Gainesville: Kurt Johnson - NHRA interview

Kurt Johnson Looks For Second Win Of The Season At His Title Sponsor's Event GAINESVILLE, Fla.--After defeating reigning Pro Stock world champion Jason Line in a battle of reaction times, Phoenix winner and Pro Stock driver Kurt Johnson now sets...

Kurt Johnson Looks For Second Win Of The Season At His Title Sponsor's Event

GAINESVILLE, Fla.--After defeating reigning Pro Stock world champion Jason Line in a battle of reaction times, Phoenix winner and Pro Stock driver Kurt Johnson now sets his sights on the 38th annual ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals.

Kurt, the son of Pro Stock driver and racing legend Warren Johnson, defeated long time rival Jason Line in Phoenix, posting a 6.694-second performance at 206.67 mph. In this Q&A, Kurt discusses what the win in Phoenix did to boost his team going into Gainesville; what it would mean to win his sponsor's event; why racing for his father and Pro Stock Legend driver Warren Johnson never meant he had a guaranteed ride; and how this may be the most competitive Pro Stock field he has ever competed in.

* QUICK FACT: Kurt Johnson drives the ACDelco Chevrolet Cobalt. He has 36 career wins and 30 runner-up finishes.

Q: How big was the win in Phoenix for you?

K. JOHNSON: "They're all big. The first one of the year makes it just a little bit better than the rest. To have it with some new people on the team made it really special, but all race wins are big."

Q: With the many battles with Jason Line that you've had over the years, how did it feel to beat him in the final round in Phoenix?

K. JOHNSON: "I don't really look at it as beating Jason or beating anyone. Everyone did what they were supposed to do on the team and the clutch came out at the right time and we got the win. They've (Jason Line's team) got a great team and they've been the ones to beat over the years so it felt good, but I've never looked at it as beating a certain person."

Q: What type of preparations will you be making this week for Gainesville?

K. JOHNSON: "We want to be double prepared for this race because our sponsors are going to be there and we want to look good. We want to let them know that they're spending their money in the right place, so we want to make sure everything is looking good for that race."

Q: What type of track is Gainesville for you?

K. JOHNSON: "We won there in 2003, but it's always been a challenge for us, with the barometric pressure being so high there. With the detail that goes into these cars there's always something that can go wrong. And that Florida sun can also attack that track and it can be very tricky."

Q: With it being the ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals, and you being the driver of the ACDelco Chevrolet Cobalt, what will a win in Gainesville mean to you and your team?

K. JOHNSON: "It would be similar to the race we won in Las Vegas in 2005 that was also an ACDelco-sponsored race. When everyone is watching you, you want to do well. They're not only our sponsors, but they're also our friends, and it would be special. It would be like winning in front of all your friends."

Q: Have you ever had to do anything crazy in Gainesville for a sponsor?

K. JOHNSON: "Not really. We've been with them since 1996 and anytime you can have a friendship for 11 years it's definitely special. I mean, a lot of marriages don't even last that long!"

Q: Is this the most competitive field you've ever competed against in Pro Stock?

K. JOHNSON: "It seems like it gets tougher and tougher every year. Everyone just gets better each year. You just keep looking at different areas to be better in. It's definitely hard ball, that's for sure. Every time you let the clutch out you have to be the best you can be during that session. It takes a lot of Advil, that's for sure."

Q: How does the Countdown to the Championship increase that competitiveness?

K. JOHNSON: "Obviously you have to be in the top eight after 17 races, so you have to be good at every race. Last year we were testing for the first three races. This year we realized that in Phoenix, testing had to stop. Every race is a definite battle for the war. We're just going to get after it and see if we can make it happen."

Q: Being the son of famous Pro Stock driver Warren Johnson can feel a bit demanding. Do you feel that you're finally looked at now as a driver and not simply as Warren's son?

K. JOHNSON: "I'm sure there are a few out there that think I'm just lucky. I am fortunate to be where I am but it also took a lot of hard work to be where I am now. A lot of bloody knuckles and chewed off fingers. I went from driving trucks, to building engines, and now to driving cars. It wasn't overnight and we had to work for it and we've got a really good team now. Whatever anyone else thinks I don't worry about too much."

Q: What is the one thing you look forward to more than anything heading into Gainesville?

K. JOHNSON: "Warm weather, we hope. It's a lot of fun racing in Gainesville. You cross that Florida state line and the climate just changes. You have orange and grapefruit trees everywhere and the weather is great. Gainesville is just a fun race."

-credit: nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Jason Line