Joliet II: Warren Johnson preview

WJ Encouraged by Progress with His Prodigal Engine Performance of DRCE 3 and GM Performance Parts Grand Am has team ready to race in Joliet SUGAR HILL, GA., September 29, 2004 - Throughout the majority of the 2004 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing ...

WJ Encouraged by Progress with His Prodigal Engine

Performance of DRCE 3 and GM Performance Parts Grand Am has team ready to race in Joliet

SUGAR HILL, GA., September 29, 2004 - Throughout the majority of the 2004 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing season, Warren Johnson has focused his attention on the development of the third generation General Motors Pro Stock powerplant known as the DRCE 3. As the only competitor using the latest design, it has been an uphill battle, with Johnson and his talented GM Performance Parts team working tirelessly to bring the new 500 cubic-inch V-8 up to speed.

In recent weeks, however, Johnson's determined efforts have started to show signs of progress, with the GM Performance Parts Grand Am's on-track performance displaying steady improvement, closing the gap on its tried and true competition. Although acknowledging that work remains to be done, "The Professor" expressed cautious optimism about the DRCE 3's potential heading into this weekend's Carquest Auto Parts Nationals in Joliet, IL.

"As any racer will tell you, you are only truly happy when you win," stated Johnson. "But all things considered, the entire GM Performance Parts Grand Am team is pleased with our recent progress. You have to keep in mind that, prior to this complete redesign, we had been using the same basic engine configuration for 22 years, and that the DRCE 3 shares nothing with its predecessor.

"Therefore, it has taken a little time to bring it around to where it is somewhat competitive. Having reached this level, we can now begin the second stage of development, which should give us an idea of what direction we need to head in during the off-season."

Another development bolstering Johnson's outlook is the return to form of his race car. After toiling for weeks to eliminate a mechanical gremlin, a period that saw the team replace or rebuild virtually every component, their familiar yellow Pontiac with the star spangled tail is once again tracking straight down the quarter-mile and responding to adjustments.

"Getting a handle back on the race car was a big relief for all of us," said Johnson. "Ironically, we really didn't have to change a whole lot on it. I believe most of the difficulty came as an offshoot of our work with the new engine.

"When you're doing an engine development program such as we are, you are going to have significant power fluctuation, and that has a major effect on the chassis. Consequently, you attack the set-up a little more aggressively than if you were down on power, causing you to occasionally overstep your bounds. Having fixed our ignition problem and reestablished some tuning parameters, we once again have a piece we can work with."

This week, a revitalized Johnson and crew will tackle one of the jewels on the NHRA circuit, Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, IL. As the first of the year's final four races, it offers Johnson the next opportunity to reach objectives established earlier in the season.

"Naturally, our primary goal for the rest of the year is to win races, and to move up in the points," said Johnson. "In addition, we plan to keep inching up the performance on our DRCE 3 engine. At the last race, it ran over 203 mph in the first round, which was as fast as anybody, so it's starting to come around. Hopefully, our GM Performance Parts Grand Am will make a big step forward this weekend in Joliet."

Facts on Warren Johnson and the GM Performance Parts Racing Team entering The Carquest Auto Parts NHRA Nationals:

* WJ Rocks at Route 66: This will be Warren's 10th NHRA Pro Stock national event appearance at the Texas Motorplex, where he has two wins (tied for the most by a Pro Stock driver) in three final round appearances, and a 16-7 elimination round record for a .696 win percentage.

* WJ's Joliet Qualifying Stats: In his eight previous starts at Route 66 Raceway, WJ has a single No. 1 qualifying position in 1998, with an average starting position of 5.67, with only two starts outside the top six.

* One year ago: WJ qualified third with an elapsed time of 6.760 seconds with a top speed of 204.88 mph, and advanced to the quarterfinals.

* Winning Streak: Warren Johnson is looking to extend a streak where has won at least one race a year for 22 consecutive years, which is the longest in NHRA history.

* No. 1 in National event wins: WJ's 92 national event victories are the most ever in the history of the Pro Stock division and place him second on the all-time NHRA win list. His most recent win came at Maple Grove Raceway one year ago at the 2003 Lucas Oil Nationals.

* Career best elapsed time: 6.715 seconds, Englishtown 2003

* Career best top speed: 205.69 mph, Englishtown 2003

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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson