Johnson and Johnson Lead GM Teams in Dominating Performance at Phoenix GM Claims Wins in Funny Car, Pro Stock and all Five Sportsman Classes PHOENIX, Feb. 26, 2005 - GM race teams proved to be the class of the NHRA field with a totally...
Johnson and Johnson Lead GM Teams in Dominating Performance at Phoenix
GM Claims Wins in Funny Car, Pro Stock and all Five Sportsman Classes
PHOENIX, Feb. 26, 2005 - GM race teams proved to be the class of the NHRA field with a totally dominating performance in today's eliminations at the Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals at Firebird International Raceway. Warren "The Professor" Johnson showed the Pro Stockers that class was still in session by defeating three-time defending Pro Stock champ Greg Anderson in an all-Pontiac GTO final, and Tommy Johnson Jr. drove his Chevy Monte Carlo past the Ford of 13-time Funny Car champ John Force for his first win of 2006. In addition, GM teams or GM-powered teams won all five Sportsman classes to complete the impressive Firebird Raceway performance.
"Starting 11th as we did today is usually not a good omen," said Warren Johnson, "but we made it work, getting our GM Performance Parts GTO into the winner's circle. Our starting position showed we didn't initially have the right setup for this racetrack, but we kept on improving on our performance, getting it close enough to where we could win, which is what's important. It wasn't pretty, but sometimes you get paid for getting the job done."
Johnson got a hole-shot win over V. Gaines in Round 1, Jason Line in Round 2 and Rickie Smith in Round 3 to reach his 149th career final round. In the final Johnson left the starting line first and never looked back en route to his 96th career Pro Stock win, still making him the winningest driver in the class. Johnson had a winning elapsed time of 6.770 seconds at 206.13 mph as Anderson slowed to a 13.881 e.t. at 61.48 mph after breaking.
"I have never seen a script on how to win a race - there's only one way to win and a million ways to lose," continued Johnson. "The bottom line is that you have to get to the finish line first without a red light in your lane. We did that and were able to accomplish everything we wanted today.
"I have won a few of these things in a variety of ways, so I take events like today in stride. However, what really matters is what it means to our young GM Performance Parts crew, including Dain Schwan, Adam Drzyaich and Mike Smith. This is their first win as a group, and I really enjoyed seeing how excited they are about winning. I couldn't have done this today without their hard work and preparation. But it doesn't stop there. Today's win was a collective effort, including Kurt's ACDelco team and everyone back at the shop. Overall, we have the best chemistry on our teams that we have ever had, making both of our programs run smoother. We're definitely excited moving forward because we have yet to maximize our performance. We're going to test before Gainesville and see what we can do to maintain thois winning pace."
Anderson had the quickest elapsed time in each of the first three rounds to reach the 59th final round of his career (40 career wins). He defeated Allen Johnson in Round 1 with a 6.673 e.t., Jim Yates in Round 2 with a 6.701 e.t., and Greg Stanfield in the semifinals with a sterling 6.696 e.t. in the heat of the day. Today was the fourth time that Johnson and Anderson have faced each other in the final round, and Johnson now leaves Phoenix with a 3-1 edge.
"It was just a freak breakage, but that's part of the game," said Anderson. "The car was set to go and either broke second gear or popped out of there. Just one of those freak things. I'm not real happy now because I just got out of the car, but I'm sure after I calm down I'll have a smile on my face and be awful proud of what we've done the last couple of weeks, and we hope we can continue to do it for 21 more times. Just a bad break. I guess that's why they call it drag racing because sometimes it's a drag out there, but it was nothing we did wrong. Everybody functioned perfectly and made the right calls on the car. The thing that we've got going for us is we know we had the better car, we know we had the better-prepared car, and we really should've won that race. We basically gave them a gift, but maybe someday it will be a return in favor my way from him, who knows. You've just got to live with that. I've certainly had it happen to my benefit before. It's going to happen both ways again, and you've just got to learn to live with it and move on.
It's certainly a good start to the season. We're very proud of the way the car's running and we're very proud of the way the team's performing. We're absolutely ecstatic about that. We'll go on to Gainesville and hopefully go through and execute and not let that happen at the next race. I'm proud of the way we ran this weekend because we really haven't conquered this racetrack before. It's tricky out there. It's one of the trickiest tracks we've got on the circuit. We showed what kind of team we have here the way we ran today and the handle we had on it. It's the best we've performed at this track by far. We performed great at Pomona, we performed great at this track, which was kind of one of our weak ones, so we're pretty happy about it. We didn't get the trophy, doggone it, but we'll go on to Gainesville and try to get one back."
In Funny Car, Tommy Johnson Jr. drove his Chevy Monte Carlo around 13-time world champ John Force's Ford in the final to claim his first win of 2006. In the championship heat Johnson had an elapsed time of 5.225 seconds at 249.76 mph to better Force's 5.705 e.t. at 294.69 mph. Two Chevys reached the semifinals, but unfortunately they had to square off against one another to see who would face Force in the final. Johnson defeated Phil Burkart Jr. in the semi's with an elapsed time of 4.808 seconds at 322.42 mph to Burkart's 4.887 e.t. at 314.39 mph.
"We had a problem first round at Pomona, a mechanical failure, otherwise I think we just might have two in a row," said Johnson. "Our Chevy is just really, really running well right now, and that all goes back to this team. We've been together now four years, all of us, and you have to build a successful team. It took a little while and we suffered through a couple of bad seasons, but everybody stuck in there. We've got a really bad hot rod right now.
"Force is the best in the class. This was my seventh final round against him and I had never beat him. To win the seventh one and beat Force in the final, well, wins are sweet and they're even sweeter when you can take Force out in the final round."
"We've won four rounds in two races, and we've run with the best of them out here, so we're pleased," Burkart said. "We're not overjoyed, because we're here to win, but only one team can do that every weekend and if it's not your team, you need to focus on getting the most out of it. We'll take a couple of semifinals and move on to Gainesville. We really tripped up at Gainesville last year, coming in there all pumped up after a great start and in the points lead. We managed to impress everyone by not qualifying, so this year the first goal is to get in the show and then win some more rounds. We just want to keep feeding points into our account. If we keep winning rounds, we'll be in this thing. That's the long term goal."
In the Sportsman classes, GM teams or GM-powered teams captured titles in all five classes. David Rampy of Piedmont, Ala., was a two-time winner with a win in his '67 Camaro in Stock Eliminator and a Comp Eliminator win in his GM-powered '32 Bantam. Dan Fletcher from Churchville, N.Y., won Super Stock in his '69 Camaro, Tim Landis from Glendale, Ariz., drove an '04 Corvette to the Super Gas crown and Keith Manogue from Phoenix rounded out the GM racing effort in the Sportsman classes with a win in Super Street in his '63 Nova.