Kurt Johnson Puts Chevy Cobalt in Pro Stock Winner's Circle at Sponsor's Race at Las Vegas Anderson Crowned 2005 Pro Stock Champ Despite Loss in Finals LAS VEGAS, Oct. 23, 2005 - In a class where 16-car fields are separated by mere...
Kurt Johnson Puts Chevy Cobalt in Pro Stock Winner's Circle at Sponsor's Race at Las Vegas
Anderson Crowned 2005 Pro Stock Champ Despite Loss in Finals
LAS VEGAS, Oct. 23, 2005 - In a class where 16-car fields are separated by mere thousandths of a second, driving skill often comes to the forefront when competing in the NHRA's Pro Stock class. Such was the case today as two of the best advanced to the Pro Stock finals of the ACDelco NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and Kurt Johnson in the ACDelco Chevy Cobalt got the better of now three-time defending NHRA POWERade Pro Stock champ Greg Anderson in his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO to win his car sponsor's title race and claim his fourth win of the season. Johnson used a .002 reaction time to get a holeshot win with an elapsed time of 6.839 seconds at 202.27 mph to Anderson's quicker 6.821 e.t. at 202.27 mph. Anderson had already claimed his third consecutive NHRA POWERade Pro Stock title yesterday with his No. 1 qualifying effort for today's eliminations.
"We've been to the finals a few times here," said Johnson. "You leave on him (Anderson), and he's been on top of his game and then you get down there and it's just a few thousandths at the finish line. Being the ACDelco race, that's the biggest thing, you want to win here for your sponsor. Today we just finally made it happen with a lot of help from a lot of people. Like Greg says, he's just a small part of it and I'm just a small part of it, and my crew did their job today.
"I got a cramp in my foot before the finals. I'm sitting in the car and thinking, 'Man, this is not a good time for this to happen.' I had a flat tire on Friday, actually it was Saturday morning, we put the car down and the rim's lying on the ground. It's like with all of this bad luck going on, you know your luck's going to change in Vegas. It was just a good day. The car was fast all weekend. We came here, ran real well and ran real good speed, and then we just freshened everything up. We knew we had to run good to hold off Jason (Line) for the No. 2 spot in points. They were throwing everything at it. If you can't win [the champ[ionship], it really doesn't matter, but it matters a little bit, I guess. They've had plenty of parties here in Vegas before. They're just a good team, and it's all hills and valleys, and you get on a roll, and hopefully we can get on a roll now."
Johnson defeated Bob Panella Jr. in Round 1 where he ran the low E.T. of the meet and Jeg Coughlin in Round 2 before facing Erica Enders in the semifinals in a battle of Chevy Cobalts. Johnson cut a .007 light to get his first holeshot win of the day with an elapsed time of 6.852 seconds at 202.00 mph to Enders' 6.850 e.t. at 201.61 mph. As good as Johnson's reaction time was against Enders, he was even better in the finals as he cut a near-perfect .002 reaction time to defeat Anderson for another holeshot win.
"You've got to go [against the other Pro Stock drivers]," said Johnson. "You never know. You've got to throw everything at it because you don't know if you're going to make a good run. You have no idea when you wake up on a Sunday morning what's going to happen, or any day really. We were just lucky to have today, that's all there is to it. We made some good runs and we made some bad runs. The engine was good, and the car was good sometimes, and I just feel lucky today more than anything. Erica was quicker than me in the semi's, we lost lane choice, and Greg was quicker than me in the finals. We were within thousandths of Greg all weekend and had a little bit on Erica, but it's what you throw at it at certain times. You've got to have the right combination at the right time. It's either the car or the driver, not all of them are in sync at the same time. When the car's good, I've got to be good. No, I've got to try and be good all of the time, that's all there is to it, especially in this game."
Anderson defeated Allen Johnson in Round 1, Mark Pawuk in Round 2 and Greg Stanfield in the semifinals to face Johnson for the 13th time in a final round. Anderson entered today's money round with a commanding 11-1 edge over Johnson, but a won-loss record goes out the window before every final-round appearance. Anderson joined Bob Glidden and Lee Shepherd as the only drivers to win a Pro Stock championship in three consecutive seasons.
"It was a great weekend all around," said Anderson. "I love this racetrack. I can't tell you how many final rounds I've been to here lately, I think every one for the last three years. It's just been a tremendous place for us. I love racing in the finals, and it seems every time I run a final here, Kurt's in the other lane. We've had some great battles. Most of the time I've got the nod, but this time he just dug down and he did a better job. He came up with a better light and my hat's off to him. They did a great job all weekend and Kurt just did a fantastic job of driving. They earned it, and they just flat went and took it. They wanted it more, apparently, they took it and my hat's off to them.
"We're still plenty proud. We came here, we clinched the championship, and we went out in pretty good style. We didn't get the trophy, but we were darn close. We're pretty enthused and pretty happy. One more to go, we'll go to Pomona and try and get that last trophy, and maybe make them think about it over the winter. We'll go home, go to work over winter and try to come back even stronger."
Erica Enders and her Cagnazzi Racing team continue to make strides the second half of the season and advanced to at least the semifinal round for the third consecutive race. Enders came into today's eliminations on the strength of a career-best qualifying effort, placing her Slammers Ultimate Milk Chevy Cobalt No. 3 on the grid, the third consecutive race she has qualified in the top half of the field. Today she defeated Jim Yates in Round 1 and Ron Krisher in Round 2 to reach Johnson. In the semifinals, Johnson had an elapsed time of 6.852 seconds at 202.00 mph, and with his .007 reaction time he got past Enders' 6.850 e.t. and 201.61 mph for a holeshot win.
"This is awesome," said Enders. "This is our third semi's in three races, so that's pretty good for us and we're really excited. We've got one race left this season, unfortunately, and I kind of wish it would keep going with the momentum we have right now. But we'll be ready for 2006 and we're just ecstatic to be doing so well."
In Funny Car, two Chevy Monte Carlos reached the semifinals for the second consecutive race, and it just happened to be the same two drivers - Del Worsham and Tony Bartone. Worsham defeated points leader John Force in Round 1 and Tommy Johnson Jr. in Round 2 to reach the semifinals against Gary Scelzi. Bartone defeated the Pedregon brothers, Tony in Round 1 and Cruz in Round 2, to face Ron Capps and match his and Worsham's efforts last race at Dallas. In the semi's Capps drove his Dodge past Bartone with an elapsed time of 4.820 seconds at 323.50 mph to Bartone's tire-smoking 5.326 e.t. and 212.09 mph. New points leader Scelzi got the better of Worsham with an elapsed time of 4.851 seconds at 324.67 mph as Worsham also smoked the tires and slowed to a 5.344 e.t. at 280.66 mph. In the championship heat Capps kept the points race tight and closed to within 2 points of the lead by defeating Scelzi with an elapsed time of 4.780 seconds at 325.69 seconds to Scelzi's 4.819 e.t. at 324.51 mph.
"We had nothing to lose there [against Force], but we felt a lot of responsibility to the fans, the sport, and everyone who cares about the championship, to give this our best shot," Worsham said. "It's nothing personal. We're not rooting for anyone. When you strap in and go to the line, you focus on your job and you do everything you can to win. We beat the best, and I'm sure John and his team wish they'd have been a few feet quicker, but this sport is tough and we knew we could make it tough on them."
In the Sportsman class, David Rampy of Piedmont, Ala., put his '67 Camaro in the Stock Eliminator winner's circle.
The final stop on the 23-event NHRA POWERade schedule is the 41st annual Automobile Club NHRA Finals at Pomona (Calif.) Raceway on Nov. 3-6.