Sonoma: Kurt Johnson preview

Kurt Johnson looks to close out Western Swing on a high note SONOMA, Calif., July 23, 2009 -- ACDelco's Kurt Johnson will be looking to close out the three-race NHRA Western Swing this weekend at Infineon Raceway with a springboard performance...

Kurt Johnson looks to close out Western Swing on a high note

SONOMA, Calif., July 23, 2009 -- ACDelco's Kurt Johnson will be looking to close out the three-race NHRA Western Swing this weekend at Infineon Raceway with a springboard performance that will forcefully carry him into the final stretch of the first phase of the NHRA Countdown to the Championship. The Bruton Smith-owned facility, nestled in the rolling hills of Northern California just to the north of San Pablo Bay, is a sea-level venue that lends itself to potentially record-setting times for the Pro Stock class, and it's also a track where the ACDelco driver has performed well over the years.

"Every now and then you'll get a day at Sonoma where the fog has just rolled out, and the air is just about perfect," Johnson said. "That's when these Pro Stock Cars can really fly, especially that first qualifying session on Saturday before the sun has had an opportunity to heat things up."

Johnson is coming off last weekend's contest at Seattle in which he struggled during qualifying. After some key adjustments to the car, the veteran driver finessed his way to a round-one win from the No. 14 starting position and inched closer to a slot in the Countdown to 1.

"I think we have a better handle on the car," Johnson said. "We put a new engine in for Seattle 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 more to do. We need to get this car straightened out and get into the winner's circle. We're long overdue."?

Johnson is the 2000 winner of the Fram-Autolite Nationals, has twice been runner-up (1999, 2005), the No. 1 qualifier four times (1995-96, 1999, 2005), and at last year's race he qualified No. 2.

"Infineon Raceway is definitely a place where our setup and our combination usually run fast," Johnson said. "This will be a good opportunity for us to see if some of the things we've been working on this last month have us headed in the right direction."

With four races remaining before the Countdown to 1 (when the professional categories lock in the top 10 in the standings for the final six races that will determine the Full Throttle champion), Johnson heads to Northern California still eighth in the Pro Stock standings.

"Every round counts right now," Johnson said. "But we want more than just round wins. We go to every race with the goal of winning -- nothing's changed there. We won't be legitimate contenders until we get on track and consistently win races again."

The 22nd annual Fram-Autolite NHRA Nationals on July 24 -- 26 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., is the 15th race on the 24-event NHRA Full Throttle Series tour.

"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."

-credit: j2r

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson