Commerce: Warren Johnson preview
WJ Works to Ensure Successful Homecoming at Adopted Track GM Performance Parts Crew Preps to Score Sixth NHRA Win at Atlanta Dragway Sugar Hill, Ga., May 9, 2005 -- Warren Johnson was born and raised in northern Minnesota, and in the early ...
WJ Works to Ensure Successful Homecoming at Adopted Track
GM Performance Parts Crew Preps to Score Sixth NHRA Win at Atlanta Dragway
Sugar Hill, Ga., May 9, 2005 -- Warren Johnson was born and raised in northern Minnesota, and in the early stages of his drag racing career, never strayed too far from his home state, taking only occasional trips to NHRA national events across the country. However, once he made the decision to earn a living solely by driving a race car, Johnson relocated his family to the suburbs of Atlanta, GA. As he and his crew prepared his GM Performance Parts Pontiac for this weekend's Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals in Atlanta, Johnson took time to look back on the reasoning behind his southern migration of twenty-five years ago.
"I moved to Atlanta simply because you could race almost all year round, and it was centrally located for the drag racing circuit," explained Johnson. "It was a decision based purely on logistics. In Minnesota, you have a five-month season, and you would be on the road for seven.
"I also chose Atlanta over other locations because it offered the best balance of the weather. I enjoy the change of the seasons, but without the severity we saw in Minnesota, where you can see temperatures of up to 108 degrees in the summer and 30 to 40 below in the winter. It's been the home of the GM Performance Parts team since 1980, and I'd say it's worked out to be a good choice."
This weekend's race will mark Johnson's 25th NHRA national event at venerable Atlanta Dragway, located a short drive from the team's headquarters in Sugar Hill, GA. Ironically, the sanctioning body will also celebrate its silver anniversary of racing in Commerce in 2005. It has been a good racetrack for "WJ", as his five wins in eight final round appearances lead all Pro Stock competitors. In addition, Johnson achieved success at the Georgia quarter-mile prior to the NHRA's arrival, using a win there to catapult him to his first IHRA championship in 1979.
"I came into that race needing to qualify No. 1, win the race and get some help," recalled Johnson. "Well, Lee Edwards went out in the first round and John Brumley in the second, and I beat Roy Hill in the final to win the championship by 38 points. >From that point on, Atlanta Dragway has treated me well."
Johnson comes to his "home" track as the leader in the POWERade Championship points, with two wins in the last three races. Despite the success that his year-long performance has brought him to date, "The Professor" knows his work is far from done, and the veteran team heads into Atlanta hungrier than ever.
"It took us an entire year to put the plan together, but so far this year, things have fortunately gone our way," said Johnson. "In essence, we are reaping the rewards of our efforts from the last year and a half. However, we're not about to stand still. Our program is constantly in flux, searching for ways to hopefully improve our program, while simultaneously shoring up our equipment to maintain our current pace.
"We were able to test immediately after Bristol, and it went well. We learned a few things that could help our GM Performance Parts Pontiac in the future. Since then, we've been back at the shop, freshening up what we have and building up our DRCE III inventory to prepare for these next three races, which are run on consecutive weekends. Certainly, we've gotten off to a good start, but that's all it is -- a start. I've never gone forward by looking back, so our focus right now is on winning Atlanta in front of our home crowd."
Notes on Warren Johnson and the GM Performance Parts Pontiac Racing team entering
the Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals presented by Pontiac:
* WJ is the Top Dawg in Georgia: This will be Warren's twenty-fifth NHRA appearance at Atlanta Dragway, where he has five wins in eight final round appearances, the most by any Pro Stock driver. Overall WJ has an elimination round record of 41-19 in his previous twenty-four races for a .683 win percentage.
* WJ is a Front-Line Starter in Commerce: In twenty-four previous races in Atlanta, Warren has nine No. 1 qualifiers, 19 starts in the Top Four and only one start outside the top half of the field. WJ's average starting spot at the Georgia quarter-mile is 2.917.
* One year ago: Warren qualified ninth with an elapsed time of 6.828 seconds and a top speed of 203.12 mph, but fell in the first round.
* Warren hoping to go back-to-back: WJ will be looking to score consecutive wins for the 19th time in his career (including winning three in a row five times and four in a row once), having last done so in 2001, when he won the Columbus, Ohio and Madison, IL races.
* No. 1 in National event wins: WJ's 94 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 O'Reilly Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol, TN.
* Career Best Elapsed Time: 6.679 seconds, Gainesville, FL, 3/20/05
* Career best top speed: 206.70 mph, Gainesville, FL, 3/20/05