Ten Years Later, Kurt Johnson Looks for History to Repeat Itself in Seattle ACDelco driver has sights set on repeating winning performance from rookie season SUGAR HILL, GA., July 23, 2003 - Kurt Johnson is one of the standouts of arguably the...
Ten Years Later, Kurt Johnson Looks for History to Repeat Itself in Seattle
ACDelco driver has sights set on repeating winning performance from rookie season
SUGAR HILL, GA., July 23, 2003 - Kurt Johnson is one of the standouts of arguably the most competitive category in all of motorsports, the NHRA's Pro Stock division. With 27 national event wins to his credit, Johnson is a threat to win every race he enters. In the first thirteen races of the 2003 POWERade season, he has powered his ACDelco Cavalier to the winner's circle four times in six final round appearances. Entering this weekend's Carquest Nationals in Seattle, WA, Johnson is in a prime position to capture his first championship.
However, when Johnson first came to Pacific Raceways in 1993, things were very different. For example, the track was known as Seattle International Raceway, and Johnson was a relatively unknown rookie competing in his first full season with the "factory hot rods". Although there had been flashes of brilliance in his first eleven races with three runner-up finishes, that first win eluded him.
All that changed on a summer Sunday in the Pacific Northwest. After qualifying third, Johnson eliminated stalwarts Joe Lepone and Steve Schmidt in the first two rounds before upsetting his father (defending champion and No. 1 qualifier) Warren Johnson in the semi-finals. Johnson then collected his first winner's trophy by defeating Mark Pawuk in the championship round.
"I remember that day as if it was yesterday," detailed Johnson. "I was driving Don Beverly's Cutlass, and we'd been making good runs all weekend. Bob Glidden even told me at the top of the track that if I kept my head on straight, that I could win.
"We won with a combination of good luck and performance. I shook the tires against Schmidt in the second round, but he had left a spark plug wire off, so I still able to win. I changed gear ratios before the semis and got by Dad on a holeshot. I then left on Pawuk and never looked back. When I put the car in second gear, it charged all the way to the finish line, and turned that win light on. It was a memorable day."
Ten years later, Johnson returns to the Seattle area looking to duplicate that winning performance. However, the stakes are now higher. With the completion of this weekend's event, there will be less than ten races left in the season. The championship battle remains extremely tight, with every point at a premium. Armed with the combination of a powerful race car and a history of success at this track, Johnson sees this weekend as an opportunity to gain ground.
"Looking over the information we've gathered during the last few races, and seeing how well our ACDelco Cavalier ran in Denver, we should be in excellent shape in Seattle," stated Johnson. "It's a nice, wide track, with trees everywhere - it's like racing in a campground. In fact, it reminds me a little of Minnesota where I grew up.
"As long as we keep tire shake to a minimum and get over the bumps in good shape, we should be able to use our power to run in the low to mid 6.70's. If we can do that, and the driver does his job, we just might end up in the same place we did in 1993 - the winner's circle."
Facts on Kurt Johnson and the ACDelco Racing Team entering the Carquest NHRA Nationals:
* KJ is Strong in Seattle: This will be Kurt's eleventh appearance at Pacific Raceways, where he has scored two wins (in 1993 and 1999) in four final round appearances. In his ten previous starts, he has compiled a 21-7 elimination round record, for a .750 winning percentage, with only one first round loss (to V. Gaines in 2001).
* Kurt Pacific Raceways: KJ was the No.1 qualifier in Seattle in 1997, and other than his atypical DNQ a year ago, has qualified in the top half of the field in all his previous attempts, with an overall average of 3.67.
* Traveling in Elite Company: Kurt's 27 national event victories tie him with Cory McClenethan for 15th on the all-time NHRA professional win list, and give him sole possession of fifth in the Pro Stock Career Victories, breaking a tie with legendary Pro Stock driver Lee Shepherd. Kurt's most recent win came at the Lucas Oil NHRA Route 66 Nationals in Joliet, IL.
* POWERade Points standings: After the thirteenth of 23 events, Kurt sits second in the 2003 POWERade Championship standings with 1050 points, 71 behind current leader Greg Anderson, and 179 ahead of his father, Warren Johnson, who is in third. Kurt finished sixth in 2002, his tenth consecutive Top 10 finish.
* Winning percentage: Kurt's .641 elimination round winning percentage (327-183) ranks 11th among all active NHRA professional drivers.
* Career best elapsed time: 6.716 seconds, Englishtown, NJ, 2003
* Career best top speed: 206.61 mph, Englishtown, NJ, 2003