Pomona: GM Racing eliminations summary

Warren Johnson's Pontiac SC/T Grand Am sets National Speed Record - Professor captures fifth Winternationals Crown. POMONA, Calif., Feb. 9, 2003 - Warren Johnson fired the first volley of the 2003 NHRA season today by driving the GM Performance...

Warren Johnson's Pontiac SC/T Grand Am sets National Speed Record - Professor captures fifth Winternationals Crown.

POMONA, Calif., Feb. 9, 2003 - Warren Johnson fired the first volley of the 2003 NHRA season today by driving the GM Performance Parts Pontiac SC/T Grand Am to his fifth Winternationals Pro Stock victory at Pomona Raceway. Johnson captured his 89th career win by defeating Allen Johnson in the final round of eliminations giving Pontiac its 110th all-time NHRA Pro Stock victory.

"Winning is one of those all encompassing things," said Johnson. "When our car is running good, the driver is more confident, the crew is more confident and the whole thing comes together. If one factor falls out of sync it affects everything.

"We worked on both Kurt's (Johnson) Cavalier and my Grand Am intensively over the winter. We also got a few new crew members that have fit in well. You hear the old cliché about chemistry. Well, when people have to work at this level of intensity with the long, grinding hours that are involved, good chemistry is an essential requisite."

The 59-year-old Johnson came into today's race qualified in the No. 2 position after a pressure-packed Saturday morning run that moved the GM Performance Parts Pontiac off the 38th starting spot. On raceday, Johnson's Pontiac charged back with nothing less than a dominating performance turning all four eliminator laps in the 6.70-second range for an average raceday elapsed time of 6.774 seconds. Johnson's low e.t. of the event came in his round-three win over son Kurt when the six-time NHRA champion recorded a Pomona track-record mark of 6.764 seconds.

Today's Winternationals sellout crowd also watched Johnson's Grand Am establish a new speed milestone. During his first-round win over Troy Coughlin, the GM Performance Parts Pontiac driver set a new national record with a top speed of 204.91 mph. In fact, all four of Johnson's runs today were over the 204 mph barrier with his SC/T Pontiac posting an average eliminator performance number of 204.46 mph.

"We looked at what we had accomplished early in testing, backed the car down and came out Saturday morning and ran well," explained Johnson. "But it's one of those things when you have enough power to go for the throat, it's really hard to back it down.

"Our group has worked hard over the winter on our engine program, and overall on the aerodynamics on both Kurt's Cavalier and my Grand Am. Kurt ran 205.10 mph in testing in Bradenton, and I ran 205.19 mph, so we were really the first two cars over 205 mph. As things progress with our parts and with our power, you will soon see 205 mph at a national event, and while I'm still competing, 206 mph."

Greg Anderson started the new season on a strong note, advancing to the semifinal round before losing to Allen Johnson. During the off season, Anderson, who finished third in the points standings in last year, switched over to the new Pontiac SC/T Grand Am body.

"Coming in here I was a little bit worried that we were going to be behind," said Anderson. "We didn't get a lot of time to work on our engines over the winter because we built our new shop. But we felt it was the right thing to do because in the long run, we're going to run better and we're going to make more power. We have a brand new crew, a brand new Pontiac Grand Am we got two weeks ago and we still managed to score a semifinal finish. Not too bad for the first race in this car and it's only going to get better. All we need is a little more time to fine tune this new Pontiac. It's a different animal and will require a different setup from what we ran last year. But once we get in the wind tunnel and see what it likes, we'll be able to make some adjustments that will shorten our learning curve.

"We're going to ship a motor home and at least get a week's worth of work done there. We're going to test in Las Vegas for two days next week and work on our Grand Am some more. There's never enough time and we won't be able to close the gap all that much, but we should be able to take a nick out of it and pick up our pace."

In Funny Car, Pontiac Firebird driver Johnny Gray scored his first final-round appearance with a runner-up performance against Tony Pedregon, and a pair of Chevrolets battled their way to a semi-final showing. Skoal Racing teammates Ron Capps and Tommy Johnson Jr. both made their way to round three before being eliminated; Capps lost to Johnny Gray and Johnson fell to Pedregon.

"That's the most competitive both cars have been for a long, long time," said Johnson. "We kind of knew from testing that our Chevrolets were going to be strong. Our qualifying effort didn't really show it but we knew we would be good on raceday. Actually, that 4.82 in the second round was very competitive because we had a hole out on down through there. If we can keep all eight cylinders lit and fine tune what we have on this car, both of these Chevrolets can run in the 4.70s and make a run for the championship.

"It's nice to be competitive like we were this weekend and have a shot at winning. We're leaving here third in the standings and that's a great way to start the season. We're a whole lot better off coming out of here than we were the last couple of years. We've got good momentum and we've got first place in our sights. We have a good enough racecar to get up there, and be No. 1 and hopefully that's where we'll be at the end of the season."

The next stop on the tour is the 19th annual Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals on Feb. 20- 23 at Firebird International Raceway. Qualifying highlights of the CSK Nationals can be seen on ESPN2 on Saturday, Feb. 22 starting at 11:30 p.m. Eastern. Final eliminations can be seen on Sunday, Feb. 23 beginning at 9 p.m.

-gm-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Ron Capps , Greg Anderson , Allen Johnson , Johnny Gray , Tommy Johnson Jr.