THE KURT CHRONICLES: KEYSTONE NATIONALS EDITION Kurt Johnson ACDelco News & Notes for the True Value NHRA Keystone Nationals, September 17-19, Reading, Penn. THE READING RECIPE Kurt Johnson will return to the True Value NHRA Keystone ...
THE KURT CHRONICLES: KEYSTONE NATIONALS EDITION
Kurt Johnson ACDelco News & Notes for the True Value NHRA Keystone Nationals, September 17-19, Reading, Penn.
THE READING RECIPE
Kurt Johnson will return to the True Value NHRA Keystone Nationals in Reading, Penn. on September 17-19 as the defending Pro Stock champion. Johnson has won twice in six appearances at the picturesque track in the hills of eastern Pennsylvania. As a rookie racer in 1993, Kurt defeated his father Warren for the first time in a final round at Maple Grove Raceway. Last year he turned back Mike Edwards in an all-Camaro contest.
"We had the recipe to win in Reading last year, but that was nearly 365 days ago," Kurt commented. "I won there in '93 and '98, and I'm hoping I won't have to wait five years for another victory at Maple Grove. In fact, I wouldn't mind back-to-back wins at all!
"Our race car and our approach have both changed considerably since we won in Reading last year," K.J. reported. "When we were running in cool weather at the start of the season, we went to the final round in three of the first four races. We know what to do when we're racing on a good track. That's why I'm looking forward to going back to Maple Grove.
"The race track should be fine with the weather starting to cool down. The Maple Grove starting line is consistently good - usually there is just a thin layer of rubber on the track surface, which is about perfect for traction. We think we can run an aggressive setup and get away with it.
"The trees around the race track also make a difference in our engine tuning," Kurt revealed. "We'll have to adjust the carburetors to take advantage of all the oxygen in the air."
BACK ON TRACK
The U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis on Labor Day was no holiday for Kurt and his ACDelco team. Kurt qualified 16th, pitting him against the No. 1 qualifier in the first round of eliminations - his father Warren. W.J. handily defeated his son with the quickest run of eliminations.
In an effort to get his race car's performance back on track, Kurt tested for two days at Atlanta Dragway to prepare for the crucial stretch run to the championship.
"We weren't just getting ready for Reading when we tested last week," Kurt declared. "We were preparing for the rest of the season.
"We made 11 runs at Atlanta Dragway - six half-passes on Friday and five full runs on Saturday," he continued. "The Dodges were testing the same day, and we had 'em covered by nearly a tenth of a second. I ran three seven-flat elapsed times, which was a good performance considering the track conditions. The 60-foot and 330-foot interval times looked fine, and we weren't distorting the tires.
"Of course, we've run well in testing at Atlanta Dragway before," Kurt conceded. "I just hope that our 'Commerce Jinx' doesn't kick in when we unload the car in Reading!"
Kurt had to stand in for his father Warren at the Car Craft All-Star Drag Racing Team award banquet at the Westin Hotel in Indianapolis during the U.S. Nationals. When the award ceremony began, W.J. was on an airplane flying back from the team's top-secret headquarters in Sugar Hill, Ga., with a spare cylinder head. Kurt accepted a pair of miniature gold Christmas Trees on his father's behalf - the first for the Pro Stock Driver award and the second for the Pro Engine Builder honors.
"Dad is really taking this Superman thing to heart when he flies off to Atlanta to repair a cylinder head," Kurt quipped as he accepted the Pro Engine Builder award. "He's got spare engines in the trailer that are within three or four horsepower, and I've got two engines in my trailer. Dad said, 'I don't want those.' That makes me wonder what kind of motors I'm racing with!
"This award really belongs to the guys at the shop and the products we work with - the GM Performance Parts engine blocks and cylinder heads," he added. "We couldn't do it without them. We've got the finest parts out there now."
Kurt returned to the podium minutes later to accept the Pro Stock Driver award for his father. "Dad's redlighted and been late more times than I can remember - I didn't vote for him!" Kurt joked as the audience applauded.
"Driving these cars is something that until you do it, you'll never know what it's really like. When you have to race guys like Jeg Coughlin and Allen Johnson, Edwards, Martino, and Yates, it's really tough out there."
Kurt's wife Kathy arrived in Indianapolis wearing maternity clothes, an unmistakable sign that the Johnsons are expecting their third child. The projected arrival date is March 4, 2000 - good timing by the couple, since the due date falls in the middle of a three-week break between next season's races in Phoenix and Gainesville, Fla.
KURT JOHNSON KEYSTONE NATIONALS RESULTS
Year Qualified Result 1993 2 Winner (over W. Johnson) 1994 6 Second Round 1995 3 First Round 1996 DNQ 1997 6 Second Round 1998 2 Winner (over Edwards)
Total 6 Wins 2 Runner-up 0 Semi Final 0 Second Round 2 First Round 1 DNQ 1
NEXT RACE: True Value NHRA Keystone Nationals, September 17-19, Reading, Penn. TV: FOX, Sept. 19, 5:00-7:00 p.m. local time - check local listings.
LAST RACE: U.S. Nationals, Indianapolis, Sept. 6, 1999 Qualifying: Kurt Johnson qualified No. 16 at 7.001/198.15 mph Eliminations: Round 1: Warren Johnson defeated Kurt Johnson
Low ET: Warren Johnson, 6.920 seconds (track record) Top Speed: Warren Johnson, 199.82 mph (track record)
POINTS RACE: (After 16 of 22 events) Driver Wins Points 1. Warren Johnson 6 1,339 2. Kurt Johnson 3 1,130 3. Jeg Coughlin, Jr. 3 975 4. Jim Yates 2 971 5. Richie Stevens 1 821