Pomona II: Kurt Johnson final report

Kurt Johnson advances to his 75th career final round at NHRA Finals POMONA, Calif., Nov. 15, 2009 -- Competing in the final round on Sunday night under the lights at Pomona was where Kurt Johnson hoped to be when race weekend began four days...

Kurt Johnson advances to his 75th career final round at NHRA Finals

POMONA, Calif., Nov. 15, 2009 -- Competing in the final round on Sunday night under the lights at Pomona was where Kurt Johnson hoped to be when race weekend began four days ago at the 45th annual Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals. And for the second straight year that is precisely where the driver of the ACDelco Chevrolet found himself, going to toe to toe with Greg Anderson for the event championship

Racing out of the less-preferred right lane all afternoon, the 45-year-old Johnson finessed, scratched and clawed his way to his 75th career final before losing in the title round to his Summit Racing Pontiac rival.

"It was fun," Johnson said. "We hadn't been to a final round since Phoenix, and it would have been great to win the race and continue our streak -- 15 years in a row (with at least one win). Everything just kind of came to an end today, and that will make us work harder and dig deeper."

Johnson entered today's eliminator qualified in the No. 10 position. He defeated Johnny Gray in round one with a 6.642 e.t. to Gray's 6.912-second run. In round two, the ACDelco Chevrolet driver defeated Ron Krisher, running 6.617 seconds to Krisher's 6.781-second e.t., and in the semifinals, Johnson's blistering .001 reaction time gave him the win by approximately two-feet at the stripe over Jason Line's event-best 6.555-second run.

Throughout the afternoon the performance of the veteran driver's ACDelco Chevrolet steadily improved. By the semifinals, Johnson had put himself in a position to win the race, but in the finals against Anderson, Johnson pressed the tree a little too close and went red with a minus-.017. Anything green by the ACDelco driver, though, probably wouldn't have mattered because Anderson also chopped down the tree with a lightning-quick .005 reaction time, and his 6.564 e.t. at 210.70 would have been more than enough to edge Johnson's 6.603-second run at 210.37 mph.

"There was a point there today where I thought we might be able to win this thing on luck," Johnson said, "even though we had our best e.t. of the weekend in the final. That right lane wasn't giving as much as the left. I felt we could have run within a couple of hundredths of him. We red lit last year in the final by four-thousandths, so today we thought we were prepared. We gave it more air gap in the finals, and we did everything right, we just saw the tree a little bit better again, but we knew we had to cut it close."

For Johnson it was his second straight final round appearance at the NHRA Finals and the seventh time in his career that he has reached the championship round at this event -- a career final-round batting average of .412 at the season-closing contest. Johnson will end the year eighth in the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Pro Stock standings.

"We got down that right lane every run today," Johnson said. "A lot of times, like today, that's what it's all about -- going A to B -- and you don't have to be killer fast. We ran fast enough to get to the final and I was real comfortable driving today. This place likes me and I like racing here, and we know what we have to work on to be a little bit quicker."

In Funny Car, the race was won by Mike Neff who defeated Ashley Force Hood in the final round. The Full Throttle championship in Funny Car was won by Robert Hight. In Top Fuel, Antron Brown defeated Spencer Massey in the title round. The Full Throttle championship was won by Tony Schumacher.

The next race on the schedule is the 50th annual Kragen O'Reilly NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona on Feb. 11 -- 14 ,2010. It will be the first race on the 23-event NHRA Full Throttle tour.

-credit: j&jr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Kurt Johnson , Greg Anderson , Ashley Force , Johnny Gray , Jason Line , Robert Hight , Mike Neff , Spencer Massey