Warren Johnson Battles His Way to the Win in Phoenix February 26, 2006, Phoenix, AZ - Warren Johnson and the GM Performance Parts GTO Racing Team scored a tenacious win in Sunday's final eliminations of the Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals...
Warren Johnson Battles His Way to the Win in Phoenix
February 26, 2006, Phoenix, AZ - Warren Johnson and the GM Performance Parts GTO Racing Team scored a tenacious win in Sunday's final eliminations of the Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals in Phoenix, AZ. Starting from the eleventh position, Johnson posted early round victories over veterans V. Gaines, Jason Line and Rickie Smith before capping the performance with a win over rival Greg Anderson in the championship round. It was the 96th win of WJ's stellar career, first of the 2006 season and third at Firebird Raceway.
"Starting eleventh as we did today is usually not a good omen, but we made it work, getting our GM Performance Parts GTO into the winner's circle," said Johnson. "Our starting position showed we didn't initially have the right set-up for this race track, but we kept working on improving 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."
Although winning is certainly nothing new for "The Professor", his path to the Arizona winner's circle on Sunday was far from an ordinary one, as he scored round wins in virtually every way possible. Johnson opened by combining a strong .022 reaction time with a 6.751-second, 204.91 mph run to defeat V. Gaines on a holeshot, who recorded a quicker 6.708-second time in the losing effort. In the second round, he was the recipient of a red-light start by Line, with WJ using a 6.742-second, 206.07 mph pass to claim lane choice for the semifinals.
Squaring off in the semi-finals against veteran Smith, Johnson posted his only "normal" win of the day, leaving on his opponent and then posting a quicker 6.756-second elapsed time with a top speed of 205.69 mph to better Smith's 6.788-second, 204.26 mph clocking, to reach the 149th final round of his career.
The final obstacle between Johnson and the win was Anderson. With his opponent holding lane choice and a slight performance advantage in the early part of the track, Johnson knew he would need an error-free run to get the win. From the moment the lights turned green, a determined WJ surged ahead, using an outstanding .015 reaction time to gain the edge by over three hundredths of second.
However, before Anderson had a chance to make up the deficit, his ride suddenly slowed due to a parts failure. This allowed Johnson to race down the quarter-mile uncontested, crossing the finish line in 6.770 seconds with a top speed of 206.13 mph. With the trophy firmly in hand, the six-time champion was quick to credit his young team.
"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," stated 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 to today.
"I have won a few of these things in a variety of ways, so I take events like today in stride. However, the true importance of this win is what it means to our young GM Performance Parts crew, including Dain Schwan, Adam Drzayich 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 in Sugar Hill. 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 race car's performance. We're going to enjoy this win tonight before getting back to work, testing before Gainesville, working on the early part of the run, to see what we can do to maintain this winning pace."