THE KURT CHRONICLES: ATLANTA EDITION Kurt Johnson ACDelco News & Notes for the NHRA Advance Auto Parts Southern Nationals HOMETOWN HERO Kurt Johnson will enjoy the luxury of sleeping in his own bed when the NHRA tour comes to Atlanta...
THE KURT CHRONICLES: ATLANTA EDITION
Kurt Johnson ACDelco News & Notes for the NHRA Advance Auto Parts Southern Nationals
Kurt Johnson will enjoy the luxury of sleeping in his own bed when the NHRA tour comes to Atlanta Dragway for the Advance Auto Parts Southern Nationals on May 14-16. Although the track is just a short drive from his home in Lawrenceville, Ga., Kurt has other reasons to look forward to racing at Atlanta Dragway. In seven Southern Nationals starts, he's scored one win and two runner-up finishes.
"We test all the time at Atlanta Dragway, but after NHRA's track crew scrapes all of the old rubber off the surface, it will be a totally different race track," Kurt predicts. "We have a tune-up that works when we're out there by ourselves, but who knows what the track is going to be like? The surface is very porous, so it should be a better race track when they're done with it."
FOR THE RECORD
Kurt Johnson officially became the quickest Pro Stock driver on the planet with a record-breaking 6.840-second elapsed time at the Pennzoil Nationals in Richmond, Va. Kurt set the mark on his third qualifying pass, and then backed it up within one percent (as required by NHRA rules) in a first-round victory over Steve Schmidt.
Kurt now holds the national e.t. record for the first time since he set it at 6.988 seconds on May 20, 1994 - the first 6-second Pro Stock run in NHRA history. "The record's gone down 15 hundredths of a second since 1994," Kurt observed. "I hate to think about the amount of money it's cost!"
A cold front that swept through Virginia produced ideal weather for the naturally aspirated Pro Stock engines. "We knew the car could run quick with those conditions," Kurt commented. "I think we surprised some people when we set the record in the left lane, which was supposed to be the 'bad' lane.
"We had plenty of horsepower because of the good air, so the trick was to apply the power to the race track. We just tried to walk the car through first gear, and it went right down the track."
Johnson's jubilation lasted all of 24 hours. Rain forced NHRA officials to postpone the second round of eliminations until Monday morning. When racing resumed, Kurt encountered violent tire shake, but he got lucky when his opponent, Mark Pawuk, fouled. K.J. wasn't as fortunate in his semi-final match with Allen Johnson: Kurt again suffered severe tire shake, and the "other" Johnson took the win light.
"We knocked half the teeth off of second gear when I raced Allen, but there were enough teeth left to keep the car moving," Kurt revealed. "I managed to shift into third gear, but the car only ran 7.08. If Dad or I couldn't win, I'm glad that Allen did."
SPEED THRILLS K.J. vaulted his ACDelco Camaro to the top of the speed charts in Richmond. He topped 201 mph three times, running 201.94, 201.61, and 201.52 mph - the second, third, and fourth fastest speeds respectively in Pro Stock history. Coming into the event, his career-best speed was "only" 200.13 mph run.
"We've been tweaking the aerodynamics a little," Kurt confided. "We tried some things that didn't seem to help when we tested them in the wind tunnel, but we decided to go ahead and see whether they worked on the race track. I think that's why we picked up some speed in Virginia.
"I can definitely feel it when the car makes a fast run," Kurt reported. "The engine's screaming and the rpm is way up. It's like they extended the finish line."
When Kurt and Warren Johnson qualified 1-2 at the Pennzoil Nationals, it was the fifth time in 1999 and the 19th time overall that the Johnsons have captured the top two spots. K.J. edged his father Warren by .003 seconds to take the Pro Stock "pole" for the 12th time in his career.
"These gasoline-burning engines just love ice-cold temperatures," Kurt explained.
K FOR KONSISTENCY
Kurt continued to set the standard for consistency in Pro Stock at the Pennzoil Nationals, advancing to the semi-final round for the sixth straight race in 1999. That steady performance, combined with 20 bonus points for setting the national e.t. record, gave him a formidable 95-point edge over his father Warren in the Pro Stock standings. K.J. leads third-ranked Troy Coughlin by 252 points - a 13-round margin.
"I almost cried when we tested in Richmond after the race," Kurt revealed. "After the terrible tire-shaking run we made in the semi-final, all I did was adjust the rear suspension. We used the same clutch, left the starting line at the same rpm, and the car ran 6.91 at 200 mph.
"It's tough when you've got a fast car because you don't want to make changes on race day that might slow it down. Maybe if we had tried that suspension setting in the race, the results might have been different."
KURT JOHNSON'S ATLANTA RESULTS Year Qual. Result 1993 3 Runner-up (to W. Johnson) 1994 6 Semi Final 1995 9 Second Round 1996 9 Winner (over Yates) 1997 4 Runner-up (to Yates 1998 4 Second Round
NEXT RACE: Advance Auto Parts Southern Nationals, May 14-16, Atlanta, Ga. TV: Fox Sports, May 16, 5:00-7:00 p.m. - check local listings.
CASTROL NATIONALS, April 25, Dallas, Texas Qualifying: Kurt Johnson qualified No. 2 at 6.921/199.82 mph Eliminations: Round 1: Defeated Ron Krisher Round 2: Defeated Allen Johnson Semi-Final: Lost to Mike Edwards Low ET: Warren Johnson, 6.904 seconds (event record) Top Speed: Warren Johnson, 200.22 mph (event record)
PENNZOIL NATIONALS, May 1, Richmond, Va. Qualifying: Kurt Johnson qualified No. 1 at 6.840/201.94 mph Eliminations: Round 1: Defeated Steve Schmidt Round 2: Defeated Mark Pawuk Semi-Final: Lost to Allen Johnson Low ET: Kurt Johnson, 6.840 seconds (national record) Top Speed: Warren Johnson, 202.24 mph (national record)
POINTS RACE: (After 6 of 22 events) Driver Wins Points 1. Kurt Johnson 2 582 2. Warren Johnson 2 487 3. Troy Coughlin 0 330 4. Jim Yates 0 319 5. Allen Johnson 1 314