Kurt Chronicles: Columbus Edition

Kurt Johnson ACDelco News & Notes for the NHRA Pontiac Excitement Nationals and NHRA Sears Craftsman Nationals NEXT RACES: Pontiac Excitement Nationals Presented by Summit Racing, June 15-18, Columbus, Ohio TV: ESPN2, June 18, 5-7 p.m.

Kurt Johnson ACDelco News & Notes for the NHRA Pontiac Excitement Nationals and NHRA Sears Craftsman Nationals

NEXT RACES:
Pontiac Excitement Nationals Presented by Summit Racing, June 15-18, Columbus, Ohio
TV: ESPN2, June 18, 5-7 p.m. (ET)

Sears Craftsman Nationals, June 22-24, Madison, Ill.
TV: ESPN2, June 25, 9:30-11:30 p.m. (ET)

BACK ON TRACK

Kurt Johnson is clawing his way back to the top of the Pro Stock standings. Kurt qualified in the top spot at the Castrol Nationals in Dallas on Memorial Day weekend, and vaulted to sixth in the championship race with a semi-final finish at the Prestone Route 66 Nationals in Chicago.

"We have a car now that's been able to go down every track where we've raced," said the driver of the ACDelco Camaro. "When I let out the clutch, it goes to the finish line every time. That's a huge improvement since the start of the season."

With 14 races to go until the fat lady sings, Kurt is concentrating on continuing his ascent. "We're heading into the middle of the season and we need to start making up points right now," Kurt declared. "Jeg Coughlin Jr. had a great first part of the year, but good luck only stays with you so long. I think we can really shine the last half of the year."

OHIO HOMECOMING

Kurt Johnson has competed as a driver in the Pontiac Excitement Nationals seven times, but he's been going to the track near Columbus, Ohio, almost all his life. He first accompanied his father Warren on the road to National Trail Raceway in 1975. He finished runner-up to his father as a rookie driver in 1993 - his best showing to date in Columbus. In the last six races, he has yet to advance past the second round.

"When we first went to Columbus, the race was called the Springnationals and it was one of the four biggest events of the year," Kurt said. "National Trail has tremendous history, and a victory there would look good on my record.

"The track was recently resurfaced," K.J. continued, "but it can be tricky when it's hot - and you can usually count on plenty of sunlight on the track in the second week of June."

UNDER THE ARCH

One week later, Kurt and his ACDelco team will be at Gateway International Raceway across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. The Johnson family has enjoyed success at GIR: Warren won the inaugural Sears Craftsman Nationals there in 1997, and Kurt stood in the winner's circle in 1998. He was the No. 1 qualifier at last year's race, but bowed out in the first round of eliminations.

With racing on Saturday night under the lights, the St. Louis race is stands out among NHRA national events. "The track has a killer starting line," Kurt recalled, "and I enjoy racing there at night with cooler conditions. Before the race was switched to a night format, the heat could be brutal. When I won there in '98, the temperature was 104 degrees. I won't miss that at all!

"We have definitely made progress in the last month," Johnson concluded. "I think we have a good cool weather setup and a good hot weather setup. We're ready for whatever Mother Nature throws at us."

<pre> K.J.'s Columbus Results Year Qualified Result 1993 2 Runner-up (to W. Johnson) 1994 14 First Round 1995 4 Second Round 1996 6 Second Round 1997 2 Second Round 1998 1 First Round 1999 12 First Round

K.J.'s St. Louis Results Year Qualified Result 1997 3 Semi Final 1998 2 Winner (over J. Coughlin) 1999 1 First Round

LAST RACES: Matco Tools Spring SuperNationals, May 21, Englishtown, N.J. Qualified: No. 16 at 6.880/6.880/201.01 mph Finished: Event postponed to September 9 due to rain.

Castrol Nationals, May 28, Dallas Qualified: No. 1 at 6.976/198.25 Finished: Lost to Bruce Allen in first round.

Prestone Route 66 Nationals, June 1-4, Chicago Qualified: No. 6 at 6.885/200.00 Finished: Lost to Troy Coughlin in semi-final round.

POINTS RACE: (After 9 of 23 events) Driver Wins Points 1. Jeg Coughlin Jr. 6 861 2. Warren Johnson 1 595 3. (tie) Ron Krisher 1 548 Troy Coughlin 0 548 5. Jim Yates 0 490 6. Kurt Johnson 0 473

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Troy Coughlin , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Ron Krisher , Bruce Allen