The Professor Steps Back to Move Forward in Chicago Consistency becomes GM Performance Parts Pontiac crew's top priority Sugar Hill, Ga., June 5, 2006 -- Throughout his stellar career, GM Performance Parts GTO racer Warren Johnson has been...
The Professor Steps Back to Move Forward in Chicago
Consistency becomes GM Performance Parts Pontiac crew's top priority
Sugar Hill, Ga., June 5, 2006 -- Throughout his stellar career, GM Performance Parts GTO racer Warren Johnson has been known for his countless innovations in furthering the development of drag racing's Pro Stock category. From the inclusion of Funny Car-style roll cages and improved braking systems to the GM Drag Racing Competition Engine (DRCE), virtually every vehicle in competition today reflects the results of "The Professor's" forward thinking.
Therefore, it is somewhat ironic that as Johnson and his crew prepare for this weekend's Carquest Auto Parts NHRA Nationals in Joliet, IL, they will be adjusting their competitive strategy. In lieu of the pursuit of an ever-elusive perfect run, they will instead be giving top priority to finding the combination to deliver a consistent performance every time down the track.
"Sometimes you have to give up a hundredth in order to make runs that are consistently good" detailed Johnson. "So far this season we've been going after the ultimate performance package, which contains components that you know will eventually be quicker. However, as we have found, it also offers a smaller window to operate in.
"Therefore, we have gotten ourselves settled into the mode of not worrying about making that one ultimate run. Instead, we will back things up and focus on making four good runs in qualifying that we can tune from on race day. We started in that direction in Topeka, and it was pretty evident that it was beginning to come around, because our GM Performance Parts GTO was as good as anybody in the first round, and we were fortunate enough to get the win light. We got a little too aggressive in the second round and it bit us, but going into Chicago, we know where we need to be."
Route 66 Raceway, site of this weekend's race, has been a part of the NHRA national event circuit since 1998. Featuring a unique stadium-inspired design, it is considered one of the premier facilities in the POWERade Drag Racing Series, and one both racers and fans look forward to. Having scored two wins on the Chicagoland quarter-mile in 1999 and 2001, Johnson is well-versed on what it takes to succeed in Joliet.
"Early on, the track at Route 66 Raceway was a little rough, which played into my hands," recalled Johnson. "I've always liked it when there are a few moguls or chicanes out there to challenge the driver. However, we did have a few people go on their lids due to inexperience, so the management rightfully attended to it, making it one of the better racetracks in the series. As a result, we can still run fast on it, but so can everyone else, which, I guess, is only fair, so we'll just have to settle down and win the old-fashioned way, doing our job better than everyone else."
As if the challenge of normal Pro Stock competition were not enough, this weekend eight members of the Pro Stock community, including Johnson, will have a chance for an additional payday as part of the King Demon Crown. This annual all-star race pits the top eight drivers in qualifying points from the last year in a three-round, single-elimination competition where the winner takes home $50,000 and bragging rights for an entire season. With three wins in seven final rounds in his twenty previous appearances in the Demon, The Professor is more than ready to carry the cash back to Georgia, but through it all remains firmly focused on the big picture.
"Since we will be in the King Demon Crown on Saturday, we will be in race mode all weekend," explained Johnson. "By that, I mean you can't experiment as much to make a better run as you would in normal qualifying. You have to be content in making a good solid run instead of gambling on one that could potentially be a few thousandths quicker, because you're looking to win rounds as well as getting a top qualifying position.
"The entire GM Performance Parts GTO crew is certainly pleased to have once again qualified for the King Demon Crown, and thank Barry Grant for putting up the money. We're going to do our best to win that $50,000, but our primary focus remains on race day. The way we see it, the King Demon is the icing on the cake, but we have to make sure to get the cake taken care of first, and that means winning on Sunday."