Warren Johnson, Terry Adams - GM interview

Warren Johnson and Terry Adams The GM Performance Parts GTO Racing team's braintrust discuss their season, their relationship and their outlook. Sugar Hill, Ga., September 10, 2007 -- One of the more prominent storylines entering the 2007 NHRA...

Warren Johnson and Terry Adams
The GM Performance Parts GTO Racing team's braintrust discuss their season, their relationship and their outlook.

Sugar Hill, Ga., September 10, 2007 -- One of the more prominent storylines entering the 2007 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing season was Warren Johnson's hiring of veteran tuner Terry Adams as the crew chief on the GM Performance Parts Pontiac Pro Stocker. The initial public reaction acknowledged that their combined experience would provide a wealth of knowledge, while questioning how their two vastly different approaches would work together.

Seventeen races later, drag racing's self-proclaimed "Mutt and Jeff" team have established a sound working relationship, which has resulted in a solid performance on the race track, capturing the seventh spot for the second phase of the POWERade championship tussle, the Countdown to Four. Entering the second race of the NHRA's version of the playoffs in Memphis, TN, the two veterans took time to talk about their season, their relationship and their outlook moving forward.

Q: How would you grade the relationship so far?

WJ: We haven't gotten divorced yet, so I'd say that's a good sign. (laughs) The reason that Terry was brought on was that I tend to get a little adventurous once in a while. Since he has a more conservative approach to things, he was essentially hired to protect me from myself. So far, for the most part it's working.

TA: It has been a challenge, but I think it's worked very well. Obviously, WJ's a very smart racer and knows what he's doing. I'm just here to bring a little bit of calmness to the storm and keep us on the right path. We've done pretty well so far, and the longer we stay together, the more we'll understand each other and the better we'll get.

Q: You are both experienced racers, but have dramatically different approaches as to how you get the job done -- talk about your individual takes on racing and how you see the two working together.

WJ: We may have two different takes on the same subject, but we certainly share the same objective, namely winning. Terry's approach as I read it, is making do with what he has, while I if I can't find what we need I'll make it. I've always said that there are more than 40 hours of work time in a week, and I'll use every second available if necessary to get the job done.

Simply put, if we're not in a position to win, then what do we need to get there, whether it's parts or personnel. Naturally, you ultimately need a combination of both the right people and the right parts to be a consistent winner. That's my part of the deal -- providing whatever it takes to get us to the winner's circle. Terry's here to make sure I avoid going off the deep end.

TA: Warren's exactly right. I've always been a racer, but I never made a lot of my parts, while he usually makes whatever he wants. If he needs it, and it's not available, he'll figure out a way to build it. In my case, I would use whatever I could afford to buy.

I may have only had one or even a half of what I needed, but I made the most of whatever parts and pieces I did have. After all, you can have a trailer full of parts, but that can actually be worse than not having enough parts because you can get confused.

I think that experience made me a better racer, and that's where I believe I help WJ. If I need anything, I know he'll get it, and at the same time, I help him get the most out of what we have. It's take a little time to find our rhythm, but it's only going to get better.

Q: What is the most important thing that you bring to this relationship?

WJ: Well, we both bring experience, but from a different viewpoint. Each of us also brings an equal amount of importance to the program. My strength comes from looking for ways to make us better. I will get or make anything that we both feel we need to get ahead on this deal.

I think the one thing both of us would agree on is that the biggest thing holding us back is the lack of testing, which is due to a) the compressed schedule, b) the uncooperative weather and c) the limited number of truly legitimate tracks to test on. I have all sorts of ideas I want to test, but Terry won't let me do it during a national event. I think he's even bolted the door to my carburetor cabinet shut!

TA: I think my strongest point in this arrangement is making sure we don't get too elaborate with the set-up. My theory is pretty simple -- you have to get to the finish line to win the race. If you got out there swinging for the fence, and you don't make it through low gear, you're not going to win.

