Columbus: Kurt Johnson preview

Consistent performance is key to Kurt Johnson's championship chase ACDelco crew focuses on winning at tracks where success has previously eluded them SUGAR HILL, GA., June 9, 2003 - ACDelco Cavalier pilot Kurt Johnson is off to the best start of...

Consistent performance is key to Kurt Johnson's championship chase
ACDelco crew focuses on winning at tracks where success has previously eluded them

SUGAR HILL, GA., June 9, 2003 - ACDelco Cavalier pilot Kurt Johnson is off to the best start of his Pro Stock career. In the first ten races of the 2003 NHRA POWERade season, he has scored four wins in six final round appearances, and is currently on track to set new personal single-season bests in wins, final round appearances and elimination round wins.

Johnson leads the championship standings entering this weekend's Pontiac Excitement Nationals, and is coming off an exciting victory in Chicago that saw him charge from the 15th starting position to claim the 27th national event win of his career. As such, Johnson realizes he will be the focus of the entire Pro Stock field, as they look to supplant him at the top. However, the majority of pressure to perform comes not from other competitors, but from within the highly motivated ACDelco crew.

"It's certainly been a challenge, but when your car is running as well as our ACDelco Cavalier has this year, we expect ourselves to win," stated Johnson. "Fortunately, my team is really clicking, making all the right calls, and the driver is doing a good job of letting the clutch out on time, so we've been able to deliver on our potential.

"But it's far from easy, as our win in Chicago shows. After being off a bit in qualifying, we were under the gun on Sunday, facing faster cars without lane choice all the way to the final. In addition, we had several issues to deal with throughout the day, including changing motors after the first round. Fortunately, we stayed focused, kept working and ended the day in the winner's circle. That was special."

Johnson's winning effort in Illinois is a microcosm of his 2003 season. In an ironic twist, much of his success this year has come at facilities that have given the Lawrenceville, GA resident trouble in the past. Four of his six final round appearances were the first of his career at that particular track, with his wins in Gainesville, FL, Bristol, TN and Joliet, IL marking his first trip to those particular winner's circles. As Johnson relates, it is part of his plan, with the next target being National Trail Raceway, site of this weekend's event.

"To contend for the championship, you have to be in a position to win at every race," detailed Johnson. "Therefore, we're trying very hard to do well at places where we have yet to win. In the six races of that type so far, the worst we've done is making it to the semi-finals at Englishtown, while everywhere else we've won or been the runner-up.

"Columbus is one of those troublesome tracks. If we can nail that one down and do well in Madison, we'll head back to races we've already won in the past with a tremendous amount of confidence.

"But we're not taking anything for granted. Before even thinking about winning, we first have to qualify. We learned a lot about our ACDelco Cavalier in Chicago, which could be crucial this weekend. We'll combine that with our Columbus notes from last year, which should let us hit the set-up right off the bat. If we all do our jobs, it should be another good weekend."

Facts on Kurt Johnson and the ACDelco Racing Team entering the Pontiac Excitement Nationals:

KJ in Columbus: This will be Kurt's 11th appearance at National Trail Raceway, where he has one runner-up finish in 1993. In addition, he was the No.1 qualifier in 1998.


Traveling in Elite Company: Kurt's 27 national event victories tie him with Cory McClenethan for 15th on the all-time NHRA professional win list, and give him sole possession of fifth in the Pro Stock Career Victories, breaking a tie with legendary Pro Stock driver Lee Shepherd. Kurt's most recent win came two weeks ago at the Lucas Oil NHRA Route 66 Nationals in Joliet, IL.


POWERade Points standings: After the tenth of 23 events, Kurt leads the 2003 POWERade Championship standings with 890 points, two points ahead of Greg Anderson, and 204 ahead of his father, Warren Johnson, who is in third. Kurt finished sixth in 2002, his tenth consecutive Top 10 finish.


Winning percentage: Kurt's .642 elimination round winning percentage (325-181) ranks 11th among all active NHRA professional drivers.


Career best elapsed time: 6.716 seconds, Englishtown, NJ, 2003


Career best top speed: 206.61 mph, Englishtown, NJ, 2003

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Greg Anderson