THE WARREN REPORT: Warren Johnson GM Performance Parts news & notes for the Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals and the Lucas Oil NHRA Northwest Nationals. Johnson ready for business as usual in Denver and Seattle. Not even a drag strip perched on...
THE WARREN REPORT: Warren Johnson GM Performance Parts news & notes for the Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals and the Lucas Oil NHRA Northwest Nationals.
Johnson ready for business as usual in Denver and Seattle.
Not even a drag strip perched on a mountainside a mile above sea level holds many surprises for Pro Stock racer Warren Johnson. Johnson has raced at Bandimere Speedway, the site of this weekend's Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals, for more than 25 years. He's competed in every NHRA national event held at the scenic facility since 1983, winning three times in eight final-round appearances.
Johnson's victory over his son, Kurt, in last year's edition was one for the record book. W.J. became the most successful Pro Stock driver in NHRA history when he scored his 86th career win. Since then he's raised his total to 88 titles, but he's been winless since April's Mac Tools Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol, Tenn. While parched westerners look to the sky for relief from an enduring drought, Johnson looks to the first two events of the grueling Western Swing to rejuvenate his campaign for a seventh NHRA championship.
"You have to leave your ego behind when you go Bandimere," advised the Professor of Pro Stock. "Some racers can't accept that they're going to run slow on the mountain, but you just have to deal with it. We'll be racing at a relative altitude that's nearly four times higher than the conditions at most other tracks. The thin air in Denver costs a Pro Stock engine a ton of horsepower. After a couple of runs, you settle down and realize that everything happens in slow motion inside the car."
Despite his quarter-century of experience at the high-altitude track, Johnson spent three long days testing in Denver following the Sears Craftsman Nationals. He logged 18 runs with his GM Performance Parts Pontiac in an extended dress rehearsal for this weekend's race.
"Our objective wasn't to run any earth-shaking elapsed times," Johnson reported. "We wanted to test as many components as possible, and we found some promising combinations. The car ran as quick as it did last year under slightly worse conditions, so we're optimistic that we made real progress."
One week later Warren and his GM Performance Parts team will take on Pacific Raceways, the track formerly known as Seattle International Raceway. While the name is new, the facility is very familiar. Johnson has raced there since 1975 when the track hosted the Fallnationals. He regards Seattle's concrete starting line as one of the best on the NHRA POWERade Series circuit.
"Seattle has always had a killer starting line," Johnson observed. "I don't really know why it's so good -- it could be the concrete, the cool weather or the ground temperature. Whatever the reason, it's been consistently good since we started racing in Seattle. The asphalt portion of the track is showing its age, however, so you need a setup that can cope with the bumps."
Johnson begins the three-race Western Swing with a 110-point deficit to Jim Yates in the championship standings. With 11 events remaining on the 23-race schedule, Johnson is confident that he can overcome Yates' lead.
"We don't concern ourselves with what others have accomplished," said Johnson. "We just concentrate on our own program because that's the only thing we can control."
For Warren Johnson, the start of another Western Swing is just business as usual.