WJ's roller coaster ride ends in the Memphis quarterfinals
Memphis, Monday: Monday's final eliminations of the O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals proved to be a game of inches for Warren Johnson and the GM Performance Parts Racing team. Starting from the third position after two solid qualifying runs on Saturday, Johnson opened his pursuit of victory with the quickest pass of eliminations in the first round, a 6.795-second, 202.24-mph blast in defeating Taylor Lastor.
In the second round, Johnson faced veteran Mike Edwards. Although the two cars left the starting line in tandem, Johnson soon found himself fighting to keep his car headed down track, with the resulting 6.899-second, 201.28 mph pass allowing Edwards, who posted a 6.866-second elapsed time, to gain the narrow victory.
In reviewing the run afterwards, Johnson quickly discovered the source of his difficulties, and found the correction to be an adjustment of less than half an inch.
"We were certainly pleased with our run in the first round," Johnson said. "I think it showed that we were honing in on the set up for the race track, and that our GM Performance Parts Grand Am was a definite threat for the win. Unfortunately, in the second round, the wheelie bars were set a quarter of an inch too low, which unloaded the car in second gear and shook the tires, and that was it.
"We have some work to do in the short week before next weekend's race in Chicago, including a tire test, but we'll take what we learned here and be ready to roll for the first qualifying session on Friday."
Johnson steps up on Saturday, qualifies 3rd
Memphis, Saturday: Entering the third qualifying session for the O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals, Warren Johnson knew he would have one chance to secure a top starting spot for Sunday's final eliminations. With forecast calling for sunny skies and temperatures in the 80's at Memphis Motorsports Park, Saturday's morning session would offer the only realistic opportunity to record times competitive with those recorded on Friday evening.
Taking full advantage, Johnson's GM Performance Parts Grand Am streaked down the quarter-mile in 6.774 seconds with a top speed of 203.46 mph, which was the second quickest in Pro Stock for that session, and earned "The Professor" the third starting position.
On his final attempt, Johnson showed he was ready for race day by posting the third quickest elapsed time in the afternoon heat at 6.815 seconds.
"Yesterday we found both ditches, and today we went down the middle of the road. This morning we were a little light on the clutch because we didn't want to go overboard, and although we're pleased with the performance, there was a little room for improvement.
"We made some adjustments to the GM Performance Parts Grand Am's tune-up for this afternoon's run, and I think the clutch was just about right to where we didn't leave anything on the table. Based on what we did on that run, I think things bode well for tomorrow."
Fourteenth on Friday, WJ aims to improve
Memphis, Friday: Warren Johnson and the GM Performance Parts Racing team battled to tame a very tricky Memphis Motorsports Park racing surface during the first day of qualifying for the O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals. After opening with a 6.857-second pass on his first attempt, Johnson came back in the evening session to record an elapsed time of 6.814 seconds with a top speed of 203.25 mph. This placed the six-time Pro Stock champion in the fourteenth position entering Saturday's final attempts, with Johnson having definite plans on using one of those runs to improve his standing.
"Today we covered both ends of the spectrum. On the first run, we were a little too aggressive and shook the tires. On our second attempt, we were overly cautious, and sacrificed some performance. Fortunately, tomorrow morning's session will probably have conditions that are quite similar to what we encountered today, so we will go back and look at our notes, trying to find the sweet spot in the tune-up that will get our GM Performance Parts Grand Am back near the top where it belongs."
Professor finds the silver lining in recent rain clouds
Memphis, pre-race: The primary story surrounding the NHRA's POWERade Drag Racing Series over the last few weeks has been the inclement weather that has dogged the world's best quarter-milers. At the last two events in Indianapolis and Reading, persistent rain showers have forced officials to postpone the last day of qualifying and final eliminations to another weekend, sending racers and fans scrambling to make alternate arrangements.
Having seen it all during his 28-year Pro Stock career, Warren Johnson simply takes such events in stride, preferring to look beyond the delay and take advantage of any potential opportunity. For example, as the NHRA makes its way south for this weekend's Lucas Oil Mid-South Nationals in Memphis, Tenn., Johnson recalled how the heavy rains at this race one year ago actually worked in the GM Performance Parts Grand Am team's favor.
"We most certainly would have preferred to run the last two events as scheduled," said Johnson. "These postponements not only put extra demands on the teams who have to return and complete the race, but they are an inconvenience to the fans, some of whom have planned vacations around our events.
"Unfortunately, there is little you can do about Mother Nature. As with any situation, the GM Performance Parts team will simply look to make the most of it, taking advantage of the extra day at the shop to work on a few projects. In fact, last year's rain delay in Memphis turned out to be a blessing for our team.
"One of the tie-downs holding our Grand Am in place in the transporter snapped en route to the track, allowing the race car to hit against the sides and back gate as the truck went down the road. We worked inside the trailer through the downpour to repair the damage to the nose and tail, completing it just in time for the first session on Friday evening. It wasn't pretty, but it was fast, and we were the No. 1 qualifier. I'd say that was making the best of a bad situation."
The primary challenge at this weekend's event may lie in taming the track at Memphis Motorsports Park. Although the cool fall temperatures will be conducive to making horsepower, the bumpy racing surface will have teams scouring their notes to find the proper combination to maintain traction without a great loss in speed.
"The Memphis track is one which certainly needs grooming," said Johnson. "Over the years, the racing surface has gotten rougher, making it tougher to get down under power. However, we'll all be dealing from the same deck, and with our record of success in Memphis, we've got just as good a chance as anyone.
"The No. 1 priority, however, is the one we have the least control of the weather. Fortunately, it seems that Hurricane Isabel will not be a factor, which would be the first break we've gotten in the weather in almost a month. As long as it stays dry and we are able to race, our GM Performance Parts Grand Am should be in good shape."
Return to Team Reports Archive
Return to the Home Page