I've seen Warren go into Q4 not in the show and end up the No. 1 qualifier. That's because he's always swinging for the fence, and that's okay -- you need a guy like that. But you also need a guy who's a little calmer in the storm, and that's where I come in. I think it's a good combination.

WJ: He's right -- I like to go for the home run.

TA: Meanwhile, I like to come up with the bases loaded and still having three outs left.

Q: What has been the high point?

TA: It would have to be Atlanta. We struggled in qualifying, but found something that worked well on race day. So far, I'd say Atlanta was the high point.

WJ: Quite honestly, I don't think we've reached a high point. A high point is winning, and we haven't succeeded in doing that. We're probably at a better point now than we have been in the past, so we're getting close, but we're not there yet.

Q: What has been the low point?

WJ: Ironically, we really didn't have what I thought to be a low point until our last race -- the U.S. Nationals. It certainly wasn't due to a lack of effort, but for a variety of reasons, mostly self-inflicted, we didn't make the most of the opportunities presented, and as a result, ended up as spectators on race day. Before that, the low point was when Terry couldn't find a Coldstone Creamery or Dairy Queen on the way back from the track! (laughs)

TA: I'd have to agree on the U.S. Nationals. That certainly wasn't expected, and we're going to work very hard to make sure that doesn't happen again. In fact, as soon as I can I'll be taking a Caterpillar D8 bulldozer to that right lane in Indianapolis.

Q: Have there been any major disagreements?

WJ: Naturally, coming from different perspectives, we've certainly had our share of debates, but I can't say we've had any really significant differences of opinion. We've both done this long enough that we've seen it done both ways in multiple scenarios, as far as weather and track conditions are concerned to know what does and doesn't work, so we usually come to some sort of an agreement. Our objective, as I said before, is the same, only our approach is different.

TA: We've haven't had any big disagreements simply because we have too much respect for each other. Obviously to be successful, he has got to respect and trust me and my opinion, and I certainly do him. If we don't immediately agree on something, we discuss it and come up with a workable solution.

Q: Have there been any surprises?

TA: Life at Warren Johnson Enterprises is a series of surprises! No, not really. Everything's good from my end.

WJ: I rather expect the unexpected, because that's what makes things exciting. If everything's the same everyday, there's really no reason to get up in the morning. I like to make surprises because then you can see the reaction.

Q: Are you happy with the move?

WJ: Yes. We're obviously in better shape than we were last year, and having Terry here has allowed me to devote more time to what I feel I do best as far as the tune-up is concerned. Even though we haven't had time to test and I've had to pull in the reins on myself a little, we've been slowly but surely creeping up on the tune-up. As a result, with one notable exception, we're qualifying better, and we're right with the very best cars in top speed, which has always been my forte. Given some decent test time, I have no doubt we'll be back where we belong -- winning races.

TA: What was the question, please -- I got caught up in what he was saying. (laughs). Seriously, any time you can work with someone like Warren Johnson, you learn something, and I'd like to think I've brought something to the table. I'm very happy with the move, and believe we just need some to go to a track and test. He's got some ideas, and I have quite a few of my own, and who knows -- maybe we'll put the two together and do as WJ says. We're definitely going to be a team to be reckoned with.

Q: If there is one thing you could change about this arrangement, what would it be?

WJ: Yeah, we're seventeen wins behind where I'd like to be!

TA: I agree with WJ, and add that at the very least we're seventeen runners-up behind.

Q: What is your outlook for the future?

TA: Championships.

WJ: Obviously, the purpose of this exercise is to win the championship. To do that, you have to start by consistently winning rounds. Once you do that, the wins will come. After all, 23 final rounds would probably get you your share of wins and the championship. But we're not going to get ahead of ourselves. We're going to stay the course and keep improving, making sure we reach every objective along the way.

-credit: j2r/gm racing

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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson , Terry Adams