Race No. 500 to be Business as Usual for The Professor GM Performance Parts GTO crew looks for breakthrough win at The Strip Sugar Hill, Ga., October 23, 2006 -- Warren Johnson is known for his workmanlike approach to the sport of drag racing.
Race No. 500 to be Business as Usual for The Professor
GM Performance Parts GTO crew looks for breakthrough win at The Strip
Sugar Hill, Ga., October 23, 2006 -- Warren Johnson is known for his workmanlike approach to the sport of drag racing. Throughout his 35-year NHRA career, he has readily acknowledged that he prefers spending time on developing new technologies to discussing his innumerable accomplishments.
Therefore, it is not surprising that, as the POWERade Drag Racing Series makes its way back to the Nevada desert for this weekend's ACDelco Las Vegas Nationals, "The Professor" was unaware that he would be reaching yet another significant milestone. In fact, as the GM Performance Parts GTO pilot becomes the first professional competitor to enter 500 races, his focus is on adding to another impressive total -- his 96 career NHRA national event wins.
"Quite frankly, I didn't realize this would be my 500th race until someone brought it to my attention earlier in the week," stated Johnson. "Without trying to downplay anything we've accomplished, I let others keep tabs of those numbers, preferring instead to concentrate on the job ahead. I see every race as another opportunity, and have been fortunate enough to win my share, which explains why I've been able to stay at this as long as I have.
"One thing that remains unchanged over all these years is my outlook. I enter every race believing my name is on the winner's check. But to continue being successful, we know we have to keep working. That is why the entire GM Performance Parts GTO crew puts in long hours at our shop in Sugar Hill. We know our competition isn't resting, so neither are we."
In order for Johnson to consider this landmark race a success, he must do something he has yet to accomplish in his career -- win at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, site of this weekend's race. Bruton Smith's state-of-the-art speedplant is the only stop on the POWERade tour missing from the six-time champion's trophy case, and although he cannot pinpoint the cause, he is equally determined to erase this single blemish from his racing resume.
"Our situation in Las Vegas is reminiscent of the drought I had in Phoenix, or Dale Earnhardt's struggles in Daytona," said Johnson. "For the longest time, it seemed as if I would never win in Arizona, but we finally broke through and now have three wins at Firebird Raceway, including earlier this year. We've been to a couple finals, and I'd like to put my finger on why we haven't won in Vegas, but it just hasn't worked out that way. Just like anything else, we'll just keep working 'til we get it done.
"Obviously, as a Bruton Smith-owned facility, the track is far and above others on the circuit. Any issues with the racing surface are immediately addressed, and they are in constant vigilance of maintaining it. For example, Nevada is the world's biggest sandbox, which complicates matters if there is any wind. Nevertheless, they built the track at a lower grade to minimize the problems, and it's worked out pretty well.
"Everyone on the GM Performance Parts crew is highly motivated after our little hiccup in Richmond. There are no problems with our GTO. We were a little too aggressive, which, combined with our relative inexperience with this new chassis, prevented us from properly adapting to the race track. It was a hard lesson, but we'll take what we learned there and put it to good use in Las Vegas. Who knows, we may even hit the jackpot!"
Quick Notes on Warren Johnson & the GM Performance Parts GTO team entering the ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals:
Las Vegas is the Missing Link in The Professor's Chain: This will be Warren's 13th career race at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. In his previous ten starts, he has two final round appearances in 2000 & 2002, making it the only stop on the POWERade Drag Racing tour where he has yet to win. Overall, WJ has a 10-10 elimination round record on The Strip for a .500 win percentage
Warren's Qualifying Stats on The Strip: In ten Las Vegas starts, WJ has one No. 1 qualifying performance, and a 5.5 average starting position, with eight starts in the top half of the field.
One Year Ago: Warren was the No. 10 qualifier with a 6.859-second elapsed time with a top speed of 201.43 mph, but fell in the first round.