Englishtown is Where it All Started for The Professor GM Performance Parts GTO crew returns to site of WJ's first NHRA national event win Sugar Hill, Ga., June 14, 2006 -- Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, NJ has been a part of...
Englishtown is Where it All Started for The Professor
GM Performance Parts GTO crew returns to site of WJ's first NHRA national event win
Sugar Hill, Ga., June 14, 2006 -- Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, NJ has been a part of the Northeast drag racing scene for over 40 years, and one of the mainstays of the NHRA's POWERade Drag Racing Series since 1971, when it first hosted the race known as the Summernationals. Over that time, this venerable quarter-mile has witnessed many historic events, playing a major role in making the sport what it is today.
A key performer for much of this evolutionary ride has been GM Performance Parts GTO pilot Warren Johnson. This year's NHRA Supernationals marks "The Professor's" 30th national event appearance at the Napp family's legendary track, and, by all accounts, the relationship has been a good one. In fact, Raceway Park is where it all began for the Pro Stock icon, as it was there in 1982 that he scored his first national event win, defeating respected veteran Lee Shepherd in the championship round.
"When I started racing at Englishtown in 1975, it was already a big part of our sport, attracting huge crowds," said Johnson. "When it first opened there were many tracks out on Long Island and around the New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania area, but, through it all, Raceway Park is the only one to have survived. It's the one of the key places we race, and one win every driver wants on his or her resume, ranking right up there with Indy, Pomona and Gainesville."
"Englishtown is also special to our team as I won my first NHRA national event there back in 1982. I had run some match races there prior to the race and knew what the surface was like, so I went back through my stack of tires and got the oldest Firestones we had, because I knew we would have way more bite than we needed. As a result, I was one of the few that consistently got down the racetrack and I was fortunate enough to defeat Lee Shepherd in the final. It's a performance we're looking to duplicate this weekend with our GM Performance Parts GTO."
Since that first win 31 years ago, Johnson has further added to his list of Garden State achievements, which currently stands at four wins in six final round appearances (including a runner-up finish one year ago) and a .607 elimination round win percentage. However, as the wily veteran is quick to point out, the greatest benefit from past successes are the tuning notes they can provide, with further accomplishments requiring an all-out, error-free effort. As such, Johnson and his young GM Performance Parts crew remained in Illinois for an additional day following last week's race, working on fine-tuning their set-up.
"It's been a few months since that first win, and we are finding ourselves heading back to Englishtown once again," joked Johnson. "Although many things have changed since 1975, the competition in Pro Stock remains just as intense."
"We've done relatively well in Englishtown over the years. It's one of those tracks where you really have to be on top of your game to win. At this time of year, it's a Jekyll and Hyde situation. It could be 90 degrees or 40, as we have seen over the last few years, so your bag of tricks has to be prepared to deal with just about with any track or atmospheric conditions you can possibly envision."
"For example, as the temperature rises, the track condition deteriorates, with the exact opposite happening when it cools down. You have to have two completely different set-ups for each scenario, with these wide swings sometimes happening from day to day. As close as the competition is in Pro Stock, if you don't keep up with it, you're just behind. Fortunately, our program with this GM Performance Parts GTO is starting to come into its own, so we should be in good shape. The E-town fans really get into Pro Stock racing, and we'd like nothing better than to put on a good show for them, and get back to the winner's circle. In fact, I'd say we're overdue."
Quick Notes on Warren Johnson & the GM Performance Parts GTO team entering
The 37th annual NHRA Supernationals: WJ has been excellent in E-town: This will be Warren's 30th career NHRA national event at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. In his previous 28 starts in E-town, he has four wins (which is tied with Bob Glidden for the most in Pro Stock) in six final rounds, and an 37-24 elimination round record for a .607 win percentage.
Warren is a Top Shelf Starter in New Jersey: In 28 Englishtown starts, WJ has five No. 1 qualifying performances, 24 starts in the top half of the field and a 4.18 average starting position.
One Year Ago: Warren qualified fourth with a 6.702-second elapsed time with a top speed of 206.20 mph, and advanced to the 145th final round of his career.
Career Best Elapsed Time: 6.679 seconds, Gainesville, FL, 3/20/05
Career best top speed: 207.50 mph, Englishtown, NJ, 6/19/05
Track record holder: WJ's 207.50 mph top speed, recorded in the final one year ago, is the current Raceway Park Pro Stock top speed track record.