Columbus Kurt Johnson preview

Originally-Originally-Originally-From: Rick Voegelin <RickVoegelin@compuserve.com> Kurt Johnson has an immediate opening for any priest, shaman or witchdoctor who can drive out the demons and electrical gremlins that have possessed...

Originally-Originally-Originally-From: Rick Voegelin <RickVoegelin@compuserve.com>

Kurt Johnson has an immediate opening for any priest, shaman or witchdoctor who can drive out the demons and electrical gremlins that have possessed his ACDelco Cavalier. So severe is the infestation that K.J. has failed to qualify for the last two NHRA events -- the first time in his eight-year career that K.J. missed two consecutive race weekends.

Johnson and his ACDelco crew have pursued mechanical rather than spiritual remedies for his race car's malaise. After losing the 16th qualifying spot in Chicago on a tiebreaker, Kurt and company examined every wire, every switch and every electrical connection to find the problem.

"We replaced all of the ignition components, tested all of the wiring and went through everything we could think of," Kurt reported. "I wish that I could say that we found a broken wire or a bad connection, but we didn't.

"When we tested this week at Atlanta Dragway, I ran a hundredth faster than Dad (five-time champion Warren Johnson)," he continued. "Based on what he ran, it looks like my car is back to normal. The first qualifying session in Columbus will tell us whether or not it's fixed."

Johnson's uncertainty stems from a new dynamometer that was recently installed in his father's top-secret skunkworks in Sugar Hill, Ga.

"I dyno tested the motor with the same carburetors we used in Chicago, and the fuel mixture was a little rich," Johnson revealed. "I'm still trying to figure out the fuel curve -- so I've decided to forget about what the dyno tells me and run the car the way it likes to run. All I can do is let the clutch out and see what happens."

THE HACKSAW EXPRESS

Before the onset of electrical bugs, Kurt took decisive steps to cure the severe tire shake that had also impaired his car's performance. These measures included removing several key chassis tubes with a saw.

"The engineering textbooks all say that you want a rigid platform, but we're racing cars, not books," Kurt noted. "We added tubing to stiffen the chassis, but we ended up with a car that wouldn't work. When the driver drops the hammer at the starting line, that energy has to go somewhere. We installed sensors on the chassis to measure the movement to help us learn just how stiff is stiff enough."

Johnson will have to sort out his new chassis setup at notoriously tricky National Trail Raceway near Columbus, Ohio, the site of the 37th annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals Presented by Summit Racing. The Ohio quarter-mile has caused many sleepless nights among Pro Stock crew chiefs.

"My best result at National Trail came the first time I raced there," recalled Johnson, who was runner-up to his father in 1993. "Since then I haven't made it past the second round. If my car runs like it did at the start of the season, there is no reason why we can't qualify No. 1 and win the race. Of course, that is easier said than done!"

The NHRA tour will head west to Gateway International Raceway near St. Louis for the Sears Craftsman Nationals on the following weekend. Johnson made history there in 1998 when he scored the first Pro Stock victory by a Camaro driver in more than a decade. Now he is aiming to give Chevy's Cavalier its first Pro Stock title at Gateway International Raceway.

"It's going to be a guessing game because the track was recently ground," Kurt observed. "In the past it's had a nice, wide groove - but I like any track where I've won before."

<pre> KURT JOHNSON'S PONTIAC EXCITEMENT NATIONALS RECORD Year Qual. Result 1993 2 Runner-up (to W. Johnson) 1994 14 First Round 1995 4 Second Round 1996 6 Second Round 1997 2 Second Round 1998 1 First Round 1999 12 First Round 2000 7 Second Round

KURT JOHNSON'S SEARS CRAFTSMAN NATIONALS RECORD Year Qual. Result 1997 3 Semi Final 1998 2 Winner (over J. Coughlin) 1999 1 First Round 2000 2 Second Round

-GM Racing

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson