Las Vegas: Kurt Johnson preview

Kurt Johnson Wants a Happy Race Car in Las Vegas After twin runners-up in 2003, ACDelco crew looks for a win in the Nevada desert Sugar Hill, Ga., March 29, 2004 - As he does at every stop on the circuit, Kurt Johnson enters this weekend's ...

Kurt Johnson Wants a Happy Race Car in Las Vegas
After twin runners-up in 2003, ACDelco crew looks for a win in the Nevada desert

Sugar Hill, Ga., March 29, 2004 - As he does at every stop on the circuit, Kurt Johnson enters this weekend's SummitRacing.com Nationals in Las Vegas, NV with a list of goals that he and the ACDelco Racing team would like to accomplish. Naturally, some of these objectives are self-evident, such as winning the event or having a safe race. Others, however, have a significance that may not be readily apparent to those outside the team.

For example, Johnson wants his ACDelco Cavalier to be happy as it races at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Although it may seem that the second-generation racer has assigned human emotions to his mechanical mount, the degree of contentment in this application is actually measured by the car's performance. As Johnson explains, it is a simple aspiration shared by many of his fellow participants in the POWERade Drag Racing Series, although it is not something that is easily achieved.

"Every competitor wants his race car to be happy, and the ACDelco crew is not any different," said Johnson. "A happy race car is a fast car, one that is consistently quicker than the competition. Even though we won the race in Phoenix, we knew we were off by a couple hundredths, so we went fishing for way to make our car faster.

"That obviously bit us in Gainesville, where the car didn't respond to the changes and wouldn't hook up to the racetrack. But it wasn't a total loss. Even though we never made what we would consider a good run, we learned a lot about our Cavalier, and what not to do.

"We came away with some really good ideas that we will be testing in next few days in Commerce (Georgia, site of Atlanta Dragway) and I think things will be panning out in our favor over the next several weeks and months, starting with this weekend in Las Vegas."

This week, the Johnson crew will hope to put the information gathered in last few weeks to good use as they look for their first national event win at the Nevada quarter-mile. In their last their three races in Las Vegas, the team has come close, with a No. 1 qualifying performance and two runner-up finishes. However, these near-successes have only served to further fuel the team's desire to win.

"Every year, one of the goals the ACDelco crew sets for itself is to win at tracks where we have yet to do so," said Johnson. "In 2003, we were fairly successful, winning for the first time in Gainesville, Bristol and Chicago. We came within seven thousandths of a second of including Las Vegas on that list.

"The racing surface at Las Vegas is one of the better ones on the circuit, and at the last few races there we've done a pretty good job of adapting to it. But this year, we have new car and rules to race under, so we'll have our work cut out for us. Even the notes from our test session earlier this year will need to be adjusted, because we've made so many changes to the car since then. It's a challenge, but we're up to it. As I said, we came close to winning last year, but close is not good enough. This year, we have full intentions of finishing the job. That way, everyone's happy."

KJ's Comments

On the ACDelco team's search for performance:

"We know we can run with the best of them, but we have to do a better job in the first eighth of a mile. For example, if you look at the time slips, you'll see Greg (Anderson) is getting a three to four hundredths of a second jump on the field in the first 330 feet.

"We're looking at all different avenues. Our top speeds show the power is not a problem. It's just a matter of working on our ACDelco Cavalier to apply that power to the racetrack more effectively."

On the Friday night qualifying session (Las Vegas will be the first race of the 2004 season with a Friday night qualifying session):

"This is our first race of the season with a Friday night qualifying session, which only adds to the pressure. The atmospheric conditions are usually the best you'll have all weekend, and even though it will have little to do with the race day set-up, it's your best shot at a top qualifying position.

"Basically you do everything you can to prepare for it, but it all comes down to staging the car, doing a good job getting it down the track, and hope that time slip they give you at the top end has a good number on it."

-j2r-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson