St. Louis: Kurt Johnson preview

KJ Looks to Tame the Beast in St. Louis ACDelco Cobalt crew tests to dial a consistent tune-up into their race car Sugar Hill, Ga., May 3, 2007 -- Race drivers are often known to use colorful phrases to describe their cars' on-track behavior.

KJ Looks to Tame the Beast in St. Louis
ACDelco Cobalt crew tests to dial a consistent tune-up into their race car

Sugar Hill, Ga., May 3, 2007 -- Race drivers are often known to use colorful phrases to describe their cars' on-track behavior. When things are going well, these references can be absolutely glowing, ensuring all that are listening understand how good this particular vehicle may be working. However, if a team is struggling to make their race car perform, the characterizations paint a somber, yet often comical picture.

For example, following his second-round win at this past weekend's POWERade Drag Racing Series event in Atlanta, ACDelco Cobalt pilot Kurt Johnson jokingly described his ride as a "hideous pig", as it had shook and spun the tires en route to the victory. After their solid semifinal finish, Johnson and crew remained at the track on Monday, testing to tame their 1,400-horsepower wildebeest and reestablish the predictable performance necessary for ultimate success at this weekend's O'Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals in Madison, IL.

"This ACDelco Cobalt has just been an animal this season," said Johnson. "It has a lot of power in low gear which has been nearly impossible to manage on a consistent basis. It won't bog, it won't shut off -- it just accelerates, making it hard for us to control the tires. The engine goes straight up and the tires want to follow. We'll have to pay attention to every detail, seeing what we can do to come up with a manageable tune-up.

"You have to consider that we have only had this particular car on a hot racetrack once before this past weekend, and that was in Memphis last year (a race, incidentally, Johnson won). However, it's set up a little differently than it was back then, and we're still trying to dial it in. We did test under hot conditions on Monday, and learned a few things we should be able to use this weekend in St. Louis."

Fortunately, this weekend, the red, white and blue crew heads to a track on which they have had considerable success. In its ten seasons as a member of the NHRA national event tour, Gateway International Raceway has only seen three drivers capture multiple Pro Stock titles, with Kurt, his father Warren and veteran Ron Krisher each garnering two wins. Armed with extensive tuning notes from previous years, the Sugar Hill, GA-based team will look to quickly adapt to the somewhat cooler conditions expected at this event's new spring date.

"The condition of the racing surface in St. Louis will depend on what the sun does to it," said Johnson. "The track temperature was over 130 degrees for the first run last year, and the track wasn't too bad, so we will have to see what we find when we get there. We'll bring up our notes from last year and do what we need to in order to negotiate the racetrack.

"Basically, every part, from the car, the driver and the crew has to be working all at once. For example, we were fortunate to go a couple rounds last weekend, but the car didn't do its job in the semifinals, costing us a race that we could have and should have won. But the bottom line is that we have to do a better job in qualifying. We know going in that Friday's night session will be the best one for Pro Stock, so we will have to be ready for it.

"I think we will definitely be better off than we were in Atlanta. We finished third there, but started 12th, which is not what we want to do this weekend. I believe we should have one of the top four cars in qualifying and knock 'em dead on Sunday. It's just a matter of hitting the ball square on. "

-credit: j2r

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Ron Krisher