Supernationals there are four Pontiac SC/T Grand Am drivers, and a total of seven GM Racing competitors in the Pro Stock top-10. Pontiac drivers included are Greg Anderson (2nd), Warren Johnson (3rd), Bruce Allen (5th) and Mike Edwards (7th). Chevrolet drivers include Kurt Johnson (1st), Jeg Coughlin Jr. (4th) and Ron Krisher (9th).
* Active Pontiac Pro Stock drivers who are former winners of the Supernationals include Greg Anderson (2002), Jim Yates (1996), Warren Johnson (1982, 1986, 1992-93) and Bruce Allen (1989).
* Active Pontiac Pro Stock drivers who have previously posted runner-up finishes include Mark Pawuk (1990, 2001), Greg Anderson (2000), Tom Martino (1999), Mike Edwards (1998), Bruce Allen (1987, 1997), Warren Johnson (1996) and Jim Yates (1995).
* Active Pontiac competitors who have been No. 1 qualifier at the Supernationals include Jim Yates (1997, 2002), Mark Pawuk (2001), Warren Johnson (1991-93, 1995, 1999) and Bruce Allen (1990).
* There were 33 cars that attempted to qualify for last year's Supernationals. Six Pontiac Grand Ams made the field led by Jim Yates' No. 1 qualifying, track-record elapsed time of 6.774 seconds. Warren Johnson set the top-speed track record with a 203.09 mph run. The 16-car field was separated by .041 of a second.
* The $50,000 NHRA King Demon Pro Stock eliminator will be contested on Saturday at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. Eight cars will pair off with eligibility and starting position established based on qualifying points earned at the last 23 events dating back to last year's Supernationals. There are three SC/T Grand Ams in this year's event including Warren Johnson (qualified No. 1 and racing Mark Whisnant in round one), Greg Anderson (qualified No. 2) and Jim Yates (qualified No. 6 and racing Greg Anderson).
* Active Pontiac Grand Am drivers who have won the King Demon Pro Stock Duel include Warren Johnson (1993, 1995, 2002), Jim Yates (1997, 2001) and Bruce Allen (1985-86).
* Warren Johnson has competed in every King Demon Pro Stock Duel dating back to 1985. This is Jim Yates' 11th appearance and Greg Anderson's first.
* With 113 victories, Pontiac enters the Supernationals tied with Chevrolet for most wins in NHRA Pro Stock history by a manufacturer.
Qualifying highlights for the NHRA Supernationals can be seen on ESPN2 on Saturday, May 17, beginning at 6 p.m. Eastern. Final eliminations will be broadcast on ESPN2 on Sunday, May 18, starting at 7 p.m.
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