Topeka: Warren Johnson preview

The Professor is Set to Employ a New Teaching Aid in Topeka-Warren Johnson to roll out new GM Performance Parts Grand Am for O'Reilly Summer Nationals Sugar Hill, Ga., May 21, 2003 - By all accounts, GM Performance Parts driver Warren Johnson...

The Professor is Set to Employ a New Teaching Aid in Topeka-Warren Johnson to roll out new GM Performance Parts Grand Am for O'Reilly Summer Nationals

Sugar Hill, Ga., May 21, 2003 - By all accounts, GM Performance Parts driver Warren Johnson has had a strong start to the 2003 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing season. In the first eight races, he has scored two wins (in Pomona and Atlanta), earned two No. 1 qualifying positions, and reset the national elapsed time and top speed records. Currently sitting third in the championship points standings, Johnson's seventh Pro Stock title remains a distinct possibility.

Therefore, one might question why Johnson would consider bringing out a completely new Jerry Haas-built Grand Am for this weekend's O'Reilly Summer Nationals in Topeka, KS, especially as the "old" car had visited the winner's circle a few short weeks ago in Atlanta. However, as can be expected from "The Professor", this is a planned move, and recent events had only reinforced the decision.

"You never want to get off a winning race horse, but we didn't win last week, so it's time for a change," joked Johnson. "But, seriously, this race car is worn out. We were going to the scales last Sunday in Englishtown when we heard something scraping, which turned out to be the rocker panel and part of the sheet metal under the car. We were able to repair it in time for eliminations, but that pretty much told us it was time to switch.

"We've taken lessons learned from this race car, as well as with Kurt's, and incorporated those improvements into this new car. We'll be shaking it down on Wednesday and possibly Thursday in St. Louis before heading over to Topeka. We're 100% confident that this new GM Performance Parts Grand Am will be a step in the right direction."

Although Johnson will most likely be the only member of the Pro Stock category with a new race car this weekend, the challenge of qualifying for Sunday's eliminations will be just as tough for the other competitors. One week after enjoying nearly ideal atmospheric conditions in New Jersey, the "factory hot rods" will face markedly warmer temperatures and higher elevation at Heartland Park Topeka, requiring a completely different tune-up. Backed by years of data and experience, Johnson is more than ready.

"We can deal with any conditions, as long as it's not raining, snowing, sleeting or hailing," said Johnson. "With temperatures forecasted to be in the middle 70's, it will be incrementally slower. However, in the past the Topeka track has been remarkably consistent, so we should have a good shot at hitting the set-up right off the bat.

"After last week, we're changing the tune-up back to where we were in Las Vegas, which is somewhat close to what we'll encounter in Topeka. We're anticipating performance in the mid 6.80 level. If you're not thorough in the clerical end of your racing operation, you could miss some vital points and not make the correct changes. However, we pride ourselves on having as good a notebook on every racetrack and situation as possible.

"We'll adjust our GM Performance Parts Grand Am to the atmospheric conditions, which determine the amount of power we'll have at our disposal, take a look at the track surface to see how it's changed from last year and adjust as necessary, say one Hail Mary and let her go."

Facts on Warren Johnson and the GM Performance Parts Racing Team entering the O'Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals:

* WJ at Heartland Park: This will be Warren's 20th NHRA Pro Stock national event appearance in Topeka, where he has accumulated four wins (1992-93, 96, 98) in six final round appearances, while compiling a 33-15 elimination round record. He has been equally effective in qualifying, with seven No. 1 qualifying efforts (most recently in 2001), and an average starting spot of 2.64.

* One year ago: WJ qualified eighth for the Topeka race with an elapsed time of 6.862 seconds and a top speed of 201.25 mph, but was upset in the first round.

* Winning Streak: With his win in Atlanta, 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 eighth of 23 events, WJ stands third in the 2003 POWERade points standings with 604 points, 88 behind current leader Anderson, and trails second place Kurt Johnson by 78 markers.

* No. 1 in National event wins: WJ's 90 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 at the 2003 Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals in Atlanta, Ga.

* Career best elapsed time: 6.715 seconds, Englishtown 2003

* Career best top speed: 205.69 mph, Englishtown 2003

Event schedule: Qualifying: Friday, May 23: Two sessions at 4:30 & 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 24: Two sessions at 12:00 noon & 3:00 p.m. Eliminations: Sunday, May 25: Pre-race ceremonies - 10 a.m. First round of eliminations - 11:00 a.m. TV Schedule: Qualifying Highlights: Saturday, May 24: 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. (ESPN) Final Eliminations Coverage: Sunday, May 25: 3:30 - 6:00 p.m. (ESPN2) NHRA2Day: Sunday, May 25: 11:00 - 11:30 a.m. (ESPN2) (Note: All TV times are Eastern. Please check your local listings for updated air times.)


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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Jerry Haas