Phoenix: Kurt Johnson preview

Kurt Johnson is one son ready to shine in Phoenix. ACDelco Cavalier driver aims to duplicate father's winning performance at Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals Sugar Hill, Ga., February 17, 2003 - This weekend's Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA ...

Kurt Johnson is one son ready to shine in Phoenix.
ACDelco Cavalier driver aims to duplicate father's winning performance at Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals

Sugar Hill, Ga., February 17, 2003 - This weekend's Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals offers ACDelco Cavalier pilot Kurt Johnson the opportunity to reach a pair of notable career milestones. For example, by simply qualifying for Sunday's eliminations, KJ will earn his 200th Pro Stock start. In addition, Johnson's next elimination round win will be his 300th.

However, the figure on KJ's racing resume that he is most interested in adding to is the number of career national event wins, which currently stands at twenty-three. An increase in this total would be the achievement that brings the biggest smile to the Buford, Ga. resident's face.

"The way we see it, if we win, everything else is covered," stated Johnson. "At every race, we look to qualify in the top three or four and then go to at least the semis on Sunday. In that way, we'll consistently put our ACDelco Cavalier in a good position to win the race. This weekend in Phoenix is not any different. We're there to win."

After a solid performance at the season-opening race ten days ago that saw him establish a career best top speed, Johnson arrives at Firebird Raceway quietly optimistic. Adding to his pre-race confidence is his father Warren Johnson's dominating performance in Pomona. With his ACDelco Cavalier a product of the same stable, KJ knows the potential is there for an equally impressive showing from his machine.

"Our program can definitely benefit from Dad's win in Pomona," said Johnson. "He's the car to beat right now. The good part is that the cars come from the same shop, and we share information, so we know we're capable of running with him. It's just up to us to get the job done, and when we do, our ACDelco Cavalier will be the other car to beat."

The ACDelco Racing team's first assignment upon reaching the venerable Arizona facility will be to evaluate the racing surface, as conditions are expected to be completely different from those encountered ten days ago in California. With another tight Pro Stock field expected, teams will be battling to find the right combination, and KJ's crew is determined to be among the leaders.

"We were one of the few cars to go down the track on every run in Pomona," declared Johnson. "Of course, you're never happy unless you win. It never ran slower than a 6.86, so it wasn't completely off, but in Pro Stock, there's no room for error. We'll have it tuned up for Phoenix.

"This weekend we race on a track completely unlike the last one. The Firebird Raceway surface is older and much rougher, with cracks and other obstacles, including the occasional lizard on the track. Naturally, you have to pick the right gear and clutch settings, but once you leave the starting line, it's up to the driver to keep it in the very narrow groove. It makes every run an experience. All the way around, it's going to be a challenge, but the ACDelco crew is ready for it."

Facts on Kurt Johnson and the ACDelco Racing Team entering the NHRA Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals:

* Quarter-Milestones: When Kurt lines up for Sunday's final eliminations of the NHRA Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals, he will be making the 200th start of his illustrious NHRA Pro Stock career. In addition, should he advance to the second round of eliminations, he will have scored his 300th elimination round win.

* KJ at Phoenix: This will be Kurt's 11th appearance at Firebird Raceway, where he has recorded one win (in 1999), as well as three semi-final finishes.

* One year ago: Kurt qualified eighth with an elapsed time of 6.903 seconds with a top speed of 200.71 mph, and advanced to the semi-finals.

* POWERade Points standings: Following the season-opening Winternationals, Kurt is 6th in the 2003 POWERade points standings, two points behind 5th place Ron Krisher. Kurt finished 6th in 2002, his tenth consecutive Top Ten finish.

* Winning percentage: Kurt's .629 elimination round winning percentage (299-176) ranks 12th among all active NHRA professional drivers.

* National event wins: Kurt's 23 national event victories place him 20th on the all-time NHRA professional win list. Kurt's most recent win came last November at the 2002 Auto Club of Southern California Finals in Pomona, CA.

* Career best elapsed time: 6.779 seconds, Reading, PA. 2001

* Career best top speed: 204.57 mph, Pomona, CA. 2003 (the fourth fastest in NHRA Pro Stock history.)


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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Ron Krisher