Madison: Warren Report

THE WARREN REPORT: Warren Johnson GM Performance Parts News & Notes for the Sears Craftsman Nationals Johnson gears up for western expedition. MADISON, Ill. -- During pioneer days, St. Louis was the starting point for wagon trains heading...

THE WARREN REPORT: Warren Johnson GM Performance Parts News & Notes for the Sears Craftsman Nationals

Johnson gears up for western expedition.

MADISON, Ill. -- During pioneer days, St. Louis was the starting point for wagon trains heading into the unknown expanses of the West. Now 150 years later, Pro Stock champion Warren Johnson is gearing up for his own western trek that will take the NHRA POWERade tour to tracks in Colorado, Washington, and California.

The journey begins on the banks of the Mississippi River at Gateway International Raceway, the site of this weekend's Sears Craftsman Nationals. Johnson won the inaugural NHRA national event at the track near St. Louis in 1997, and he returned to the GIR winner's circle at last year's race. Both times his final-round opponent was Jim Yates -- the driver who now leads Warren by 86 points in the POWERade championship standings.

"The only certainty is that it will be hot and sticky in St. Louis," Johnson said. "The starting pad has been reworked since last year, so it's unlikely that last year's winning setup will still apply. The next unknown in the equation is the traction compound that will be sprayed on the track. The two compounds that are typically used have different characteristics, and track preparation also affects how the car performs. At the last race in Columbus, the Pro Stocks were literally spinning the tires in the last 1/8th mile. That didn't bother me; I just stood up the rear spoiler. That adds drag, but if the tires want to spin, you need the extra aerodynamic downforce to keep the tires on the track."

Johnson's victory last year at GIR was one of three wins in four starts that broke the championship race wide open. This year Johnson is struggling to break out of a slump that has seen him win only two rounds since his last victory in Bristol in April.

"It's one of those things everyone goes through," he offered. "There's no rhyme or reason to these dry spells. If I knew the answer, I would have already done it. We're not far off the mark, but we're just far enough away that we're not getting the results that this team is capable of producing.

"My GM Performance Parts Pontiac is going right down the race track," Johnson noted. "It's consistently the strongest car at the 1/8th mile and in the second half of the run, but for some reason it's not running quick enough in the first 330 feet. We know what we need to fix; now it's just a matter of turning the right knobs and pushing the right buttons."

Johnson will continue his western odyssey immediately following the Sears Craftsman Nationals. He'll prepare for the next event at Bandimere Speedway near Denver with a test session next week.

"We've tested in Denver in the past and it paid off," Johnson recalled. "We can apply whatever we learn there to Kurt's car as well as mine because we're using identical chassis now. Kurt will be back at the shop working on engines while we're out west wearing them out."

-wj-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson