Madison: Kurt Johnson preview

Kurt Johnson is ready to shine in the Madison moonlight Second generation driver looks to score Sunday night win in his ACDelco Cavalier SUGAR HILL, GA., June 24, 2003 - At 22 of the 23 stops on the 2003 NHRA POWERade schedule, the weekend's...

Kurt Johnson is ready to shine in the Madison moonlight
Second generation driver looks to score Sunday night win in his ACDelco Cavalier

SUGAR HILL, GA., June 24, 2003 - At 22 of the 23 stops on the 2003 NHRA POWERade schedule, the weekend's timetable is virtually unchanged. Three of the four qualifying sessions are held during the day, with the fourth and final time trial held on Friday evening, offering fans the opportunity to experience the spectacle of drag racing "under the lights". Final eliminations are held on Sunday, starting just before midday, with the winners crowned by the late afternoon.

However, at this weekend's Sears Craftsman Nationals in Madison, IL, the schedule of events will be drastically different. In order to minimize the effects of racing in the heat of a Midwestern summer, all on-track activities for the professional classes will be held in the late afternoon and early evening, concluding with final eliminations on Sunday night. As ACDelco Cavalier pilot Kurt Johnson sees it, this unique arrangement will necessitate making changes to their normal weekend ritual.

"This should certainly be an interesting weekend in St. Louis," stated Johnson. "The biggest difference will be in the timing of our normal at-track routine. For example, since we don't run until late in the day, I might be able to squeeze in a visit to the gym before I go out to the track. The most important benefit, however, is that it should be more comfortable for the fans, who won't have to endure the daytime heat in the stands.

"The fun for the racers will begin in qualifying. Even though we run later in the day, we're at that time of year where it will still be light for the early sessions, so the track will still have substantial heat in it. Therefore, the Pro Stock cars will have the best chance of making the show during the two later sessions on Friday and Saturday. If the left lane is quicker, as it has been in the past, it could be a one shot deal.

"Once we get to eliminations, the first round will be the toughest, since we'll be facing conditions on Sunday afternoon that we won't have seen all weekend. By the semifinals, the track should cool enough, requiring a completely different set-up. The bottom line is that, just like every other race on the schedule, whoever makes the right calls will win the race, and it's our job to make sure our ACDelco Cavalier is the one in the winner's circle."

Located just across the Mississippi river from St. Louis, Gateway International Raceway is one of the newest tracks on the NHRA circuit. Although this year's race will be only the seventh visit to Madison by the world's fastest quarter-milers, Johnson has already inscribed his name in the record books, with a win and a No. 1 qualifying position. As such, it is an event that he is not only looking forward to, but sees as a crucial component in his pursuit of that elusive first championship.

"I've enjoyed racing at Gateway since we starting going there in 1997," opined Johnson. "It's a nice smooth, wide track that you can pour as much power to as you'd like and still get down it. Except for that glitch last year when we broke the transmission, we've also done fairly well there, so I'm looking forward to this weekend's race.

"We're getting to that time of year where you start to keep an eye on the points chase, but right now our primary focus will be on Madison. The name of the game is to qualify well, win the race and gain some ground on the leader. That is how we will approach this weekend. It doesn't matter if we're racing at the crack of dawn or in the middle of the night, this ACDelco Cavalier crew will be ready for the challenge."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson