Bristol: Kurt Johnson preview

KJ Puts New Car on Hold, Will Race Proven Mount in Bristol ACDelco crew aims to celebrate Cobalt's first anniversary with win at the O'Reilly Thunder Valley Nationals Sugar Hill, Ga., April 26, 2006 -- Kurt Johnson has a shiny new race car...

KJ Puts New Car on Hold, Will Race Proven Mount in Bristol

ACDelco crew aims to celebrate Cobalt's first anniversary with win at the O'Reilly Thunder Valley Nationals

Sugar Hill, Ga., April 26, 2006 -- Kurt Johnson has a shiny new race car sitting at his shop in Sugar Hill. It is a sleek Pro Stock Chevrolet Cobalt, fully painted in his distinctive red, white and blue ACDelco livery. With the start of the O'Reilly Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol, TN only a few days away, most teams would be scrambling to complete the car and have it ready for this weekend's event.

However, when Johnson and his crew pull into Bristol Dragway on Thursday, they will be bringing the same car with which they made the Cobalt's POWERade Drag Racing Series debut exactly one year ago. Looking at this particular chassis' record, there are few who could doubt their reasoning.

Since opening with a semi-final finish in Thunder Valley, this ACDelco Cobalt has scored five wins (including the NHRA's most recent race in Las Vegas two weeks ago) in eight final round appearances and four No. 1 qualifying positions, making it one of the most successful cars in this highly competitive division. As Johnson sees it, there is no rush to park this proven winner.

"The new car won't be quite done for Bristol, but we weren't really in a rush to get it done in time," explained Johnson. "Once it is ready, it will take a few runs to figure out its personality anyway, so we're going to stick with the ACDelco Cobalt we've been running. It's been a good car, and even though it's a year old, there's nothing wrong with it.

"I don't believe that race cars go bad. For example, I retired one car with over 400 runs on it that was the best car I ever raced. Any struggles we may have had with this one earlier in the year were due to the combination we were bolting into it. Fortunately we were able to regroup and win in Vegas, so we'll bring it to Thunder Valley and see if we can double up."

Johnson's thrilling victory in the Nevada desert did more than just reassert the second-generation racer as a serious contender for this year's championship. It also provided a much-needed boost of confidence to the close-knit crew, who, with the addition of new personnel during the off-season, are establishing the chemistry so vital to their long-term success.

"When you get new people working on the car, it's good to give them a boost, and winning in Vegas did that," said Johnson. "Kev (long-time Johnson confidante and crew member Kevin Horst) and I knew we could get the job done, and that it was just a matter of executing and getting a little luck to go our way. But for Justin (Belfance) and Mike (Smith), it was a nice reward for all their hard work and pumped them up for the races ahead."

Adding to the Johnson crew's optimistic outlook is their record at Bristol Dragway, site of this weekend's event. KJ is one of only three drivers to have won an NHRA national event in Thunder Valley in its current configuration, taking the title in 2003, and has recorded semi-final finishes on two other occasions. As he looks to add to that tally and win consecutive races for the fifth time in his career, he knows it is important to put the last race behind them and focus on taming the Tennessee track.

"We can't just go into Bristol thinking we're fine because we won the last race," stated Johnson. "Bristol Dragway is a completely different track, with its own racing surface and atmospheric conditions. We'll have to adapt to it and see what it will give us. From the first qualifying session on Friday, the entire ACDelco Cobalt crew will have to be on their game.

"We're excited about racing in Bristol. It's right up the street from us and is the second closest event we have. We've been going there since the late 70's, and have always enjoyed ourselves. It's a beautiful facility to race at, as are all of the Bruton Smith-owned tracks. We had a big win there in 2003, beating (Mike) Edwards in a very close race in the final, a performance we'd like to repeat this weekend. We won in Vegas two weeks ago, which is another of Bruton's tracks -- who knows, maybe he can be our good luck charm!"

-j2r

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson