Phoenix: Warren Johnson preview

Having seen the lights, WJ looks to double up in the desert GM Performance Parts Grand Am team ready to improve on last year's runner-up finish in Phoenix Sugar Hill, Ga., February 17, 2003 - Just over one week ago, Warren Johnson opened his...

Having seen the lights, WJ looks to double up in the desert
GM Performance Parts Grand Am team ready to improve on last year's runner-up finish in Phoenix

Sugar Hill, Ga., February 17, 2003 - Just over one week ago, Warren Johnson opened his 2003 championship chase with an impressive win in Pomona, California. After qualifying second, the GM Performance Parts Grand Am driver marched through the field in final eliminations, breaking records en route to the winner's circle. However, just as remarkable as his race car's performance was Johnson's quick adaptation to the new LED lights on the starting line "Christmas Tree" which debuted in Pomona.

Twice during final eliminations, WJ posted reaction times in the "double-zero" range, the only driver to accomplish this feat, including a nearly psychic .003 effort in the final to weld noted leaver Allen Johnson at the starting line. As the Professor explains, it all came down to pre-race preparation.

"I had the opportunity to watch the LED lights during the Las Vegas test session, and in Pomona prior to the race," explained Johnson. "I was able to stand in a position to compare them to the incandescent bulbs, and it was easy to perceive that the LEDs come on a lot quicker, perhaps as much as two or three hundredths of a second.

"It basically came down to adjusting our GM Performance Parts Grand Am so I wouldn't red light, which is very easy to do with the new lighting system. I think this will make things a lot more even. For example, even looking into the sunlight, you can see the LEDs much more clearly than the incandescent bulbs. Fortunately it all worked out for us in Pomona."

This weekend, the GM Performance Parts crew heads to Firebird Raceway looking to double their pleasure at the Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals. To accomplish this goal, their first order of business is to put their success in California behind them. With a completely different racing surface and weather conditions, the key to success will lie in which teams adapt their race cars to these changes, and the six-time Pro Stock champion is prepared to once again lead the field.

"Win or lose, you always leave the last race behind you," stated Johnson. "Pomona is in the record books, and our focus is squarely on getting our GM Performance Parts Grand Am ready for Phoenix.

"Due to the differences between the two racing surfaces, as well as the change in elevation, we know the Pomona track is in the vicinity of one-tenth of a second quicker than Firebird Raceway. Given decent weather conditions in Phoenix, this weekend we should be running in the in the high 6.80's.

"We'll go through last year's notes and make some slight adjustments beforehand, but we'll wait until we get to the track to determine exactly what changes our set-up will need, if any. Of course, everyone will be in the same boat, so our goal is to make sure we do it better than our competitors."

Facts on Warren Johnson and the GM Performance Parts Racing Team entering the Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals:

* The Professor at Phoenix: This will be Warren's 19th appearance at Firebird Raceway. Throughout his career, WJ has recorded two wins in six final round appearances, with his most recent win coming in 2001.

* One year ago: WJ qualified fifth at Phoenix with an elapsed time of 6.890 seconds and a top speed of 201.22 mph, and advanced to the final round.

* Firebird Raceway record holder: Warren holds the Firebird Raceway Pro Stock elapsed time track record at 6.865 seconds, which he recorded during the first round of eliminations at last year's Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals.

* Top qualifier: Warren has been the No. 1 qualifier in Phoenix six times, including a five-year streak that went from 1995-1999. Throughout his career, Warren has never qualified lower than sixth at Firebird Raceway, and has an average qualifying performance of 2.56.

* Fastest Man in Pro Stock: With his 204.91 mph pass in Pomona, WJ set a new NHRA national top speed record. This is the 22nd time the Professor has held the national top speed record, dating back to May 1976, when he set the standard at 156.66 mph in Denver, CO.

* Low elapsed time? Top speed? - No problem: With his record-setting performance in Pomona, WJ has now posted the top speed of the event 197 times. In addition, his career-best 6.764-second effort in the semi-finals was the 130th time Warren has recorded the low elapsed time of the race in his career.

* POWERade Points standings: After his win at the Winternationals, WJ comes into Phoenix leading the 2003 POWERade points standings with 117 points, twenty-three ahead of second place Allen Johnson. Warren finished fourth in 2002, his twenty-first consecutive Top Five finish.

* No. 1 in National event wins: WJ's 89 national event victories are the most ever in the history of the Pro Stock division and place him 2nd on the all-time NHRA win list. His most recent win came at the 2003 Winternationals in Pomona, CA.

* Career best elapsed time: 6.764 seconds, Pomona 2003

* Career best top speed: 204.91 mph, Pomona 2003 (The fastest pass in NHRA Pro Stock history.)


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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson , Allen Johnson