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Professor Says Student Was A Quick Study

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 13 2011

Pro Stock driver Warren Johnson is still smokin' at age 67. (Photo courtesy of the Full Throttle NHRA Drag Racing Series)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Commerce, Ga. – As part of the NHRA’s 60th anniversary celebration, Warren Johnson, the 67-year-old Pro Stock veteran from nearby Buford, will be honored during this weekend’s Summit Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.

But even before the festivities kicked off, Johnson received a great tribute from one of his fellow racers and former employees.

Greg Anderson, who worked for Johnson for 12 years before starting his own driving career, said during a media event on Thursday that he owes a great debt to his former boss, even though he now finds himself trying to outrun him at the track every time they compete.

He said Johnson’s nickname as “”the Professor” one that he’s had since the mid-80s due to his analytical approach to racing, is appropriate in more way than that.

Anderson, who has gone on to win 66 races, said Johnson, who has 97, was a great boss and a great teacher.

“It was the time of my life,” Anderson said of his years working for Johnson. “I had a blast. I learned a ton. I really appreciate working for him and everything he did for me. Quite honestly, I never thought I’d leave there. I thought that was the cat’s meow, the coolest job in the world. I enjoyed the heck out of that.”

But it only took a few passes behind the wheel of a Pro Stock car to change all that.

Greg Anderson learned his lessons well from Warren Johnson.

“One day I got the itch to start driving,” Anderson said. “(Johnson) caused that. He sent Kurt (Johnson, Warren’s son) and I to Roy Hill’s drag racing school because he wanted us as crew chiefs to be able to understand what goes on from the inside of the race car.

“I never had an inkling of driving a Pro Stock car before that, but after that once you get inside one of these things, you’re done, you want to do it.

“It took me three years to be able to get a ride. Kurt started right after he got his license. I don’t think Warren expected it to happen to either of us. He just tried to make us better crew chiefs.”

Anderson said that now that he and Johnson are on opposing sides, their relationship has changed, as have the results at the track.

“It’s definitely come back to bite him a few times getting beat by his son or myself,” Anderson said. “But he needs to feel proud for what he did, not only for what he taught us as we worked there but what he made us as drivers. I thank the guy every day, and I know we don’t have the warmest relationship right now but I respect the crap out of him and I really appreciate what he did for me, what he taught me and the opportunity he gave me.”

Anderson went on to say that the Professor title is quite appropriate.

“Professor fits perfectly,” he said. “He doesn’t allow it to do that much for him, and he should. He should take credit for what I’ve become and for what Kurt has become. He truly is the Professor.”

Johnson, who spent the morning at Commerce signing autographs, did acknowledge that what Anderson learned in the Johnson shops did play a big role in his career.

“I’m sure it accelerated his program,” Johnson said. “We were always on the cutting edge of a lot of new stuff. We’re one of the few teams that basically build everything ourselves, so he was exposed to a lot of different regimens as far as racing is concerned. We designed our own cylinder heads. We did everything in-house.

“He saw a lot of that in his time with us, so that probably has stuck with him. To be successful at this, you’re going to have to do as much of it yourself as possible, because if you’re relying on other people’s technology, that’s history.”

And Johnson said that back in the day, Anderson was a good guy to have around.

“Greg was a good employee,” Johnson said. “I wouldn’t have kept him around for 12 years if he wasn’t.”

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 13 2011
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