Memphis: Kurt Johnson preview

KJ Accelerates his Learning Curve to be Ready to Rock in Memphis ACDelco Cobalt crew preps new car to improve on last year's runner-up finish Sugar Hill, Ga., August 16, 2006 -- Kurt Johnson is getting an education. However, there are no ...

KJ Accelerates his Learning Curve to be Ready to Rock in Memphis

ACDelco Cobalt crew preps new car to improve on last year's runner-up finish

Sugar Hill, Ga., August 16, 2006 -- Kurt Johnson is getting an education. However, there are no institutes of higher learning involved, no teachers providing assistance or guidance, nor a diploma to mark a successful completion of studies. Instead, the Pro Stock standout will conduct his own lessons in a very unique classroom -- the cockpit of his powerful ACDelco Cobalt. His grades will come from his results on the racetrack, and the only form of acknowledgement he is interested in receiving is a "Wally" -- the NHRA's traditional winners' trophy.

This weekend's O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals in Memphis, TN will mark Johnson's second race with his new race car. As such, both he and his crew are continuing to learn their ride's specific performance characteristics. After a solid showing in Brainerd one week ago, they look to build on the information gathered during that race and move forward. Although acknowledging that it is still early in the learning process, the second-generation racer likes what he has seen so far, and is cautiously optimistic about his chances in the Birthplace of the Blues.

"We've only had one race with it, but so far this new ACDelco Cobalt looks like it's going to be pretty forgiving," said Johnson. "We'll keep working with it, testing things and making changes to try and improve its performance. It's all part of learning to race a new chassis, particularly one that is so different from its predecessor.

"For example, immediately after the second round in Brainerd last week I knew what I needed to work on to make it run better in second gear. That was the one area where we needed help. It was pretty decent in low gear, so if we can get it to make a move in second, we should have something, and we'll see what we can do with it in Memphis."

In order to receive a top mark on this week's assignment, Johnson will have to overcome the trials and tribulations of racing in August at Memphis Motorsports Park. The combination of a very tricky racing surface and blistering hot temperatures make this event one of the most challenging on the POWERade Drag Racing circuit, as teams will scramble to extract the maximum performance from their machines while simultaneously trying to stay cool.

Coming off a runner-up finish at last year's event, Johnson is focused on taking that final step and powering into the winner's circle, adding this venerable facility to his list of on-track successes. However, in order to put himself in a position to win, Johnson knows he must be on his game from the very start, as the disparity between lanes makes qualifying in the top half of the field a must in order to succeed in final eliminations.

"The right lane in Memphis is a mess, so getting and keeping lane choice is vital," stated Johnson. "That's what we did last year. We were the No. 1 qualifier and in the left hand lane for every run until the final, when we were in the right hand side and lost.

"Still, coming off a runner-up finish there last year at one of the hottest races I've ever been to, we're feeling pretty good about our chances for this weekend. We'll look at our notes and see what we need to do to get our ACDelco Cobalt to adapt to the conditions, and get after it as best we can. It would be nice to get this new car to the winner's circle and check Memphis Motorsports Park off the 'to do' list. Other than that, our plan is to enjoy some good Memphis barbecue, while trying to avoid the blues."

Memphis is on KJ's short list: This will be KJ's 14th career appearance at Memphis Motorsports Park, where he has two final round appearances (in 1998 & 2005) and a 14-11 elimination round record for a .560 win percentage. Memphis is one of five tracks on the POWERade Drag Racing circuit (out of a total of 21) where Kurt has yet to record a national event win.

KJ's Memphis Qualifying Stats: In his 11 previous career starts at Memphis Motorsports Park, Kurt has two No. 1 qualifying performances (in 1998 & 2005), eight starts in the top half of the field, and an average starting position of 6.45.

-credit: j2r

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson