Gainesville: Warren Johnson preview

WJ is Ready to Get Down to Business in Gainesville; All-time Gatornationals Wins Leader to make his 30th appearance at East Coast opener Sugar Hill, Ga., March 11, 2009 -- This weekend, the NHRA will head to Gainesville, FL for one of the...

WJ is Ready to Get Down to Business in Gainesville; All-time Gatornationals Wins Leader to make his 30th appearance at East Coast opener

Sugar Hill, Ga., March 11, 2009 -- This weekend, the NHRA will head to Gainesville, FL for one of the sport's marquee events, the Gatornationals, and Pro Stock icon Warren Johnson is ready to finally get his season started in earnest. Having spent the majority of the off-season in search of a sponsor, the Hall of Fame racer entered the 2009 Full Throttle Drag Racing campaign with a virtually untested race car, a challenge that was further heightened by the rains that canceled all but one quali fying session at the season-opening event in Pomona.

Despite not being at full strength, the team still acquitted themselves fairly well in the first two races, showing glimpses of the potential performance to come. Therefore, with a full two and a half weeks to prepare, Johnson and his K&N Filters Pontiac Racing team are looking forward to getting back on the winning track and staking their claim in this year's championship countdown.

"During the off-season, we were more preoccupied with making sure we would have the opportunity to race than we were with getting this new race car ready for competition, with our search for sponsorship taking us ri ght down to the wire," said Johnson. "As if that didn't put us behind the eight ball enough, Mother Nature decided to throw us a couple curves of her own, with rain wiping out one full day of our only pre-season test session and limiting us to a single qualifying pass in Pomona. Even so, we were able to make a decent showing in Pomona and Phoenix. Having now had a little time to work on things, I feel pretty comfortable that we'll be right back in the hunt at the Gatornationals."

Since returning from Arizona, The Professor has been ensconced in his shop in Sugar Hill, GA, filtering through all the data collected in this particular chassis' brief existence. However, to accelerate the learning curve, WJ cross-referenced t his information with his extensive library of tuning notes, extrapolating ideas that he hopes to put to good use this weekend.

"Basically, we are doing what we have always done, referencing our notes from previous years to see if there is any information that we can use with our current race car," said Johnson. "In some cases, that includes going as far back as 1992. Fortunately, I've come up with a few things that I am confident we can apply directly to our K&N Filters Pontiac.

"We made one change based on what we found for the first round at Phoenix, and the car responded in the first sixty feet, which has been our Achilles' heel of late. Having found a direction to head in we'll do some testing in Valdosta on Wednesday and Thursday to fine-tune our set-up and head to Florida ready to come out firing."

Fortunately, the one factor in the tuning equation with which Johnson is quite familiar is the racing surface at venerable Gainesville Raceway. This year's edition will mark WJ's 30th appearance at the historic Florida quarter-mile, where he has compiled an impressive nine wins in ten final round appearances to lead all professional competitors. Despite his unparalleled success, he maintains the proper perspective when approaching one of the most coveted wins in drag racing.

"This will be my 30th Gatornationals, and I always enjoy going there," said Johnson. "The timing of this race is perfect for everyone suffering from cabin fever, allowing everyone on the East Coast to come down out of the cold and get their first taste of drag racing for the year. As a result, we historically have the best and most enthusiastic crowds we'll see all season in Gainesville.

"The track is relatively decent, which isn't bad considering it's built on swampland. There's not a lot of starting line, and at this time of year, it can be a little slippery, but the atmospheric conditions are such that you can still see some pretty good numbers. The bottom line, however, is that this is one of our premier events, and one of the wins everyone wants on his or her resume.

"We've had pretty good success in Gainesville, and I'd certainly like to put my finger on the pulse of exactly why. To be honest, we really don't do anything specifically for Gainesville, so I guess we've just been lucky. Whatever the combination is, we're looking to put it to work again this weekend. After all, everyone on this K&N Filters GXP crew would like to get that win total into double digits."

-credit: j2r

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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson