Warren Johnson Ready to Win His Tug-of-War with Firebird Raceway Long hours have GM Performance Parts GTO crew prepped for Phoenix success Sugar Hill, Ga., February 20, 2006 - Warren Johnson's relationship with Firebird International Raceway,...
Warren Johnson Ready to Win His Tug-of-War with Firebird Raceway
Long hours have GM Performance Parts GTO crew prepped for Phoenix success
Sugar Hill, Ga., February 20, 2006 - Warren Johnson's relationship with Firebird International Raceway, site of this weekend's Checkers Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals has been an unusual one. Although a quick review of Johnson's 21-year history at the famed quarter-mile shows multiple wins and final round appearances, for 14 years it was the final stop on the NHRA circuit where he had yet to score a national event win, the longest holdout of any single facility in his career. As he and his GM Performance Parts GTO Racing team prepared to return to Arizona for this year's race, "The Professor" took time to reflect on his roller-coaster ride in the desert.
"I could understand if there was a reason why we are not as consistently good at Firebird as we are at other tracks," said Johnson. "Just as there are some tracks where I do relatively well, success just seems to elude us there. It's not that there is any difference in our pre-race preparation -- we approach every track the same way. We look at the characteristics of the racing surface, decide what we need as a baseline tune-up and work from there.
"However, it just seems like we end up in the wrong lane at the right time, or have something else unusual happen. Take last year, for example. Our GM Performance Parts Pontiac was more than capable of winning the race. We qualified second, and were the fastest car in the first round. In the second round against Krisher, I had him by two hundredths at the tree and was pulling away when we broke a bearing in the rear end, which was the first time I had ever had that happen, taking away what would have been an easy win. I guess you could say that when we race in Phoenix, we have Murphy on our payroll, but we plan on firing him this year."
Following his uncharacteristic second-round exit in California, the six-time champion wanted to make sure everything was in prime condition for the Phoenix race, giving the team their best chance for success. Therefore, he took advantage of the time since the season-opening event to bring his equipment back to the team's Georgia headquarters for a thorough inspection and analysis. Despite the long hours spent on the road and at the shop by Johnson and his tireless crew, there is a general consensus that their hard work will be rewarded this weekend.
"Although our results in Pomona where not what we wanted, it was a productive outing in that it showed us the direction we need to head in with our GM Performance Parts GTO," stated Johnson. "Quite frankly, it's an approach that we haven't really used in the past. But, after analyzing all our runs from the weekend, it was just staring us in the face, telling us it's something we need to start working with.
"As a result, I believe we are in extremely good shape heading forward. We freshened up our primary race engine, and found that, given its condition, it ran faster than it should have in California, so it should be even better in Phoenix. When combined with what we've learned about our race car, we're expecting a strong showing this weekend."