SEATTLE, July 19, 2009 -- As the clock continues to rapidly tick down toward the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to 1, every round win that a competitor can snare during these last handful of races before the Pro Stock field is cut to 10, becomes...
SEATTLE, July 19, 2009 -- As the clock continues to rapidly tick down toward the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to 1, every round win that a competitor can snare during these last handful of races before the Pro Stock field is cut to 10, becomes ever more crucial. At today's 22nd annual NHRA Northwest Nationals, ACDelco's Kurt Johnson was able to inch his way closer to a spot in the Countdown to 1 with a razor-thin, round-one win over Greg Anderson.
"Every round counts right now," Johnson said. "After the slump that we've been in during the last couple of races, it was a nice boost and hopefully an ice-breaker heading into Sonoma."
Johnson came into today's eliminator qualified in the No. 14 spot and with a tough first-round opponent in Greg Anderson. The two met in round one last week at the Mile-High Nationals, but during that matchup, Anderson came away with the win. Today, though, the results were reversed. Johnson's ACDelco team provided him with a competitive racecar and the veteran driver did the rest.
A slight advantage off the starting line gave the ACDelco Chevrolet the edge it needed, and Johnson was able to hold off Anderson at the stripe in one of the closest professional contests all season. With his best run of the weekend, Johnson stopped the timers with a 6.622 e.t. at 209.95 mph to beat Anderson's quicker 6.609-second run at 210.64 mph. Johnson's photo-finish margin of victory was .0006 (ten thousandths) of a second, or approximately two inches at the stripe.
"We feel a lot better today than we did yesterday at this point," said Johnson, who struggled to make good runs during four qualifying sessions. "To make the changes we did this morning, and to go from A to B in the less preferred lane, get a round win and 20 points, that was really critical. It could have been an even better run, but it popped out of second gear. We were still the second fastest car in that lane during that round. The Countdown is winding down to four races and that round win certainly helped."
Johnson wasn't as fortunate though in the second round against Ron Krisher. Johnson slowed to a 6.688 e.t. and was eliminated from Northwest Nationals' competition by Krisher who ran 6.634 seconds.
"After round one, we thought we could go a little farther with the potential to win the race," Johnson said. "We were pretty pumped heading back to the pits.
"We have more work to do. We got stuck in the right lane and I don't know if we've ever spun the tires like that before. That's no excuse. We need to be able to go down lanes like that."
After today's events, only four races remain before the top-10 cars are locked in for the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to 1. Johnson leaves the Evergreen State in eighth place in the Pro Stock standings, and begins to prepare for the third and final leg of the Western Swing which will be contested next weekend at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.
"After this weekend I think we have a better handle on the car," Johnson said. "We put a new engine in for this race that's run decent on the dyno, but we didn't have four good runs to tune on it and figure out fully what it likes. We have four races to get it figured out but we don't want to wait that long -- we want to win now."
Today's Pro Stock race was won by Mike Edwards who defeated Jason Line in an all-Pontiac final round. It was Edwards third victory of the season.
The next stop on the schedule is the 22nd annual Fram Autolite NHRA Nationals on July 24 -- 26 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. It is the 15th race on the 24-event NHRA Full Throttle Series tour. Johnson won Sonoma in 2000, was runner-up there twice in 1999 and 2005 and has been no. 1 qualifier four times (1995-96, 1999 and 2005).
"We have a good book on Sonoma and we've raced well there in the past," Johnson said. "It's a great facility. We know what it was like last year, and when we get to California we'll be able to decide on what changes we need to make."