FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Media Contact: Rick Voegelin/408-761-2201
KURT JOHNSON 1997 SEASON REVIEW
Kurt Caps '97 Season with Winston Finals Victory
Pomona, Calif. -- The photographers' strobes blazed like electronic lightning in the darkness of an autumn evening as Kurt Johnson and his ACDelco team celebrated in the Pomona Raceway winner's circle. Kurt finished the 1997 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series with a flourish, winning the Winston Finals, the finale of the 22-race national tour. Johnson's victory capped the 34-year-old Pro Stock racer's best season since his remarkable rookie year in 1993.
"A win is what everyone wants at the Winston Finals," Kurt declared. "If you can't win the championship, at least you want to win the last race of the year and have something to celebrate over the winter."
Although he didn't claim the championship crown in 1997, Kurt has much to celebrate during the short off-season. He finished third in the Pro Stock standings, his fifth straight Top Five finish in drag racing's most competitive category. With three national event victories and four runner-up finishes in 1997, Kurt equaled the number of final-round appearances he achieved in 1993, when he was named the "Rookie of the Year" and finished second to his father, Warren Johnson, in the Pro Stock championship.
In addition to his new red-white-and-blue ACDelco colors, Johnson brought a new level of competitiveness to his 1997 campaign. He was the No. 1 qualifier at four events -- the most top qualifying positions of his career. He ran the Top Speed at three races, an accomplishment that had eluded him in four previous seasons. Kurt became only the second driver in Pro Stock history to run quicker than 6.9 seconds when he stopped the timers at 6.898 seconds in Richmond, Va., and he was one of only four Pro Stock drivers to qualify at all 22 national events in 1997.
"The key to our season was consistency," Kurt noted. "We were qualifying and winning rounds -- and after four runner-up finishes, we finally got our first win of the year in Minnesota. You can always look back at season and see your mistakes, but at the end of the year, I can say that we did the best job that we could."
Johnson achieved several professional and personal milestones in 1997. On Labor Day weekend, he won the U.S. Nationals, the most prestigious event on the tour, for the second straight year. Kurt's victory extended the Johnson family's U.S. Nationals winning streak to six straight years. He also won back-to-back races for the first time in his career, scoring consecutive victories in Brainerd, Minn., and Indianapolis. Kurt and his wife Kathy baptized their son, Conner, before Kurt's victory at the Champion Auto Stores Nationals, and celebrated his first birthday five days before Kurt's win at the Winston Finals.
Kurt's burgeoning confidence and maturity were reflected in his race results. "I've got to thank Dad for giving me the horsepower under the hood, and ACDelco for supporting my racing program," Kurt explained. "You need the right combination from the front bumper to the back bumper to win. The driver's got to be right, the carburetors have to be right, everything's got to be right. It's not just one thing that wins races."
Now Johnson's gaze is firmly fixed on the future. He will have a new ACDelco Firebird for the 1998 season, and an arsenal of 500ci GM DRCE engines to prepare for the Pro Stock wars.
"It's going to be tough out there next year," Kurt predicted. "We're going to have to dig down deep and go to work. When we come back to Pomona Raceway in January, every driver will be tied for first place in the points race. Just because we finished this season with a win doesn't mean we'll win the next one.
"To win the championship, we'll have to go down the race track better than anyone else on Sunday -- not just at one race, but 22 times a year," Kurt asserted. "It's all in the people who are behind you. If you have great help, they can take you where you want to be."
Kurt Johnson has indeed come a long way since he started sweeping floors in his father's machine shop. Tutored by his famous father in the art and science of drag racing, Kurt Johnson is poised to move to the head of the Pro Stock class in 1998.
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KURT JOHNSON SEASON AND CAREER STATISTICS
1997 Career Race Wins: 3 10 Runners-up: 4 10 Final-Round Appearances: 7 20 No. 1 Qualifiers: 4 8 Top Speeds 3 3 Rounds Won: 40 149 Average Qualifying Position: 4.5 Consecutive Races Qualified: 22 25
KURT JOHNSON 1997 SEASON HIGHLIGHTS
Third in NHRA Winston Pro Stock Championship: Fifth consecutive Top Five finish in five-year racing career.
Three Wins: Brainerd, Minn.; Indianapolis; Pomona, Calif.
Four Runners-Up: Pomona, Calif.; Atlanta; Richmond, Va.; Denver.
Four No. 1 Qualifiers: Seattle; Indianapolis; Memphis; Dallas.
Three Top Speeds: Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis; Dallas.
Second 6.8-Second Pro Stock Run: 6.898 seconds, Richmond, Va., April 25, 1997 (third quickest run in Pro Stock history).
Second Consecutive U.S. Nationals Winner: Second straight win at Indianapolis Raceway Park, sixth straight U.S. Nationals victory for Warren Johnson Enterprises.
Back-to-Back Wins: First consecutive victories in Brainerd, Minn., and Indianapolis.
Qualifying Record: One of only four Pro Stock drivers to qualify at every national event in 1997 (along with Warren Johnson, Jim Yates, and Steve Schmidt).
KURT JOHNSON CAREER HIGHLIGHTS
10 Career Wins: Sixth among active Pro Stock drivers.
8 Career No. 1 Qualifiers: One in 1994, two in 1995, one in 1996, four in 1997.
Fastest Speed: Has run 199.20 mph, the tenth fastest speed in Pro Stock history (father Warren Johnson ran nine fastest speeds).
Three-Year Winning Streak: Has won at least one NHRA national event for three consecutive years.
Top Five Finishes: Finished in Top Five in NHRA championship five consecutive times in five-year driving career.
149 Rounds Won: Career won-lost record of 149-82 (.645 average) is fourth best among Pro Stock drivers.
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E-mail from: Rick Voegelin, 16-Nov-1997