THE KURT CHRONICLES: Kurt Johnson ACDelco News & Notes for the NHRA Mac Tools Thunder Valley Nationals, Bristol, Tenn., April 27-29, 2001 JOHNSON READY FOR BRISTOL REBOUND They say you can't go home again - but for Pro Stock driver Kurt ...
THE KURT CHRONICLES: Kurt Johnson ACDelco News & Notes for the NHRA Mac Tools Thunder Valley Nationals, Bristol, Tenn., April 27-29, 2001
JOHNSON READY FOR BRISTOL REBOUND
They say you can't go home again - but for Pro Stock driver Kurt Johnson, the NHRA Mac Tools Thunder Valley Nationals is a return to his racing roots.
Johnson was a frequent visitor to Bristol Dragway during his teenage years. K.J. served as gopher, mechanic, and crew chief on his father Warren's frequent forays to Thunder Valley for match races and IHRA events in the late '70s and early '80s. On April 27-29, the 38-year-old driver will return to Tennessee with his ACDelco Cavalier for the first NHRA national event contested at Bristol Dragway since 1967.
"I remember when Dad raced Lee Edwards in the final round in Bristol in 1979," Kurt said. "Edwards was the big dog in IHRA back then, and we had never won a race. It rained and rained, and it was three in the morning when they finally ran the final. Dad beat Edwards, and we celebrated in a Waffle House. That's my most vivid memory of Bristol."
Twenty-two years later, Kurt Johnson finds himself in the middle of a three-way battle for the Winston Pro Stock championship. Ranked third in the standings after five events, Kurt trails his father by only 23 points. He is 11 markers behind No. 2 Jeg Coughlin Jr.
Last season's Winston Showdown bonus event at Bristol Dragway was a turning point for Johnson. After losing to Jim Yates in the first round of the Showdown, he rebounded and won three of the next four races.
"I ran so badly in Bristol last year, I only had one way to go," Johnson admitted. "When we left the track, I said, 'This is it, I've hit a wall' - and then we won the next race. Now that we're racing for points as well as prize money in Bristol, I hope that I can get that same strategy going one race earlier."
Johnson has good reason to be optimistic. His ACDelco Cavalier Z24 is the fastest machine in Pro Stock, recording the top speed at four of the five races contested this season. The thin air in Thunder Valley will be conducive to fast times, but the elevation will tax Kurt's naturally aspirated engine.
"We don't make the same horsepower in Bristol that we do at sea level," K.J. noted. "The track has plenty of bite. We are definitely going to work on the carburetion and gearing."
And if Kurt Johnson and his ACDelco team are successful in Thunder Valley, the Waffle House will be the scene of the biggest victory celebration since 1979.