Kurt Johnson Keeps His Nose to the Grindstone Preparing for Bristol ACDelco Racing team heads to Thunder Valley ready to defend 2003 title Sugar Hill, Ga., April 28, 2004 - Pro Stock standout Kurt Johnson is off to a strong start as he chases...
Kurt Johnson Keeps His Nose to the Grindstone Preparing for Bristol
ACDelco Racing team heads to Thunder Valley ready to defend 2003 title
Sugar Hill, Ga., April 28, 2004 - Pro Stock standout Kurt Johnson is off to a strong start as he chases the 2004 NHRA POWERade championship. In the first five races, the ACDelco Cavalier pilot has scored one win in two final round appearances, and sits second in the points standings entering this weekend's O'Reilly Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol, TN. Although a great deal of attention has been paid to the current point leader's performance, Johnson prefers to simply focus on finding ways to make his race car even better as he looks to defend his Pro Stock crown at Bristol Dragway.
"My primary concern is trying to make our ACDelco Cavalier go faster," stated Johnson. "We have no control over anyone else's program, so we're not going to worry about what they're doing. All we can do is work on our equipment, trying different ways to improve our performance.
"For example, when we tore the engine down after Houston, we found that we had seized a piston ring during the burnout before the second round, which cost us about twenty-five horsepower. As close as the competition is, you can't give that much away. Therefore, we've put in some long hours in the last two weeks trying to find power, and spent two days testing, working on the chassis. Basically, we want to be fast a little more consistently, which is the key to winning."
The site of this weekend's race, Bristol Dragway, is one of the most popular among the teams and fans, having rejoined the NHRA circuit following a complete makeover four years ago. The unanimous praise for Bruton Smith's showplace is tempered only by discussions of the weather, as rain has played a significant role in recent years.
"If it doesn't rain, which unfortunately it has done all too often in the past, Bristol Dragway is a great place to race," opined Johnson. "You have to love the facility, nestled in the middle of the mountains, which lets the sounds just resonate down the valley, and they take care of the fans as well as the racers. In some ways, it reminds me a little of Denver, which is another place where I really enjoy racing."
Johnson returns to Thunder Valley as the defending Pro Stock champion, having duplicated his father, six-time champion Warren Johnson's effort from 2001. However, the second-generation racer's path to the winner's circle a year ago was not as simple as it might have seemed from the grandstands, as the ACDelco crew had to fight back from adversity on several occasions.
"Although it all turned out well in the end, last year's race certainly wasn't a walk in the park," recalled Johnson. "First of all, we didn't even qualify for eliminations until our last attempt on Saturday afternoon. After that, we changed motors on Sunday morning, and our ACDelco Cavalier came right to life. However, going in to the final, we found a vacuum leak that was robbing at least twenty horsepower from our engine. Fortunately, we were able to make a quick temporary repair and run a 6.89 in the final to get by Mike (Edwards).
"That has been, and continues to be, the trademark of this ACDelco team. If things aren't going well, we don't hang our heads, or worry about what our competitors are doing. We simply go to work, fix what's wrong and turn things around. That's our game plan for Bristol as we defend our title."
On how he fared in recent test sessions:
"The conditions were hideous. We had a 20-mph headwind, and there was pollen all over the race track, giving us very little traction. Fortunately, we were primarily working on our performance in the first 330 feet, so we were able to make some progress and gather some data. After all, every time you let the clutch out, you learn something."
Facts on Kurt Johnson and the ACDelco Racing Team entering the O'Reilly Thunder Valley Nationals:
* KJ - the defending champion at Bristol Dragway: This will be Kurt's fourth appearance at Bristol Dragway, where he has one win in 2003, and a 5-2 elimination round record for .714 win percentage.
* One year ago: Kurt qualified fifth with a time of 6.887 seconds and a top speed of 200.23 mph, and defeated Barry Grant, Bruce Allen, Warren Johnson and Mike Edwards in scoring his third win of the 2003 season.
* Winning percentage: Kurt's .643 elimination round winning percentage (353-196) ranks 10th among all active NHRA professional drivers.
* National event wins: Kurt's 28 national event victories ties him for 14th on the all-time NHRA professional win list, and tie him for fourth on the all-time Pro Stock win list. Kurt's most recent win came at this year's Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals in Phoenix, AZ.
* Career best elapsed time: 6.716 seconds, Englishtown, NJ. 2003
* Career best top speed: 206.61 mph, Englishtown, NJ. 2003