Phoenix: Kurt Johnson preview

KJ Determined to Rise into Contention in Phoenix ACDelco Cobalt crew works to build on lessons learned in Pomona Sugar Hill , Ga. -- Kurt Johnson and the ACDelco Cobalt Racing team entered the 2007 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing season determined...

KJ Determined to Rise into Contention in Phoenix
ACDelco Cobalt crew works to build on lessons learned in Pomona

Sugar Hill , Ga. -- Kurt Johnson and the ACDelco Cobalt Racing team entered the 2007 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing season determined to get their pursuit of the 2007 Pro Stock championship off to a strong start. In the season-opening race in Pomona two weeks ago, they accomplished their first objective by qualifying in the top half of the field. Entering race day they were cautiously optimistic about their chances for victory, but saw their day end early when a mysterious electrical malady slowed their race car just enough to drop a heartbreaker in the first round.

As the leader of a young and relatively inexperienced crew, Johnson knew this initial experience could have lasting repercussions if not addressed. Therefore, the second-generation racer immediately turned his team's attention on this weekend's Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals in Phoenix, AZ using lessons learned at the season-opener to put them in a better position to win in the Valley of the Sun.

"The ACDelco crew is definitely hungry heading into Phoenix," said Johnson. "Pomona was a tough race. We were fairly pleased with our effort in qualifying, but things just didn't go our way on Sunday. We started by having a freakish problem in the electrical system show itself one hour before we were supposed to run, forcing us to use a different strategy. We then lost in the first round by two thousandths of a second in what was the closest race of the day. To top it off, the guy who beat us goes all the way to the final. Looking back, we naturally feel we could have been there challenging for the win, but it didn't work out.

"It's certainly not a good way to start, but it could have been worse, so we're not about to let it get us down. In fact, we are more motivated than ever to get back to the winner's circle. As things stand right now, I believe we can run near the top, and I have a few ideas on how to pick up the pace even further. We're going to take what we learned off our runs in Pomona and tune up this ACDelco Cobalt for Phoenix."

In a somewhat ironic twist, Johnson's relationship with Firebird Raceway, site of this weekend's event, has also grown wings after a rocky start. During his rookie appearance at the Arizona quarter-mile, Johnson, in only the second start of his Pro Stock career, fell victim to the tricky crosswinds at the top end of the track after a second-round win over good friend and former teammate Scott Geoffrion, putting his race car on its roof. However, as he returns for his 15th NHRA national event in Chandler, the Georgia racer is one of only five drivers with multiple wins in the desert, having taken home the trophy in 1999 & 2004.

"I have seen both sides of the competitive spectrum at Firebird Raceway," stated Johnson. "I've ended the day in the winner's circle, and ended the day on my roof. It's a strange place to race at this time of year, one that puts you on the edge of your seat.

"It's a narrow track with an old, bumpy surface that dips in the middle and comes up at the finish line, with surroundings that differ from anywhere else we race. It can be hot or cold, dry or rainy. Basically, Firebird can be a handful, especially when the sand is blowing on the track, but it can also be good. You never know what to expect so we'll just wait and see what we find when we get there.

"Still, Phoenix would be a good place for us to win, and we feel that we can. We may not be at the top of the speed charts right now, but we're working on it. Besides, I think we have enough to get the job done right now, and we want to win for our new guys, as well as for everyone at ACDelco and Chevrolet. As the saying goes, strap in and hold on."

-credit: j2r

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