WJ Set to Start a Strong Six Week Push GM Performance Parts racing team hopes to harvest a win in the Garden State Sugar Hill, Ga., June 20, 2007 -- It is not an exaggeration to say that the 2007 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series season has...
WJ Set to Start a Strong Six Week Push
GM Performance Parts racing team hopes to harvest a win in the Garden State
Sugar Hill, Ga., June 20, 2007 -- It is not an exaggeration to say that the 2007 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series season has reached a crucial point. Under the newly installed format of the Countdown to the Championship, there are only eight races left until the title contenders are pared to eight, with six of those events coming on consecutive weekends over the next month and a half. During that time, teams will travel over 8,000 miles to tracks located in all four corners of the country, putting a tremendous strain on both personnel and equipment. With championship aspirations on the line, competitors have been preparing for this high-speed marathon for the last month, stockpiling parts and preparing every aspect of their racing operation for the rigors that lie ahead.
Although this may represent a new competitive philosophy to some of the participants, this vigilant practice has long been the standard operating procedure for Warren Johnson and his GM Performance Parts GTO Racing team. Even so, the six-time champion admits some concessions have been made to allow for this unusually long stretch of races.
"Under this new Countdown format, the next six weeks will play a determining role in this year's championship chase, favoring the teams that are the best organized," said Johnson. "Fortunately, this GM Performance Parts crew has always prided itself in maintaining a steady stream of fresh parts and supplies for both my GTO and (son) Kurt's ACDelco Cobalt.
"Therefore, even though we are making a few dispensations for racing on so many consecutive weekends, we're not going to change boats in midstream, with our basic preparation being the same as for any other races. Although we certainly hope the opportunity never presents itself, I'm confident we could race effectively for 12 weeks in a row if we had to."
One aspect working in The Professor's favor is his familiarity with the first of the six stops on drag racing's "Summer Swing", Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. A fixture on the NHRA professional circuit since 1968, the venerable New Jersey quarter-mile has witnessed its share of drag racing history, including the first of WJ's 96 career wins, which came in 1982 when he qualified fourth and defeated Jim Meyer, Dom Campanello, Joe Lepone and Lee Shepherd en route to the winner's circle.
In addition, "E-town" has long served as a hot bed for the "factory hot rods", with Johnson joining fellow Pro Stock pioneers "Dyno" Don Nicholson, Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins, Bob Glidden and Wayne Gapp on the distinguished list of previous winners. With over 30 years experience on this legendary strip, he has seen and experienced it all, and enters this year's edition determined to add another successful chapter.
"Raceway Park and I have a lot of history together, both good and bad," said Johnson. "I've won there, and had other races there I'd prefer to forget, but nevertheless it truly is one of the cornerstones of our sport. The Napp family has invested their time and money since the late 1960's to make it a top multipurpose motorsports facility, and with as much drag racing history as it has seen, winning there takes on added significance. Naturally, it's special to me since it was where I won my first Pro Stock national event.
"They resurfaced the track a few years ago to provide better drainage, because we had some issues with water coming up through the track late in the afternoon. In fact, a high-speed hydroplane in the final cost me a win at the all-star race a few years back. Since then, however, it's been a pretty good track to race on, depending, of course, on Mother Nature and how the NHRA prepares it for competition.
"I'd say we're cautiously optimistic about our GM Performance Parts GTO's chances for this weekend. Our program is headed in the right direction, and even though we're not as far along as we'd like to be, the attitude and the effort are there, so we're in pretty good shape. What we need to do know is start producing the results we know we're capable of, and we just so happen to have six weekends ahead of us to do it in."