Joliet: Warren Johnson preview

Warren returns to windy city in search of victory. When Warren Johnson competed at Route 66 Raceway last October, his final-round victory over Darrell Alderman played a pivotal role in his drive for a sixth NHRA Pro Stock championship. W.J.

Warren returns to windy city in search of victory.

When Warren Johnson competed at Route 66 Raceway last October, his final-round victory over Darrell Alderman played a pivotal role in his drive for a sixth NHRA Pro Stock championship. W.J. returns to the Chicagoland track in need of a repeat performance to energize his pursuit of a seventh career title.

After consecutive first-round losses in Englishtown and Topeka, W.J. ceded the points lead to Jim Yates by 40 markers. But Warren insists it is much too early to watch the race-by-race tally.

"At this stage in the season, I'm not concerned about points," said Johnson, driver of the GM Performance Parts Pontiac. "I'm concerned about keeping our program on track. Obviously we would be in much better shape if we had gone past the first round at the last two races, but that didn't happen. In terms of on-track performance, however, we're in excellent shape."

A malfunctioning shock absorber was the cause of W.J.'s early exit at Heartland Park Topeka last weekend.

"The right rear shock broke, the left tire was planted and the car made an immediate right turn," he reported. "It turned right before the tires made one revolution. When we tested at Heartland Park Topeka the next day, I put on a different set of shock absorbers and the car went straight down the racetrack. Days like last Sunday definitely put the drag in drag racing."

Johnson anticipates much different conditions at Route 66 than the unseasonably cold weather that blanketed the track last year -- and has already made contingency plans for a difficult racing surface.

"If it as warm as the weather forecasters predict, it's going to be tough to get down that track," he noted. "The best way to cope will be to drive like you're pulling a load of logs and just lug the car to the finish line.

"If you have too much wheel speed, you can get yourself in trouble," he warned.

Johnson is one of only three Pro Stock drivers who have qualified for all nine races contested this season. Simply making the show on Sunday requires an all-out effort.

"The qualifying sessions have become as intense as eliminations," W.J. explained. "In Topeka, the spread between the No. 1 and the No. 16 qualifiers was .025 seconds. We basically had one session on Friday night to get a handle on the setup. If you didn't hit the sweet spot on Saturday morning, you were done for the weekend."

Johnson's qualifying streak now stands at 297 consecutive national events. He'll attempt to extend that string at Route 66 Raceway -- and to reclaim the top spot in the championship chase.

WARREN JOHNSON'S ROUTE 66 RACEWAY RECORD
Year Qual. Result
1998 1 Runner-up (to Thomas)
1999 2 Winner (over T. Coughlin)
2000 12 First Round
2001 Spring 12 Semifinal
2001 Fall 4 Winner (over Alderman)

-wr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Darrell Alderman , Warren Johnson