Indianapolis: Kurt Johnson preview

KJ is Ready to Brighten Someone's Day and then Shine in Indy ACDelco Cobalt pilot's U.S. Nationals weekend starts with visit to Children's Hospital Sugar Hill, Ga., August 30, 2006 -- Race teams will work extra hours this week as they prepare...

KJ is Ready to Brighten Someone's Day and then Shine in Indy

ACDelco Cobalt pilot's U.S. Nationals weekend starts with visit to Children's Hospital

Sugar Hill, Ga., August 30, 2006 -- Race teams will work extra hours this week as they prepare for the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, IN, a philosophy befitting the biggest race on the POWERade Drag Racing circuit. Every component on their race cars will be gone over in the greatest detail prior to their arrival at O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis, ensuring it will be at its best when qualifying starts on Friday.

Coming off their tremendous win in Memphis ten days ago, Kurt Johnson and his ACDelco Cobalt racing team are confident they will bring a fast race car to "The Big Go", and, having logged only a handful of runs on this still-new chassis, there will be less maintenance required. Not willing to disrupt what has already proven to be a winning combination, the team's pre-race preparations focused on extracting the maximum on every run, preparing for every contingency.

"We're just going to wax this ACDelco Cobalt and take it to Indy," kidded Johnson. "We've got the cruise control set, and we're not even going to touch the brakes. For only thirteen runs on the car, we were a little surprised by how quickly we seem to have adapted to it. The chassis design is quite different from our last car, and we haven't had to throw a lot at it through a couple different suspension combinations. So far, it seems pretty happy, and we're looking to keep it that way this weekend in Indy.

"We know we're going to need to make nine good runs to take home the trophy, but we're taking them one at a time. Right now, we're focused on the first qualifying session on Friday night and nothing else. The conditions then could be the best of the three days of qualifying, so we have to make the most of it, adapting to what we have and see if we can get our little red, white and blue Bow Tie down the racetrack."

Naturally, a fast race car is only part of the formula for speed, as the Johnson crew must tune their ride to match the racing surface at ORP, effectively using the 1,400 horsepower their 500 cubic-inch DRCE 3 powerplant will produce. However, the one aspect of this legendary facility that creates the biggest impression on the two-time U.S. Nationals champion is the unique layout of its return road that brings the racers in front of the grandstands as they tow back after a run.

"For the most part, the track at ORP is so smooth that it seems like you're just going down the boulevard," said Johnson. "Being that you're in Indy, and it's the U.S. Nationals, it's always exciting to race there, but it's made even more special by the return road in front of the stands. It would be nice if more tracks included that in their design.

"It's been a long time since we last won the U.S. Nationals, so we definitely would like to step up this weekend and get back to the winner's circle like we did in 1996 & 1997. There are so many sponsors, media representatives and fans that attend Indianapolis as their only race of the year. As a result, this is the one they remember, so we're going to do everything we can to make our ACDelco Cobalt's performance one they won't forget."

However, before Johnson takes to the track, he must first complete another equally important aspect of his visit. On Thursday, KJ will join several other NHRA drivers in visiting the Riley Children's Hospital in downtown Indianapolis, signing autographs, talking racing and handing out goody bags while visiting some of the young patients. It is one assignment Johnson, a father of three, gladly accepts whenever invited.

"We'll take some time on Thursday to see if we can brighten the spirits of some children who are dealing with some health issues," detailed Johnson. "The folks at GM Racing are going to take the ACDelco Cobalt show car, round up a few drivers and head down to the Children's Hospital. We'll take some time to walk around the floors with some of the hospital volunteers, spend some time with the kids, give out handout cards and bring the excitement of the race to them, hopefully putting a smile on their faces. The kids are always great, and everyone involved has a lot of fun. It's just another neat thing we do during the U.S. Nationals."

-credit: j2r

Be part of something big

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