Las Vegas: Warren Johnson preview

WJ Has Vegas on His "To Do" List GM Performance Parts GTO driver hopes to add a Vegas winner's trophy to his collection Sugar Hill, Ga. -- Originally settled by the Mormons in the mid 1800's, the city of Las Vegas was founded in 1905, serving as...

WJ Has Vegas on His "To Do" List
GM Performance Parts GTO driver hopes to add a Vegas winner's trophy to his collection

Sugar Hill, Ga. -- Originally settled by the Mormons in the mid 1800's, the city of Las Vegas was founded in 1905, serving as a water stop for wagon trains and railroads. After originally struggling to survive, this desert oasis was reinvented in the 1930's with the completion of the Hoover Dam and the arrival of legalized gambling, with the first casino, the Northern Club, receiving its license in 1931. Over 46 years later, Las Vegas is acknowledged as the gambling and entertainment capital of the world, hosting over 35 million visitors a year, with people arriving every day hoping to reap the riches at one of the many magnificent casinos.

Among those arriving this week will be Warren Johnson and the GM Performance Parts Pontiac Racing team. Like many others, they come to the Silver State planning to win their share. However, their focus will not be on breaking the bank at the slot machines or gaming tables, but rather on conquering the quarter-mile of concrete and asphalt located just outside of the city at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, as the world's best quarter-milers compete at the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals.

"I have yet to win in Las Vegas, but I see no reason why we can't take care of that minor detail this weekend," said Johnson. "Things are progressing nicely with our GM Performance Parts GTO. Terry (crew chief Adams) seems to be getting a handle on the car, and we've made some gains in the motor department. As a result, we've been sneaking up the qualifying ladder at the last few races. Now, if we can send the driver an alarm clock, we should be in great shape.

"In reality, most everyone in Pro Stock is in similar shape. Fields have been getting progressively tighter, and we've been seeing names that are normally in the mix sitting on the sidelines on race day. You just have to have your act completely together to win, which is our game plan going into the weekend."

Although a win at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway has so far eluded the six-time champion, (making it one of only two stops on the POWERade circuit where WJ has yet to win) Bruton Smith's magnificent multipurpose motorsports facility remains at the top of his list of tracks on which he likes to compete. Catering equally to the spectators, sponsors and racers since 2000, it has already hosted its share of historic drag racing moments, and "The Professor" hopes to add his own entry this weekend.

"It is always a pleasure to race at a Bruton Smith-owned facility," stated Johnson. "Bruton and his management realize that they have one customer, namely the spectators. Without the fans in the stands, there would be no sponsors or racers. Therefore, much like we do with our racecar, they quickly address any issues that may arise, such as the removal of the infamous bump where the tunnel goes under the track.

"Overall, it's a pretty decent track to race on. Naturally, located in the middle of the desert, there can be an issue with sand blowing on it, particularly at the top end. However, the track's layout is designed to contain the problem by minimizing its elevation, and throughout the weekend they are constantly cleaning it.

"In addition, it's located at an altitude of 2200 feet, which significantly reduces the power our naturally-aspirated engines can make. Taking this weekend's forecast into account, I believe we should be running elapsed times in the low to mid 6.70's, but what really matters is that we are competitive with everyone else in our class, which is what we're shooting for. We're not about to be overconfident, but I wouldn't bet against our GM Performance Parts GTO."

-credit: j2r

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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson