KJ Loses a First-Round Heartbreaker in Memphis Coming into Sunday's final eliminations of the O'Reilly NHRA Mid-South Nationals in Memphis, TN, ACDelco Cobalt racer Kurt Johnson knew he had his work cut out for him. Even though his race car...
KJ Loses a First-Round Heartbreaker in Memphis
Coming into Sunday's final eliminations of the O'Reilly NHRA Mid-South Nationals in Memphis, TN, ACDelco Cobalt racer Kurt Johnson knew he had his work cut out for him. Even though his race car had been fairly consistent in qualifying fifth, with the Top Four in the championship standings all on his side of the ladder, he knew an error-free performance would be required in order to challenge for the win.
As if this were not enough, throughout the weekend the blue crew had also been battling a mysterious mechanical gremlin that affected their race car in the latter part of the run. However, lining up against rival Jason Line in the first round, Johnson seemed more than prepared, using a solid .029 reaction time to leave on the former Pro Stock champion by almost five hundredths of a second.
In most cases, this would almost guarantee a round win. However, as KJ progressed down the quarter-mile, his car pulled to the left, requiring corrective action, which, combined with an intermittent miss, slowed him to a 6.666-second, 206.67 mph pass, allowing his opponent, who recorded the second-quickest pass of the day at 6.618-seconds to edge him by an almost immeasurable 5/10,000ths of a second. Fortunately, Johnson was able to maintain his second-place standing in the title chase, as several of his competitors also exited early.
"Our ACDelco Cobalt had been exceptional in the first 330 feet all weekend, but it just hadn't been running the speed we expected it to. There just seemed to be something funky - the O2 sensors were off, and we thought it might have been an issue with the carburetor or fuel pressure. We chased it all weekend, until after the first round today, we discovered we had an ignition problem, and things started to add up.
"Basically, it wasn't firing on all cylinders, the O2 sensors were off, and the mixture kept getting richer, until in the first round today, it started popping and banging, the shift light didn't work, and we ended up losing by an inch and 7/8ths.
"Fortunately, a lot of our competitors had issues today, and we're only halfway through the Countdown to One. We really need to turn up the smoke, so we're going to stay and test tomorrow. We've changed all the electrical components, so first thing in the morning, we should be able to go out and run 208.75, which is what we should have done all weekend. We'll make a few runs to straighten this thing out, and head back to the shop so we can hit it hard in Richmond."