Empowered by Their Recent Surge, Johnsons Target a Return to the Top Sugar Hill, Ga., March 20, 2008 -- One of the more intriguing story lines arising from the Pro Stock pit area following the first three races of the 2008 POWERade Drag...
Empowered by Their Recent Surge, Johnsons Target a Return to the Top
Sugar Hill, Ga., March 20, 2008 -- One of the more intriguing story lines arising from the Pro Stock pit area following the first three races of the 2008 POWERade Drag Racing season concerns the return to prominence of two of the category's perennial contenders, the father and son duo of Warren and Kurt Johnson. After combining to post a total of five Top Four starts in all of 2007, the talented tandem have already scored six such qualifying positions in 2008, highlighted by their charge to the first and second starting spots at the recently completed ACDelco Gatornationals in Gainesville, FL.
Although there is certainly reason for cautious optimism at the ACDelco Cobalt and GM Performance Parts GXP teams' Sugar Hill, GA headquarters as they prepare for next weekend's O'Reilly Spring Nationals in Houston, TX, both drivers admitted they would only consider their efforts successful once they translate this improvement into return trips to the winner's circle.
"It's all coming together nicely," said Kurt. "I believe both Dad and I are in a better position at this point in the season than we have been for several years, and that's the result of a lot of hard work by everyone at the shop. There's been a lot of trial and error and experimenting with different combinations. We've had good and bad days and we've burnt our share of midnight oil, but the results are starting to show.
"Even though we're confident that we have what it takes, we're not happy yet, because we're not winning. Qualifying in the top half of the field as we have done shows we have the performance, which is a necessary component to winning a race. But both the driver and crew still have to do their jobs on Sunday, making the right calls as well as having a little luck, to seal the deal. Until both my ACDelco Cobalt and Dad's GM Performance Parts GXP are in the winner's circle on a consistent basis, we're going to keep plugging away."
In the highly competitive Pro Stock environment, whenever a team makes such a strong resurgence questions arise as to the means by which the improvements were made. Naturally unwilling to divulge any technical aspects of their off-season projects due to their proprietary nature, The Professor acknowledged the use of one old-school ingredient -- elbow grease. In addition, he described the team's philosophical approach to returning to competitive excellence while echoing his son's sentiments in that their assignment is far from complete.
"We know what the onus is, and that is to run quicker and faster than everyone else and win the race," stated Warren. "Although we're better than we were last year, which is a step in the right direction, we still have some work to do to get my GM Performance Parts GXP and Kurt's ACDelco Cobalt where they need to be.
"For example, having reached our current power level only recently, we've been somewhat cautious with our approach to tuning these cars, preferring to focus on getting down the track and in the show. Once we accumulate more data, we can start turning up the wick even further, which we know will be necessary, because our competition is not about to stand still.
"I believe we are in a fairly unique position in that we develop everything in-house, as opposed to simply buying or hiring the latest and greatest. There certainly is not anything wrong with that approach, and teams have been quite successful in that fashion. It's just a different way of doing business. l guess I'm just old-fashioned and somewhat stubborn in that I've always preferred to work my way through and find the solution myself. As a result, it might take us a little longer, but we usually get there.
"In addition, we won't bring anything to the track that isn't completely reliable. After all, you can't effectively tune an engine if it's coming apart every other run. You have to have a solid foundation, and that's what we've always built our program on, a dependable piece that you can tune. Otherwise you're throwing darts at a moving target, because you don't have anything that's consistent. After all, we need to be fast on 24 different race weekends.
"Although we're relatively pleased with the gains we've made, we're far from satisfied. We have a few projects in the works that we hope will help us even further, and we collectively need to do a better job on race day. But overall, I'd say we're in pretty good shape."