Kurt Johnson -- ACDelco Cobalt Warren Johnson -- GM Performance Parts GXP Father's Day Q&A Sugar Hill, Ga., June 13, 2008 -- In the world of father and son or daughter racing teams, NHRA superstars Warren and Kurt Johnson are the standard by...
Kurt Johnson -- ACDelco Cobalt
Warren Johnson -- GM Performance Parts GXP
Father's Day Q&A
Sugar Hill, Ga., June 13, 2008 -- In the world of father and son or daughter racing teams, NHRA superstars Warren and Kurt Johnson are the standard by which all others are measured. In the sixteen years since Kurt first joined his father on the quarter-mile at the 1993 Winternationals in Pomona, CA, the Georgia-based tandem have combined to be a formidable force, with 134 wins in 220 final rounds between them. In addition, their many accomplishments include the first father-and-son final round and 1-2 championship finish in NHRA history.
Entering next weekend's Lucas Oil Supernationals in Englishtown, NJ, the Johnsons continue their commitment to competitive excellence. Kurt's ACDelco Cobalt Racing team leads the Pro Stock championship standings following their second win of 2008 while WJ's GM Performance Parts GXP crew sits in the tenth position coming off their best showing of the season. As the POWERade Drag Racing Series takes time off for Father's Day weekend, the talented tandem took time to answer a few questions about working together on and off the racetrack.
Q: What is it like to have your father/son as your teammate?
WJ: "From a business standpoint, it works out well, because we're both part of the racing operation. We each have our own share of the responsibilities, and, looking at the results, we seem to have come up with a pretty good package.
"For example, he's got his ACDelco Cobalt working pretty consistently right now, and has done a great job of driving this year, which has put him in the points lead. He has taken the opportunity I have given him to learn and pretty much capitalized on it."
KJ: "It's good to have his experience to call on. Whether we're talking about the tune-up, or looking at the starting line, he understands every aspect of the game, and you can't beat the amount of knowledge he brings to the table. As for his being my father, I've never really raced without him, so I'm not sure how different it is or isn't to have him as a teammate."
Q: What is the biggest contribution the other has made to your racing program?
WJ: "Kurt has been able to take my work ethic and use it to advance his part of the program a lot further than if he was just another employee who didn't understand how I think. We really don't even have to talk, because each one knows what they have to do. That saves a lot of time on any project, because I know exactly what I need to accomplish while he can get his part done, allowing the whole thing to come together quickly. Because we think the same way, we can get a lot done without talking about it."
KJ: "Without a doubt, his pocketbook! (laughs) In all seriousness, however, Dad gave me the opportunity to race for a living, providing me with all the resources I needed. As I have moved further into my career, his expertise in almost every area has proven invaluable, teaching me almost everything I know about racing."
Q: What is your fondest or best memory of racing with your father/son?
WJ: "I can't say there is one race or event that I can off hand recall. Naturally, every time we race each other is special and a win-win situation but as a father it's just great to see him take what I have done and in some cases perfect it better than I have."
KJ: "It's hard to pinpoint just one. We've had so many good times together, as well as others that were not so great. The best part of racing together is that things are never the same, they're constantly changing. Therefore, I guess you could say our best memory is still to come."
Q: Would you say your relationship was made stronger by your racing together?
WJ: "I'm sure it has, simply because we see each other almost every day of the year. Whether you look at it as father and son, co-workers or business partners, working alongside each other as we do certainly strengthens all facets of our relationship."
KJ: "The way we run our operation, whether it's at our shop in Sugar Hill or at the racetrack, we constantly rely on each other to get the job done, and so far it has worked out pretty well. The key is that we respect each other's abilities. There's no doubt that the interaction we have had in our lives due to racing and working together has made our relationship stronger."
Q: You're teammates, but you're also competitors. What's it like to race each other?
WJ: "It's like racing my own equipment, because I know exactly what he has, and built half of it. Anyway you look at it, it's a win-win situation, because one of our cars is going to go to the next round. Naturally, we hope it happens in the final, because that would be the best possible scenario. Having said that, when he's in the other lane, he's just another competitor, someone standing between me and the winner's circle, and I never like to lose."
KJ: "As Dad said, it's like running your own car. You know he has the potential to run as well if not better than I do, and he always gets on the wheel when he races me, so there's a little extra pressure when we face each other. Win or lose, though, we know one of our cars will be moving on, which is always a good thing. I just try to leave first and make sure it's my ACDelco Cobalt going to the next round."
Q: Looking at your head-to-head meetings, WJ leads 42-21 overall, but KJ has won the last three encounters -- is the tide turning?
WJ: "Looking at the scorecard, I still do hold the upper hand. But, as I said before, he has his whole combination working really well right now, while we're still searching for a few things on my GM Performance Parts GXP that we know will increase its performance. Once we do that, it should get pretty interesting. He's doing well at the moment, but I'm not about to concede."
KJ: "I like my job, so I'd prefer not to comment on that. (laughs) Let's just say I don't worry about records."
Q: So - who's the better driver -- father or son?
WJ: "Once I sent him to the Bondurant school to learn car control after his early on-track experiences, he's been able to perfect his performance in the back half of the track, so I can't say either one of us is better. I think Kurt is a little bit better on the lights right now, but then again, let's give him another 25 years and see what happens. As I say, you're never as good as you were. (laughs)"
KJ: "That one's easy -- me! (laughs) I don't know - everyone has their good and bad days, and on average, he'd probably get the nod. However, no matter who I am comparing myself to, I always have to pick myself."
Q: Kurt has three children, Conner, Erin and Jarrett -- would you like to see any of them follow in your footsteps and become the third generation of the Johnson racing legacy?
WJ: "Only if it makes good business sense to them, and they want to do it. I can't complain about the life I've made in racing. It's something I enjoy doing, and I've made an acceptable living at it, but whatever they want to do when they grow up will be just fine with me.
"It was the same when Kurt was deciding what to do with his life. We told him he could do whatever he wanted, as long as he did it right. As a result, the morning after he graduated he was on a plane with me headed to Georgia to race full time. He chose racing, and he's done well at it."
KJ: "If it makes them happy, and they can be financially successful doing it, but I'm not going to push them either way. This sport costs a lot of money, and you definitely can't use your own to do it. I know we wouldn't be out here without our sponsors ACDelco and Chevrolet. But it will be their decision.
'For example, it took the combination of my going to Roy Hill's school to see if I could drive and Dad's fielding a second car after winning the championship to convince me that I wanted to race. It took some doing, but so far it's worked out. We'll just have to wait and see what they want to do. Conner, my oldest, is only 11, so they have some time."
Q: Finally, how do you plan to spend Father's Day?
WJ: "Doing what I need to do to keep this operation going -- working at the shop, just like I do on any other holiday."
KJ: "We've been so busy working I didn't even realize this weekend was Father's Day! I'll probably hang around the house with my family and let them bring me breakfast in bed. After that, it will be back to work on Monday morning, getting ready for Englishtown."