Sonoma: Warren Johnson preview

Warren Johnson ready to uncork a vintage performance in Sonoma GM Performance Parts team aims to return to their winning ways in the Napa Valley SUGAR HILL, GA., July 31, 2003 - Warren Johnson has a record at Infineon Raceway that is the envy of...

Warren Johnson ready to uncork a vintage performance in Sonoma
GM Performance Parts team aims to return to their winning ways in the Napa Valley

SUGAR HILL, GA., July 31, 2003 - Warren Johnson has a record at Infineon Raceway that is the envy of virtually everyone in the NHRA pit area. In fifteen appearances, the GM Performance Parts Grand Am pilot has advanced to the championship round five times, scoring three wins. His performance in qualifying has been equally impressive, with four No. 1 qualifying positions, and an average starting position of 3.429.

However, as the POWERade Drag Racing Series arrives in Sonoma for this year's event, the primary focus is on Johnson's results from a year ago, when he was reluctant spectator on Sunday, snapping a record string of 303 consecutive starts.

"Actually, our performance a year ago in Sonoma was quite similar to what we just experienced in Seattle," explained Johnson. "We didn't have the proper set-up in the car, so we kept working at it throughout qualifying. We were just a little too aggressive."

"We finally calmed it down enough for the last run, and our GM Performance Parts Grand Am went right down the race track. Ironically, if we didn't roll the beams on our final attempt last year, we probably would have ended up in the top half of the field. I guess that's the 'drag" part of drag racing."

This weekend, the quarter-mile contingent will encounter their third different set of tuning conditions in as many weeks. Two weeks ago in Denver, they battled to make horsepower in the thin air, while at the last race in Seattle, the challenge was in taming a very tricky racing surface. Although the atmospheric conditions and racetrack quality in Sonoma are closer to what is normally found on the twenty-three race circuit, the temperatures are forecasted to be higher than normal for this time of year in the Napa Valley, further complicating the tuner's assignment.

Although this scenario may seem daunting to some, with 91 national event wins in 418 career starts, Johnson actually relishes the opportunity to call on his vast experience. Having recorded the best overall performance on the first two legs of the West Coast Swing with a win and a semi-final finish, "The Professor" comes to the Napa Valley looking to harvest his fourth title of the 2003 season.

"If the temperatures go as high as they are predicting, we're not sure what to expect from the race track," detailed Johnson. "But, having grown up on tracks where we had to mow the lanes before we could race, this team is ready for anything. As far as I'm concerned, they could throw dirt on the track to even things out, and I'd still feel at home."

"Because this car is so different from anything we've raced before, we're still experiencing a learning curve. However, once you get in that sweet spot with the chassis set-up, our GM Performance Parts Grand Am has already shown itself to be one of the fastest cars out there."

"I believe we've closed the performance gap on our chief competitors, so now we have to pay attention to all the details as far as the actual racing is concerned. If we do that, I think we have a few surprises in store for everyone."

Facts on Warren Johnson and the GM Performance Parts Racing Team entering the NHRA Sonoma Nationals:

WJ's Successes in Sonoma:

This will be Warren's 16th NHRA Pro Stock national event appearance in Sonoma, where he has three wins in five final round appearances. He has a 27-11 elimination round record at Infineon Raceway, for a .711 winning percentage.

Warren is No. 1 in the Napa Valley:

In his 15 previous races at Infineon Raceway, WJ has four No. 1 qualifying efforts. Aside from his atypical DNQ a year ago, Warren's average starting spot in the Napa Valley is 3.429, having qualified outside the top half of the field only once (12th in 1989, when he was the runner-up to Bob Glidden.)

Winning Streak:

Warren Johnson has now won at least two races in 18 of the past 22 years. In addition, his current streak of winning at least one race a year for 22 consecutive years is the longest in NHRA history.

POWERade Points standings:

After the fourteenth of 23 events, WJ stands third in the 2003 POWERade points standings with 943 points, 296 behind leader Greg Anderson, and 184 points behind second place Kurt Johnson.

No. 1 in National event wins:

WJ's 91 national event victories are the most ever in the history of the Pro Stock division and place him second on the all-time NHRA win list. His most recent win came two weeks ago at the Mile-High Nationals in Denver, CO.

Career best elapsed time: 6.715 seconds, Englishtown 2003

Career best top speed: 205.69 mph, Englishtown 2003

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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson , Greg Anderson , Bob Glidden