Kurt Johnson, Del Worsham score GM victories at Thunder Valley. BRISTOL, Tenn., April 27, 2003 - A capacity crowd at Bristol Dragway witnessed an all-GM Pro Stock final-round today as Chevy Cavalier driver Kurt Johnson and Pontiac SC/T Grand...
Kurt Johnson, Del Worsham score GM victories at Thunder Valley.
BRISTOL, Tenn., April 27, 2003 - A capacity crowd at Bristol Dragway witnessed an all-GM Pro Stock final-round today as Chevy Cavalier driver Kurt Johnson and Pontiac SC/T Grand Am's Mike Edwards battled for the Mac Tools Thunder Valley Nationals title. In a close matchup decided by just .0048 of a second, Kurt Johnson captured his second consecutive victory and the third win for his 2003 Chevy Cavalier since its debut last month at the Gatornationals.
"We've had a little bit of luck out there but we're also making the right calls at the right time on the ACDelco Chevy Cavalier," said Johnson. "We stumbled in qualifying, but for the most part this racecar has been flawless. The people working on it are doing a great job and we're relaying a lot of information back-and-forth between dad's GM Performance Parts Pontiac and my ACDelco Chevy."
Johnson was racing in his fourth consecutive final round coming off recent wins in Houston and Gainesville, Fla., and a runner-up performance in Las Vegas. He came into the Sunday eliminator with the ACDelco Chevy Cavalier qualified in the No. 5 position. Johnson defeated Barry Grant in round one, Bruce Allen in round two and Warren Johnson in round three. In the final against Edwards, Johnson's Chevrolet crossed the line in 6.899 seconds at 200.92 mph while Edwards Pontiac finished in 6.925 seconds at 199.37 mph. Johnson's effort today provided Chevrolet with its 113 all-time NHRA Pro Stock victory, the most by any manufacturer in the history of the sport.
"It was a tough semifinal race against dad," said Johnson. "He was tough on the tree all day and I was .059 and .057 during the first two rounds. I gradually picked up and had my best light in the finals. That's when I needed it because the difference at the finish line was only four-thousandths. Every run in every round is like a final - it's just brutal out there. You go up and give it your best shot and whatever happens, happens. You hope that bulb comes on in your lane at the finish line.
"The car has been so flawless lately that you don't want to make too many changes on it. Even going into the second round we made five small changes where the car responded quite well. The air got worse, the track got hotter and we only lost .004 of a second. We ran into a vacuum problem with the motor after the semifinals and I was lucky to get past that round. We came back with a 6.89 in the finals and that was good enough to get the job done."
Johnson's win today was his 26th career victory and his first at Bristol Dragway. Since climbing into the 2003 Cavalier, Johnson's round win/loss record is 15 - 1. He also extends his points lead over second-place Greg Anderson to 95 points.
"We started out the season with the same car we finished with last year," said Johnson. That's been the biggest factor because we had a good baseline the last six races of 2002 when this Chevy Cavalier ran extremely well. We didn't change anything over the winter. We changed the paint job and we were even worried about doing that.
"We're paying attention to details and that's the biggest thing right now. I also know every move my crew is going to make, and they know every move I'm going to make. That's what it takes - good team chemistry and we have it going on right now in NHRA Pro Stock."
In Funny Car, Del Worsham drove a nitro-powered Pontiac Firebird to his first victory of the season by defeating Whit Bazemore in the finals. It was Worsham's third final round this year and his first win since last October's Fall Nationals in Dallas.
"This is our third final round this year and we finally got the job done," said Worsham. "This Pontiac is an awesome racecar. When the track started to warm up and get slick this CSK Pontiac stuck and got down the racetrack with some quick, consistent numbers that were hard to match. Today it was a great, great car and really not too different from the setup we ran at Houston two weeks ago. We didn't do anything stupid, Dad (Chuck Worsham) kept our tune up running the right numbers and the team pulled through to get the job done.
"If we had any chance at all to stay in contention for this POWERade championship, this win was a must. Every round win counts and we were able to gain a couple on the points leader. There's no way we're going to win it if we let races get away that we should win, and today was an opportunity we couldn't let slip away."
Worsham entered today's eliminator qualified in the No. 10 position. The Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac pilot posted some of the quickest laps of the afternoon including a 4.913-second run in his round-two victory against John Force, which was the quickest e.t. of the session. In addition to his victory over Force, Worsham's Pontiac dispatched Ron Capps in round one and teammate Johnny Gray in round three before squaring off against Bazemore in the finals.
The title heat saw Worsham's Pontiac pull away with a 4.924 elapsed time at 310.42 mph to give the 33-year-old California native his 12th-career win in 22 final-round appearances. Bazemore's Dodge slowed to a 6.500 second pass at 194.35 mph. Worsham moves into third place in the POWERade Funny Car standings, 101 points behind first-place Tony Pedregon.
"I look back at the wins I've had in the past," said Worsham. "They are usually from the tough side of the ladder where before the race you think you're doomed. It's the races you think you should win where you get ambushed."
The next stop is the 23rd annual Summit Racing Nationals presented by Pontiac at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Ga., on May 1 - 4.