The following is a post-race report on Pro Stock racer Kurt Johnson's victory on Labor Day at the NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, Ind., and pre-race releases on Kurt and Warren Johnson at the upcoming NHRA Pioneer Keystone Nationals...
The following is a post-race report on Pro Stock racer Kurt Johnson's victory on Labor Day at the NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, Ind., and pre-race releases on Kurt and Warren Johnson at the upcoming NHRA Pioneer Keystone Nationals in Reading, Penn., on September 12-15.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
KURT JOHNSON WINS NHRA U.S. NATIONALS!
Kurt Defeats Points Leader Jim Yates in Semi-Final, Moves to Fourth in Championship Race
Indianapolis -- Kurt Johnson drove his Delco Freedom Battery Firebird to his first U.S. Nationals victory, scoring his seventh career NHRA national event win in the oldest, richest, and most prestigious event in championship drag racing. Kurt also continued the Johnsons' domination of the U.S. Nationals by notching the fifth straight Indy title for the family.
Kurt posted his second win of the season by defeating Chuck Harris, Tom Martino, and points-leader Jim Yates in the opening rounds. In the final round, which was televised live on TNN, he beat Rickie Smith, 7.070/195.14 to 7.083/195.01. The margin of victory was two thousandths of a second.
"I've been coming to Indy for 25 years, and this is the biggest win of them all," Kurt declared in a post-race interview. "Everyone works all season for this race, and everybody's at their peak. To win here is a dream come true."
Johnson qualified fifth in the 16-car field, and was one of the few drivers to improve his car's performance over the long Labor Day weekend. "I came here to win this race," Johnson told reporters. "We tested here the week before the Nationals. We were the first race car on the track, and the last one to leave. We made seven runs in the heat of the day, and that paid off today."
Kurt's dramatic victory vaulted him from sixth to fourth in the NHRA Winston championship. Johnson will attempt to continue his climb in the points standings at the NHRA Keystone Nationals in Reading, Penn., on September 12-15.
NHRA PRO STOCK STANDINGS (after 15 of 19 rounds): 1. Jim Yates 1277 2. Warren Johnson 1148 3. Mike Edwards 890 4. Kurt Johnson 820 5. Chuck Harris 807 # # #
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WARREN JOHNSON GETS TOUGH AT KEYSTONE NATIONALS
Reading, Penn. -- Pro Stock drag racer Warren Johnson has never been noted for his easy-going demeanor. No one has ever confused the silver-haired "Professor of Pro Stock" with "Mr. Nice Guy." Now with four races remaining on the drag racing calendar and a 129-point deficit to points-leader Jim Yates, you can see W.J.'s intensity level rising.
It's time for W.J. to take off the gloves.
It comes down to simple mathematics. Johnson must win seven more rounds of racing than Yates in order to claim a fourth career NHRA championship. Winning races isn't enough for the driver of the GM Performance Parts Pontiac; W.J. has to stop his rival early in eliminations.
"We can still win this championship," Johnson declared after a broken wheelie bar took him out in the first round of eliminations at the U.S. Nationals. "We'll have to qualify opposite Yates on the ladder, and take him out in the early rounds."
Johnson's first opportunity to implement his new "go-for-broke" strategy will be at the Pioneer Keystone Nationals, to be contested at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Penn., on September 12-15.
There is no better place than the Keystone Nationals for Warren to launch his offensive. At last year's event he laid down a barrage of six-second runs in qualifying and notched his third career Keystone Nationals victory. Johnson has been in five straight final rounds and qualified No. 1 four times at the track in the scenic Pennsylvania countryside.
"Maple Grove is a track that's suited our particular combination in the past," Warren reports. "But since the track has been resurfaced, we'll be searching for the right setup -- along with everyone else."
Warren has an ally in his quest for the championship. His son Kurt has defeated Yates three times this season on holeshot victories, including a crucial match in the semi-final round of the U.S. Nationals. W.J. has beaten Yates in three of their five meetings this season, including the final rounds in Memphis and Topeka.
There's no hint of desperation in Johnson's championship plan -- only determination. Johnson was runner-up six times in the title race before he won his first championship in 1992. He knows the difference between No. 1 and No. 2. That's why he's taking off the gloves at Maple Grove.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
KURT JOHNSON CRAVES ANOTHER VICTORY AT KEYSTONE NATIONALS
Reading, Penn. -- The taste of victory can be as addictive for a drag racer as a candy bar for a chocoholic. Pro Stock driver Kurt Johnson experienced the ultimate thrill in the quarter-mile sport when he stood in the winner's circle at the NHRA U.S. Nationals on Labor Day with his Delco Freedom Battery Firebird. Now he craves another victory at the Pioneer Keystone Nationals, to be held at Maple Grove Raceway on September 12-15.
Kurt already knows the way to the Keystone winner's circle. He visited there in 1993 when he celebrated one of his three NHRA national event victories in his rookie season.
"I remember winning the Keystone Nationals very well," Kurt reports. "It rained that year, and we only had two qualifying runs. I burned out a clutch on my first run, and we weren't even in the show after the first session.
"I was fighting Scott Geoffrion for the No. 2 spot in the points standings, so my last qualifying lap was a do-or-die effort," Kurt continues. "I qualified No. 2 behind the Old Man (father Warren Johnson), and ended up winning the race. I raced Dad in the final; it was the quickest side-by-side Pro Stock race ever."
The Maple Grove track is one of the fastest on the NHRA tour. Last year it yielded four six-second Pro Stock runs in Pro Stock. The prospect of cool autumn temperatures promises another barrage of sub-seven second performances.
"I'm pumped up about going back to Maple Grove," Kurt declares. "We can make a lot of horsepower at that track, and the starting line's good enough to hold it. Of course, we won't know what the new track surface is like until we get there."
With two final round appearances in the last three races, Kurt Johnson is staging his trademark late-season surge in the points race. In the span of four races, he has climbed from eighth to fourth in the standings. And with just four races remaining on the schedule, Kurt Johnson is hungry for more wins.
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E-mail from: Rick Voegelin, 10-Sep-1996