Sonoma: Kurt Johnson preview

KJ Aims to Cook Up a Sonoma Win with Vacaville Roots ACDelco Cobalt Racer Enjoys Long-Term Friendship with Local Restauranteur Sugar Hill, Ga., July 24, 2007 -- Over the course of the 23-race NHRA POWERade Drag Racing season, racers will ...

KJ Aims to Cook Up a Sonoma Win with Vacaville Roots
ACDelco Cobalt Racer Enjoys Long-Term Friendship with Local Restauranteur

Sugar Hill, Ga., July 24, 2007 -- Over the course of the 23-race NHRA POWERade Drag Racing season, racers will transverse the country, stopping at 20 different facilities. During that time, they will come into contact with many people in a variety of situations, from a casual encounter with a fan to interacting at length with local sponsor representatives. Throughout the course of their careers, these relationships can blossom into close friendships with the sport's annual visit to a certain area becoming more like a family reunion, providing the well-traveled competitors a small respite from their demanding life on the road.

Such will be the case for ACDelco Cobalt racer Kurt Johnson this weekend, as he travels to Sonoma, California for the Fram Autolite Nationals at Infineon Raceway. After 20 years his relationship with popular Vacaville restauranteur Joe Murdaca continues to flourish, with the two looking forward to renewing their friendship throughout the weekend.

"My first memory of Joe Murdaca dates back to Atlanta Dragway in 1985 or 1986, when he and Bob Panella were helping Larry Morgan," recalled Johnson. "We started a conversation, and the relationship just took off from there. It grew to where he helped us out by sponsoring my car for a few races during my rookie season in 1993. He's a big fan of all the racers, bringing them pizza at the track, as well as catering a couple of their hospitalities. Many of them will also make the trip to Vacaville during the weekend to have some great Italian food.

"Joe's just a great guy, a family man, who always has a smile on his face. He'll pop up at a few races every year beyond the one in Sonoma, and our relationship has grown to where we consider the Murdacas to be part of our family. In fact, (wife) Kathy, myself and the kids will be staying at Joe's house during the week before the race. I'm hoping to pay him back this weekend for his help and friendship over the years by putting a Pietros No. 1 sticker on the side our ACDelco Cobalt, and taking him with us to the winner's circle at Infineon Raceway. If we can do that, I know where there will be one heck of a victory party."

However, in order to enjoy the record-setting celebration, Johnson will first have to overcome the challenge of another stout Pro Stock field, as well as finding the proper combination to adapt his 1,400-horsepower race car to the California quarter-mile.

"I've already looked at my notes from last year, and assembled a preliminary game plan for this weekend, but will wait until we get to Sonoma to finalize it," said Johnson. "We'll see what the weather brings, and what the track temperatures will be like before making a decision on our tune-up for the first qualifying session.

"Infineon Raceway is one of the nicest tracks we'll race on during the year, much like Las Vegas. The track is nice and smooth, and if the weather cooperates, we could see career best numbers, so we'll have to be on our game. We've won there in the past, so we know what it takes to get the job done.

"The way our ACDelco Cobalt has performed of late, we know we have some areas to improve upon, but are confident of having a strong and consistent car in California this weekend, one that is capable of winning the race. After spending a couple great days with the Murdacas before the race to recharge our batteries, we'll be ready to get after it this weekend in Sonoma."

-credit: j2r

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bob Panella , Kurt Johnson , Larry Morgan