WJ Looking Forward to a Scorcher in St. Louis GM Performance Parts Racing Team Tests for Hot Track at Sears Craftsman Nationals Sugar Hill, Ga., June 22, 2005 -- This weekend, the weather forecast for the St. Louis metropolitan area is...
WJ Looking Forward to a Scorcher in St. Louis
GM Performance Parts Racing Team Tests for Hot Track at Sears Craftsman Nationals
Sugar Hill, Ga., June 22, 2005 -- This weekend, the weather forecast for the St. Louis metropolitan area is calling for a typical Midwestern summer scorcher, with warmer than normal temperatures and highs in the mid 90's. In order to make the Sears Craftsman Nationals easier on the fans and the competitors, in recent years the NHRA has moved the majority of the on-track activities to the late afternoon and early evening.
Even so, after a day of baking in the sun, the racing surface at Gateway International Raceway should retain the majority of its heat, making it slick and difficult for the high-powered straight-liners to gain traction. It is a scenario that suits Warren Johnson and his GM Performance Parts Pontiac Racing team just fine.
"I grew up racing in the Midwest, and back then very few dragstrips had lights," recalls Johnson. "Therefore, we raced in the middle of the day when it was hot enough to melt the asphalt. On top of that, the composition of most tracks was marginal at best compared to what we have today. In fact, at some of our better facilities such as Las Vegas, the pavement in the pit area is better than what we used to race on.
"As a result, we had to figure out how to get down marginal tracks under the worst conditions. Even though the technology has changed and the tracks have improved, the lessons we learned back then are still valuable today, helping us to potentially make or save runs when others are unable to. The way I see it, the hotter and slicker the track, the more I like it.
"However, I understand and support the reasoning behind moving this race to the nighttime. The primary reason we are here is to entertain the fans, and we certainly don't want them broiling all day in the sun. Although the air will be a little better at night, which is conducive to making power, the big factor will be the track temperature. Looking at the forecast, I'm betting the track will still be plenty hot in the evening, and the entire GM Performance Parts crew is ready to take a crack at it."
As part of their preparation for this weekend's race, the Johnson crew spent a day testing at Atlanta Dragway. The combination of a warm summer day and a race track with little in the way of surface preparation offered the team a perfect opportunity to fine tune their race car for the conditions ahead, which look to be unlike any others experienced so far this season. Coming off a dramatic runner-up finish in Englishtown last weekend, Johnson is primed to score his third win at Gateway International Raceway.
"We made it to the final last week on sheer determination by my crew and a little luck," said Johnson. "The GM Performance Parts Pontiac has already shown it has race-winning potential. It's up to us to read what the track will give us and adjust our car accordingly. We usually do well under adverse conditions such as we are looking at this weekend, but we're not about to take anything for granted.
"That's why we tested in Atlanta. The conditions should be close to what we'll see at Gateway, and we wanted to make sure everything was in order with our race car. Hopefully, we'll come in with a solid baseline tune-up for the first qualifying session on Friday afternoon, and fine tune it from there."
Notes on Warren Johnson and the GM Performance Parts Pontiac Racing team entering the
Sears Craftsman Nationals:
* WJ is a Master in Madison: This will be Warren's ninth NHRA appearance at Gateway International Raceway, where he has two wins in 1997 & 2001 tying him with Ron Krisher for the most wins by a Pro Stock driver at the track. In addition, WJ was the No. 1 qualifier three times at Gateway. Overall WJ has an elimination round record of 12-6 in his previous eight Madison starts.
* No. 1 in National event wins: WJ's 94 national event victories are the most ever in the history of the Pro Stock division and place him second on the all-time NHRA win list. His most recent win came at this O'Reilly Thunder Valley NHRA Nationals in Bristol, TN.
* Career Best Elapsed Time: 6.679 seconds, Gainesville, FL, 3/20/05
* Career best top speed: 207.50 mph, Englishtown, NJ, 6/19/05