Reading: Kurt Johnson preview

KJ Looks for a Productive, Yet Uneventful Reading ACDelco Cobalt crew aims to avoid a return trip to the Maple Grove "beach" Sugar Hill, Ga., August 16, 2007 -- One year ago, Kurt Johnson and the ACDelco Cobalt Racing team came to Reading...

KJ Looks for a Productive, Yet Uneventful Reading

ACDelco Cobalt crew aims to avoid a return trip to the Maple Grove "beach"

Sugar Hill, Ga., August 16, 2007 -- One year ago, Kurt Johnson and the ACDelco Cobalt Racing team came to Reading armed with a new car that had shown tremendous promise in its first three races, opening with consecutive top half qualifying performances and an impressive win in Memphis, TN. This trend seemed ready to continue, as the red, white and blue crew was among the best in Friday's opening qualifying session.

However, things changed dramatically in the evening time trial. Although Johnson carded a solid 6.649-second effort, a freakish parachute failure found the second-generation racer hurtling towards the end of the track at almost 208 mph. Despite his best efforts to stop in time, the end result was a nightmarish trip into the sand trap, where a misplaced pole and TV camera caused extensive damage to the once-pristine car.

A yeoman effort by the crew, with substantial assistance by a nearby Reading body shop, got them back on track in time to salvage a quarterfinal finish, but the team left the Keystone State feeling as if they had let one get away. Returning for this year's edition of the Toyo Tires Nationals, Johnson is determined to make headlines in a more conventional manner -- by winning.

"Last year's Reading race was an event I would prefer to not ever repeat," said Johnson. "You can bet we're going to make sure the parachute cables on our ACDelco Cobalt are the proper length this time and not too long like they were last year. I'll also make sure to have the parachutes out early since the shut-off area in Maple Grove is so short.

"We're taking the same car back there this weekend, which had run well in qualifying prior to the incident. It still has a couple small marks on it, but it's ready to run. Besides, we've won in Reading before and have a good notebook on the racing surface, so we're definitely looking forward to going back and seeing if we can put it in the winner's circle."

Naturally, the main topic of discussion entering this weekend's event is the imminent conclusion of the first stage of this year's championship chase. Following the completion of Sunday's final eliminations, the top eight teams in each professional category will advance to the second round of the POWERade playoffs, with a new points system installed where the contenders will be separated by only a few points. With his participation in the Countdown to Four almost guaranteed, Johnson comes to Pennsylvania with a specific game plan.

"Having all but locked in our spot in the Top Eight, we can start focusing on the second round of the playoffs," said Johnson. "But first things first -- we have to secure our spot in the Countdown. After that, we have a few issues we want to resolve, and this race provides us with a perfect opportunity to get everything ready.

"Reading is a fun place to race, with a decent track and a really enthusiastic crowd who loves Pro Stock. We see it as a good spot to jump start things, getting ourselves back in the winner's circle and ready to challenge for one of the Top Four spots heading into Vegas."

-credit: j2r

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson