KJ Will Be Swatting and Swinging in Brainerd ACDelco Cobalt crew ready to take on mosquitoes and the competition in Minnesota Sugar Hill, Ga., August 9, 2006 -- Located a couple of hours north of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, Brainerd, MN is...
KJ Will Be Swatting and Swinging in Brainerd
ACDelco Cobalt crew ready to take on mosquitoes and the competition in Minnesota
Sugar Hill, Ga., August 9, 2006 -- Located a couple of hours north of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, Brainerd, MN is one of the state's favorite vacation spots. Nestled among the woods and the lakes for which the state is known, it offers visitors a chance to relax and get away from the rigors of their daily grind. However, when Kurt Johnson and the ACDelco Cobalt Racing team arrive in the Brainerd Lakes area this weekend for the Lucas Oil Nationals, recreation will be the last thing on their mind as they look to successfully defend their North Star state win from a year ago. Even so, there is one activity they will most probably be sharing with the many campers in the infield.
"At this time of year, the mosquitoes can get pretty thick up there, so we'll probably be putting on insect repellant and doing a lot of swatting," joked Johnson. "As far as our racing is concerned, in the last few races we've lost by an average of less than four thousandths of a second, which comes out to less than twelve inches at the finish line. We can attribute that to many things, including bad luck, but we're not going to worry about things we can't change.
"Instead, we're going to look to the future. I figure if we win the next eight races, we might have a shot at things in the end, so that's what we're going to concentrate on -- winning races. From here on out, this ACDelco Cobalt crew is going to be swinging for the fences. That's our game plan for the weekend -- swatting and swinging in Brainerd."
Aiding the Johnson crew in their efforts to reach the winner's circle for the third time in 2006 will be an all-new chassis. Although somewhat reluctant to park a race car with which you have won six races in ten final round appearances, as well as four No. 1 qualifying performances and new personal bests in both elapsed time and top speed, there are numerous benefits making the move an easy one for the second-generation racer.
"We'll be finishing the new car this week, and will make a couple test runs in Commerce (Georgia, site of Atlanta Dragway) before heading to Minnesota," said Johnson. "As long as she goes straight and true to the 330 (foot mark), we should be fine. Our last car was really good in the first sixty feet, which we hope to carry over into the new one, as well as making it better in the back half.
"Our biggest concern with a new car is figuring out its tuning window. There are a couple areas that are different with this new ACDelco Cobalt, so we're not 100% sure as to how it will react. However, new tubing is usually more consistent, so if we figure out how to make it go fast, we should be in great shape."
One final factor fueling the team's pre-race optimism is the location of this weekend's race. The NHRA's annual trip to Brainerd not only marks a homecoming for native Minnesotan Johnson, but is also a track where he has excelled, with three wins in four final round appearances, a record he is prepared to embellish even further in the next few days.
"We're really looking forward to racing in Minnesota which, of course, is my home state," stated Johnson. "I'm sure we'll have a lot of relatives and a few faces from school at the track to cheer us on, but they all know we're there to work. In fact, my high school class in Fridley is having their reunion this weekend, which I will have to miss since we'll be racing.
"BIR has been good to us in the past, including our win there a year ago, and we'd like to get back to the winner's circle. If we can get a handle on this new car's performance right off the bat, we should be able to once again leave Brainerd with the trophy."
Quick Notes on Kurt Johnson & the ACDelco Cobalt Racing team entering
The Lucas Oil Nationals:
KJ has felt right at home racing in Minnesota: This will be KJ's 14th career appearance at Brainerd International Raceway, where he has three wins (including one year ago) in four final round appearances and a 26-10 elimination round record for a .722 win percentage.
KJ's Brainerd Qualifying Stats: In his 13 previous career starts at Brainerd International Raceway, Kurt has one No. 1 qualifying performances (in 2003), 11 starts in the top half of the field, and an average starting position of 4.85.