Commerce: Kurt Johnson preview

KJ is Set to Step on the Gas in Atlanta ACDelco Cobalt racer is ready to attack at the Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals Sugar Hill, Ga., April 22, 2008 -- A NHRA national event drag race is, by definition, an acceleration contest ...

KJ is Set to Step on the Gas in Atlanta
ACDelco Cobalt racer is ready to attack at the Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals

Sugar Hill, Ga., April 22, 2008 -- A NHRA national event drag race is, by definition, an acceleration contest between two vehicles over a measured quarter-mile. Simply put, whoever crosses the finish line first four times on Sunday, without fouling or committing any other infraction, ends the day in the winner's circle. Therefore, it is paramount that teams do whatever is necessary to extract the maximum performance under any conditions.

This challenge is multiplied in the ultra-competitive Pro Stock category, where the margin of victory is often measured in ten-thousandths of a second. With teams constantly looking to gain the edge, crucial last-minute adjustments to the tune-up are now made in the moments just prior to staging at the starting line.

In the first five races, Kurt Johnson and his ACDelco Cobalt crew have acquitted themselves well, combining a runner-up in Houston with semi-final finishes in Pomona and Las Vegas to stand fourth in the POWERade points standings. Entering this weekend's Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals in Atlanta, GA, they are determined to elevate their game even further and score their first win of the 2008 season.

"Races are won and lost on the starting line, and with the way track conditions have been changing from hour to hour and even pair to pair, there is even more pressure on teams to make the right call at the very last minute," said Johnson. "For example, with two key adjustments at the starting line, I believe we could have won our race in Vegas. It would have picked up both my reaction time and the car's performance by a couple hundredths, which would have been enough to get us the win.

"However, we wanted to make sure we got down the lane, and, as a result, were just a little too conservative, and ended up making one of our slowest runs of the weekend. We finished third, and feel we should have been first. The ACDelco Cobalt crew has done a great job all season, and in the last few races, we've been the most consistent car in Pro Stock. But, we're only really happy if we win."

To accomplish their goal, Johnson believes a more aggressive approach is in order. Fortunately, they have the benefit of added tuning information on their race car from the last race, which was the first race of the season held under warm conditions. Having answered most of the questions about their chassis' warm-weather performance in the Nevada desert, the Johnson-led crew is now ready to attack the Atlanta Dragway track.

"In the first four races of the season, we had a car that would not go down a hot racetrack," said Johnson. "However, this ACDelco Cobalt started to come around in Las Vegas, and we just didn't know how much we could throw at it. We still need to determine just how aggressive we can be on a 120 degree racetrack. We're going to find out and we won't hold back getting there. We're going to step on the gas."

One question mark facing all competitors heading to Atlanta Dragway this weekend is the condition of the racing surface. Having received extensive attention in the last week following traction problems during earlier events, this key element in any performance equation will remain a mystery until the first qualifying session on Friday afternoon.

"Right now, the racetrack in Commerce is a complete unknown to all of us," said Johnson. "I know there were some issues and they were pouring new asphalt last Friday. As a result, it will have no rubber on it with a completely new texture. We know what the air and sun are going to do and what density altitude is going to be like, but we will have no idea of how much traction we'll have to work with. Even so, everyone will be in the same boat, so it will be up to us to adapt our ACDelco Cobalt to whatever they give better than our competitors. Starting with such a solid package, we should be fine."

-credit: j2r

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson