WJ is determined to bounce back
Bristol, pre-race: Since powering to the No. 1 qualifying position at its national event debut at the ACDelco Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla., Warren Johnson’s GM Performance Parts Pontiac GXP has been consistently among the top performers in the highly competitive Pro Stock division, posting the top speed of the event in four of the last five races.
Despite this impressive showing, Johnson knew additional work would be needed to translate this improved performance into round wins, a point further illustrated by his uncharacteristic stumble at the last race in Madison, Ill. Therefore, one day after his return from the Midwest, The Professor and his crew headed to Bristol Dragway, site of this weekend’s O’Reilly Thunder Valley Nationals for what proved to be a productive one-day test session.
“Even though our GM Performance Parts GXP had been very fast over the last few races, we just hadn’t been able to zero in on its sweet spot, which would give the consistency we were looking for,” said Johnson. “Our top speeds showed we had plenty of steam, so we knew that was not an issue. But in order to win on Sunday, we knew we needed to do a better job of getting that power to the track, and the only way to do that was by testing.
“Therefore, we went to Bristol last Wednesday, and even though the conditions were a thousand feet worse than they were when we tested there before the Atlanta race, we actually ran quicker. For the first time since we brought this car out in Gainesville, it went down the track six times in a row without a single problem.
“Ideally, we’ll test in Atlanta before going back to Tennessee, to see how it performs on a different racing surface, and we’ll wait and see how it performs this weekend. But at this point I’d say we’re about 99.9997% sure we have determined what our problems were, not only in this car, but with the previous chassis we started the year with, as we had transferred a substantial amount of parts from it over to the GXP. It was an area we had planned to look at no matter how we did in Madison, as we just had not had the opportunity to work on it previously. Hopefully, we have put this behind us, and can focus on winning rounds and races.”
Having logged two Thunder Valley test sessions in the last month, Johnson comes into this weekend’s event with current notes on the racing surface, a luxury he has yet to enjoy in 2008. However, having participated in each of the seven previous NHRA national event visits to the Volunteer State and winning twice, as well as scoring six wins in IHRA competition during the ‘70s and ‘80s, Bristol Dragway is certainly a familiar foe to this Hall of Famer.
“I can really only speak about the current condition of the right lane at Bristol, because that is the side we tested on,” said Johnson. “Although we experienced the same bumps as we had before on our first run, once we made the changes we were going to test, our GM Performance Parts GXP went right down the track as smooth as a baby’s bottom. Therefore, I would say the surface is a little bit better than it was last year, although not quite 100 percent. The bump in the right hand lane is about 90 percent gone, so it’s at the point that everyone should be able to get down it without a problem. “It’s what we have come to expect from a Bruton Smith-owned track. If there is an issue with any part of the facility, they go out and fix it right away, making it somewhere both the fans and racers look forward to going to. But the best part is that, even though it is a far cry from the place I used to race at 20 years ago, it’s still Thunder Valley, one of the most unique stops on the circuit. I’ve been fortunate to win in Bristol numerous times over the years, and I hope to add to that total this weekend.”
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