WJ Aims to Maintain Forward Progress in Phoenix GM Performance Parts Team Targets Third Win at Firebird Raceway Sugar Hill, Ga., February 21, 2005 - When Warren Johnson powered his way to the final round at the opening event of the 2005 POWERade...
WJ Aims to Maintain Forward Progress in Phoenix
GM Performance Parts Team Targets Third Win at Firebird Raceway
Sugar Hill, Ga., February 21, 2005 - When Warren Johnson powered his way to the final round at the opening event of the 2005 POWERade Drag Racing season in Pomona a week ago, his performance raised a few eyebrows in the Pro Stock pit area. Despite his innumerable accomplishments and strong career record at Pomona Raceway, many of the so-called "experts" had forecast that he would struggle at the first few races with his new, untested race car and engine combination.
However, displaying the form that had carried him to six championships and 92 career national event wins, Johnson took a GM Performance Parts Grand Am that had never made a full pass, dropped in a brand-new DRCE 3 engine and posted an impressive runner-up finish. This may have surprised some of the railbirds, but it was all part of "The Professor's" plan.
"Although we were certainly pleased with our two teams' performances in Pomona, I wouldn't say we were surprised by our showing," said Johnson. "On one hand, Kurt's ACDelco Cavalier was a proven package at the end of last year, making good, consistent runs, which we felt we could help by injecting additional horsepower.
"In addition, my team came to California with a new GM Performance Parts Grand Am, which was a standard production Haas car. With so many of those going down the racetrack, we felt we could be competitive as long as we put enough steam under hood. Based on what we had seen on the dyno during the winter, we were confident of both cars doing well, and they did."
This weekend, Johnson and his veteran crew will look to elevate their level of performance even higher at the Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals in Phoenix, AZ. A key component in the execution of this strategy will be the 1,300-horsepower DRCE 3 engine under the hood of their race car. The Johnsons stand alone as the only competitors using the third generation of the GM Drag Racing Competition Engine in competition, with WJ having used it almost exclusively since last year's race in Gainesville, FL. Although it has admittedly been a challenge, the team's efforts are finally starting to pay off.
"We made the decision during the off-season to concentrate our efforts solely on the DRCE 3," explained Johnson. "After all, it is the future of the GM Pro Stock engine program. With a year's worth of development, including many long days and nights during the off-season, the two DRCE 3's currently in our race cars are better than anything we've ever had in the DRCE 2's. In fact, the NHRA was so impressed with it in Pomona that they tore us down on Sunday night.
"With the first two races being held on the West Coast, we realistically couldn't test, so we elected to bring both engines back to the shop after the Winternationals. Time spent on the race track takes a different toll than time on the dyno, so we wanted to go over them thoroughly and make sure everything was in order for Phoenix."
As the second stop on his "School's Out" tour, Johnson will be competing in his 21st race at Firebird International Raceway, which matches the number of NHRA national events held at the Arizona quarter-mile. With two wins in six final round appearances in the desert, he certainly knows his way to the winner's circle. However, as he explains, the unusual conditions will make it a stern test for the entire field.
"Firebird Raceway has a very challenging racing surface, which is complicated even further by the combination of the high winds and sand that blow over it from the desert," detailed Johnson. "Our goal this weekend, as always, is to do a better job than our competitors of adapting to what the track will give us. We'll take the data from Pomona, go over our notes from years past to determine the nuances at Firebird Raceway, adjust our GM Performance Parts Grand Am accordingly, and keep moving forward."
Notes on Warren Johnson and the GM Performance Parts Grand Am racing team entering the Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals:
* WJ is a Firebird Original: This will be WJ's 21st appearance at Firebird Raceway, having competed in all 20 previous national events. In his 20 previous starts, he has two wins in six final round appearances, with a 36-18 elimination round record for a .667 win percentage.
* WJ Starts Strong in the Desert: Warren has six No. 1 qualifying performances in Phoenix (including five in a row from 1995 - 1999), and a stellar 2.65 average starting position. WJ's worst starting position at Firebird is 6th, which he did once in 2000.
* One year ago: Warren qualified fourth with an elapsed time of 6.797 seconds at 203.86 mph, and lost to his son (and eventual race winner) Kurt Johnson in the quarter-finals.
* Most recent Phoenix win: 2001, when he qualified third and defeated Bruce Allen, Jeg Coughlin, Mark Pawuk and Brad Jeter.