JOLIET, Ill., June 11, 2006 - Some drivers just bring out the best in you, and for ACDelco Chevy Cobalt NHRA Pro Stock driver Kurt Johnson, that someone is Pontiac driver Greg Anderson. Johnson and Anderson once worked side by side as crew...
JOLIET, Ill., June 11, 2006 - Some drivers just bring out the best in you, and for ACDelco Chevy Cobalt NHRA Pro Stock driver Kurt Johnson, that someone is Pontiac driver Greg Anderson. Johnson and Anderson once worked side by side as crew members on Johnson's father's team, six-time Pro Stock champion Warren, so even though they are competitors on the track today, they remain good friends off of it. Today was no different as the two competitors met in the final round of the 9th annual CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway, and Johnson ran a career-best elapsed time to get the better of Anderson the last two times they've met in a final round. Johnson also defeated Anderson last October in the ACDelco Las Vegas Nationals in Las Vegas. In today's final, Johnson drove his Chevy Cobalt to a career-best elapsed time of 6.646 seconds at 207.46 mph to get a hole-shot win over Anderson's slightly quicker 6.641 e.t. at 208.10 mph in his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO.
"It's fun running against Greg," said Johnson. "You throw the helmets on and you're all-star boxers out there, and when you get to the finish line you take them off and you can talk, you're buddies. That's the way it should be. We're not rubbing paint, so it's not really getting too serious out there, but you try your hardest. Some people bring out the best in you. That's just the way it is. You can ask Jeggie (Coughlin), you can ask Connolly, you can ask all of these drivers. You want to hit a home run every time, but it just doesn't happen."
Johnson defeated Mark Pawuk in Round 1, Dave Connolly in Round 2, avenging a loss to him in the finals at Topeka two weeks ago, and Jim Yates in the semifinals to reach his third final round of the season. The win was the 34th of his career, tying him for fourth on the all-time NHRA Pro Stock event win list with Darrel Alderman.
"When it's good, it's good," said Johnson. "The old Cobalt's fine. It's just a matter of putting the right pegs in the right holes. It ran good last year, so it should run good this year. We're happy. Two wins in 10 races so far this season. We've had a couple of mishaps, but that's going to happen. That was a bonehead maneuver I had there in Topeka. I even talked to Greg about it at the finish line. It's like you go .30, .30, .20 [in reaction times] at Topeka in the first three rounds, and then you go .70 in the finals and it's like, 'Where did that come from?' This category is just so tough, I don't have to explain it to you. Everybody knows. I just feel fortunate to be [in the winner's circle]. I was good on the tree today, and you never know when you're going to be bad."
This was the fourth final-round appearance of the year for Anderson, but surprisingly he only has a season-opening win to show for it. He still leaves Chicago with a 110-point lead over second-place Yates, as well as with $50,000 in his wallet from his win in yesterday's King Demon Crown special event for Pro Stock qualifiers. Anderson defeated his teammate Jason Line in the King Demon Crown final with an eye-popping 6.620 elapsed time, unofficially the quickest pass ever made in the Pro Stock class. A win in today's finals would have garnered a $25,000 "double-up" bonus from NHRA, and he now stands 11-3 in final-round contests with Johnson.
"I don't know what it is, but I just can't seem to leave the starting line anymore like I used to," said Anderson. "I've got to change something I'm doing because whatever I'm doing, I'm not doing it right. Everybody's wearing me out on the starting line. I've got to get better."
Jim Yates in the Sea-Ray Pontiac GTO continues to build momentum from his win at Columbus last month as he reached today's semifinals before losing to race-winner Johnson. His recent strong performances helped him move past Jason Line into second place in the POWERade points standings.
"This is definitely a good move in the right direction," said Yates. "We were fortunate today to get a couple of round wins. The whole program seems to be coming together. Bill (Jenkins) worked on the engine a little bit and changed the tune-up on it. I think it's just as fast, we've just got to figure out how to make it run fast. On that last run (son) Jamie and I came up with a little different gear ratio on it and Bill tweaked on the carburetors a little bit, and we went out there and went .67. We were within five thousandths of Kurt and I thought we could give him a good run for his money, especially since we were in the right lane. But I was just a little later than him on the tree and he was a little faster than us, so that's a bad combination. Overall, though, I think we had a good day in Chicago, now we've just got to get our GTO ready to go to Englishtown."
In Funny Car, Tommy Johnson Jr. qualified No. 1 in his Skoal Chevy Monte Carlo to lead the quickest field in NHRA Funny Car history into eliminations today. Johnson made the third-quickest pass in the history of the class in qualifying with a 4.672 e.t. at 328.70 mph. He defeated fellow Chevy driver Tim Wilkerson in the first round before losing to defending Funny Car champ Gary Scelzi on a hole-shot in Round 2. Scelzi had an elapsed time of 4.772 seconds at 303.50 mph to Johnson's quicker but losing 4.752 e.t. at 324.44 mph. John Force in a Ford defeated his teammate Robert Hight in the final round for his first win of the season.
In Top Fuel, GMC-sponsored Cory McClenathan reached the semifinals in his FRAM Boost Top Fuel dragster before losing to eventual race winner Doug Kalitta. Cory Mac ran a 5.135 e.t. at 174.14 mph to Kalitta's winning 4.472 e.t. at 330.47 mph.
In the Sportsman classes, defending class champ Bob Newberry from Schenectady, N.Y., won Top Alcohol Funny Car in the Valvoline Chevy Monte Carlo, Tony Stephenson from Willow Springs, N.C., drove his GM Performance Parts Pontiac GTO to the Comp Eliminator crown, and Mike Mans from Rogers, Minn., won Super Stock in a '00 Firebird.