Brainerd: Kurt Johnson preview

KJ Looks for the Perfect Anniversary Gift in Brainerd Minnesota native marks one year with current ACDelco Cobalt Sugar Hill, Ga., August 8, 2007 -- There are many aspects to the sport of NHRA Pro Stock drag racing that make it unique among...

KJ Looks for the Perfect Anniversary Gift in Brainerd
Minnesota native marks one year with current ACDelco Cobalt

Sugar Hill, Ga., August 8, 2007 -- There are many aspects to the sport of NHRA Pro Stock drag racing that make it unique among the major professional racing series. Naturally, the most obvious are its straight-line, quarter-mile configuration and four-round, single elimination format. Less apparent, however, is the common practice of each team using only one race car throughout the course of the season.

For example, at this weekend's Lucas Oil Nationals in Brainerd, MN, Kurt Johnson will complete one year of competition with his current ACDelco Chevrolet Cobalt. During that time, he has competed in 23 national events, as well as two specialty events and numerous test sessions, always using the same Jerry Haas-built chassis. In fact, unlike their round-track or nitro-powered brethren, there is no back-up car either in the team's transporter or Sugar Hill, GA shop. As Johnson explains, this single-minded philosophy is a combination of economics and competitive consistency.

"Pro Stock racing is unique in that we normally don't hit anything or blow anything up," said Johnson. "Therefore, we are able to use a single chassis for an entire season, which allows us to use the money others spend on a back-up car in other areas, such as research and development or additional spare parts. In addition, once we learn a car's performance characteristics, ideally we can tune it to perform on consistent level.

"For example, we ran this ACDelco Cobalt for the first time at last year's Brainerd race. Even though we tried our best to wreck it by putting it in the sand in Reading, overall it's been a pretty good car. It's had its good races, such as Memphis and Phoenix where we won, and others where it was a little off. Right now, we have it back to where it's fast, but wants to spin the tires and not put up the numbers in the first 300 feet, so we'll have to make a few changes before we hit the track in Brainerd, getting it ready to be a contender."

Fortunately, this weekend the POWERade Drag Racing Series will be heading to a track that is quite familiar to Johnson, Brainerd International Raceway. A Minnesota native, he grew up accompanying his father to races at this legendary motorsports facility and has been a part of every NHRA national event held there. Since taking to the track in his own Pro Stock entry in 1993, he has proven equally proficient, logging three wins in four final round appearances. It is a positive trend he hopes to continue this weekend, as he looks to lock in a position in this year's Countdown to the Championship.

"The track in Brainerd is pretty decent, and it's been good to me," said Johnson. "The concrete is smooth and they've done a good job of flattening it out. Of course, a lot will depend on what Mother Nature has done to it over the last year. Looking at last year's notes, the sixty-foot times were in the .980 (second) range, so we'll have to be on it from the first qualifying session. We ran this same ACDelco Cobalt here a year ago, so we know what we have to do, it's just a matter of applying ourselves and getting it done.

"At this point, everyone is talking about what it will take to make the Countdown. I prefer to focus instead on this race, doing what we can to qualify in the top half of the field, getting lane choice for the first round, and winning four rounds on Sunday. After all, if we win the race, the rest will just take care of itself."

-credit: j2r

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Jerry Haas