On the Run with Warren Johnson, Owner/Driver of K&N Filters Pontiac GXP Pro Stocker
If I had to assign a title to this column, it would have to be “How Time Flies.” After all, we are already a third of the way into the 2009 season, and on top of that, it has been almost a year since my last On the Run column. As you can imagine, a lot has happened in that time, so without further ado, let’s get you caught up.
First of all, this year was almost over for us before it ever began. As I’m sure you are aware, last fall our longtime sponsor opted not to renew our contract. Their decision was certainly understandable in light of their current situation, and I thank them for their years of support, but the bottom line was that we were left in the unenviable position of having to find a sponsor in a very tough economic atmosphere.
Warren Johnson, owner driver of the K&N Filters Pontiac GXP Pro Stocker
Keeping in mind that I do this for a living, our off-season took on a completely different look than it had in past years. As our future participation was far from guaranteed, we did not spend any money on research and development, opting instead to freshen what we had in case something did come through. In addition, testing was kept to a minimum.
K&N Filters Pontiac GXP Pro Stocker at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Our standards are exceedingly high simply because we’re used to being in position to win on a regular basis.
Fortunately, just before the start of the season, we were able to reach an agreement with Steve Williams and K&N Filters, without whose support we would have been parked. The K&N name is well-known in motorsports, having sponsored racers and events in virtually every arena, including the high-dollar NHRA K&N Horsepower Challenge for Pro Stock racers that will be held in Norwalk. I’ve been doing some development work with K&N over the last few years, and I’m proud to have them on our car. Although our search for additional sponsorship continues, K&N’s contribution has allowed us to remain on the tour.
With sponsorship in place, we then found ourselves playing catch-up in a very tough category. For example, three months into the season, we are just now getting our R&D efforts back up to speed. Certainly, that has put us a little behind, but we’ll work around it.
One thing working in our favor is that we seem to be all right in the power department. Therefore, our main priority right now is making Kurt’s and my cars a little more efficient. We’re looking at every part of our program, from the front door of the shop to the back. We’ve prioritized the areas we need to address and are tackling them one by one, making sure our changes don’t adversely affect the parts of our program that are already strong. Every week, we hold team meetings to see where we are and what we need to do.
However, we’ve still not been able to test as much as we’d like. Mother Nature has played a big role in that — for example, it has rained for most of the last week, severely crimping any plans we had — but we’ve also had limited chances to stay and test after a race, simply because we had to get back to the shop to tackle our already-delayed research-and-development work.
Looking at our season so far, the easiest way to put it is that there’s certainly room for improvement. Our standards are exceedingly high simply because we’re used to being in a position to win races on a regular basis. Therefore, I would have to classify our performance as just adequate because we have yet to win.
As much as that evaluation is a reflection on what we have been able to do, it must also be considered a tribute to our fellow Pro Stock competitors, who have obviously stepped up their programs. Even though we may have lost a few racers and teams, which I mostly attribute to the economy, Pro Stock is among the healthiest Professional categories, which speaks to its popularity. At every race, we have been able to consistently have enough cars to ensure we have a full field without resorting to alternative methods. In addition, from top to bottom, the competition is as close as it ever was.
Looking forward, I’m confident that our K&N Filters GXP will be in the thick of things shortly; after all, we’re relatively competitive right now. However, we know we still have to improve our program a little bit more and be able to do so on a consistent basis.
As anyone in the pits will tell you, all it takes to do that is money and work. We’ll take what we have to spend, see where we need to use it, and do so wisely, making sure we use every resource at our disposal. At the same time, work has never been an issue. We have plenty of hard-working people and elbow grease at the shop in Sugar Hill, Ga., and we’re not afraid to use it. Reprinted with permission from National DRAGSTER.
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