Joliet: Warren Johnson preview

WJ Aims To Tame "Jekyll and Hyde" Joliet GM Performance Parts Driver Looks to Pad Championship Lead at Carquest Auto Parts Nationals Sugar Hill, Ga., June 6, 2005 -- GM Performance Parts Pontiac pilot Warren Johnson's relationship with Route...

WJ Aims To Tame "Jekyll and Hyde" Joliet

GM Performance Parts Driver Looks to Pad Championship Lead at Carquest Auto Parts Nationals

Sugar Hill, Ga., June 6, 2005 -- GM Performance Parts Pontiac pilot Warren Johnson's relationship with Route 66 Raceway, site of this weekend's Carquest Auto Parts Nationals, has been the motorsports equivalent of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In his first five races at the Illinois quarter-mile, everything went according to "The Professor's" plan, with two wins in three final round appearances and a 13-3 elimination round record.

Since then, however, the Joliet dragstrip has proven to be somewhat of a monster for WJ, with only one semifinal appearance in six events. Naturally, as the NHRA heads to the Land of Lincoln for the tenth race on the POWERade Drag Racing Series schedule, Johnson is working to revert back to his original, winning form.

"Obviously the method we've tried of late in Chicago hasn't worked, so we'll go back to our original approach," joked Johnson. "In its early stages, the racing surface at Route 66 Raceway was pretty rough, which was tailor-made for our race program. As far as I'm concerned, the rougher the track and the harder it is to get down, the better I like it.

"However, a few years ago, the decision was made to grind the track, and since they've smoothed it out, we just haven't done as well as we'd like. Other than taking a ripper to it, we'll just have to do a better job of reading the surface and determining what set-up to put in the car to take advantage of what it will give us.

"Fortunately, we're going into this race with a solid combination in our GM Performance Parts Pontiac. We're going down the race track on virtually every run, and are consistently near the top of the page in performance. There are a few issues we need to address and improve, but for the most part, we're in good shape."

As the 2005 season nears its midpoint, there has been a renewed interest in the championship points races in all of the NHRA's professional categories. For the fifth time this year, Johnson will arrive at the race track as the leader in the highly competitive Pro Stock division. Although his advantage over second place may have diminished, the game plan remains the same. With fourteen events remaining, this veteran crew remains focused on bettering their performance and scoring their third national event win at Route 66 Raceway, while allowing everything else to fall into place.

"I'm not any more concerned with the points than I would be at any other time during the year,' stated Johnson. "We prefer instead to concentrate on doing the very best that we can at every race. If we do that, the points will take care of themselves. Certainly, we've lost a little ground over the last three races, but people forget that we were way behind at one point and made it up before gaining the advantage. Besides, there's nothing to say that we can't open it up again.

"As always, a lot will depend on how the track surface is prepared, and how quickly we adapt to it. Once we have gotten a handle on the track this season, we've been one of the quickest cars out there. In addition, we keep fine-tuning the set-up as we learn the characteristics of this GM Performance Parts Pontiac, which is a standard production Haas car. For example, we made substantial gains in our sixty-foot times in Topeka, without hurting the performance in the rest of the run. Now, we have to make similar changes to get our reaction times back in line. It's all part of the process, and we won't stop until we get it right. After all, it's time we tamed the Route 66 monster."

Notes on Warren Johnson and the GM Performance Parts Pontiac Racing team entering the Carquest Auto Parts Nationals:

* WJ Has Route 66's Number: This will be Warren's 12th NHRA appearance at Route 66 Raceway, where he has two wins (in 1999 & 2001) in three final round appearances, and was the No. 1 qualifier at the inaugural event in 1998. Overall WJ has an elimination round record of 16-7 in his previous nine Joliet starts.

* One year ago: Warren qualified sixth with an elapsed time of 6.842 seconds and a top speed of 202.85 mph, and advanced to the semi-finals.

* No. 1 in National event wins: WJ's 94 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 this O'Reilly Thunder Valley NHRA Nationals in Bristol, TN.

* Career Best Elapsed Time: 6.679 seconds, Gainesville, FL, 3/20/05

* Career best top speed: 206.70 mph, Gainesville, FL, 3/20/05


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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson