Bristol: Kurt Johnson preview

K.J. finds a stiff challenge away from the race track. ACDelco Cavalier driver encounters three foes tougher than his Pro Stock competitors. Sugar Hill, Ga., April 21, 2003 - In the last five weeks, Kurt Johnson and the ACDelco Racing team have...

K.J. finds a stiff challenge away from the race track.
ACDelco Cavalier driver encounters three foes tougher than his Pro Stock competitors.

Sugar Hill, Ga., April 21, 2003 - In the last five weeks, Kurt Johnson and the ACDelco Racing team have delivered a performance that is the envy of every competitor in the tightly packed Pro Stock division. In the course of three races, Johnson's 2003 Cavalier recorded two wins in three final round appearances, reset the national speed record and took over the lead in the NHRA's POWERade points standings.

However, in the days following his most recent winning performance in Houston, the younger member of the Johnson racing family faced a test to equal any of those encountered on the quarter-mile.

"In the last week, I've found that babysitting can be harder than racing," said Johnson. "After the Houston race, my wife Kathy spent four days in Florida taking a well-earned vacation, leaving me in charge of our three children, Conner, Erin and Jarrett. It's certainly been an education being a single parent.

"Fortunately, I've mastered the art of microwave cooking, and, as always, my ACDelco crew was there to back me up. I brought the kids to the shop every day, where everyone helped to keep them busy. The biggest challenge was reminding them that Grandpa's race car was not a jungle gym."

Luckily, his wife returned before the end of the weekend, allowing K.J. to concentrate fully on the upcoming Mac Tools Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway. Although this will be only Johnson's third national event appearance at this legendary speedplant, his Tennessee memories date back to when he was a teenager working on his father's crew.

"I've always enjoyed racing in Bristol," recalled Johnson. "My first experience in Thunder Valley was in 1979, when Dad won his first IHRA championship. Since then, we've found that at night, the track can be awesome, but during the day, it can be Death Valley, so you have to be on your game. You can't earn any points unless you're racing on Sunday, so our first goal will be getting ourselves in the show, which is never easy."

For the first time in two years, the ACDelco crew will arrive at the track atop the Pro Stock point standings, which, combined with their recent strong performances, will place them squarely in the crosshairs of the entire Pro Stock field. However, Johnson is quick to discount any such notion, preferring to concentrate on this weekend's event.

"As the son of a Pro Stock legend, I've been a target for my competitors since my rookie year in 1993, so being the POWERade points leader doesn't add any extra pressure," stated Johnson. "Besides, if the target's on my back, that means they're all still behind me, which suits me just fine. It's just too early in the season to be worrying about points. Our concern is to keep going rounds.

"Our ACDelco Cavalier has been awesome all year, but it doesn't go down the track by itself. The people working on the car are making the difference right now. I'm just the guy who's lucky enough to drive it. Every race, we encounter different scenarios, so the challenge is to keep making the right calls to adjust for the changing conditions. It's not that we're necessarily any better than our competitors, it's just that we've been fortunate to make the right decisions. Everything's going right at the moment, and it's our job to keep it that way."

Facts on Kurt Johnson and the ACDelco Racing Team entering the Mac Tools Thunder Valley Nationals:

*KJ at Bristol: This will be Kurt's third appearance at Bristol Dragway, where he will be looking to improve on his previous best qualifying effort of seventh. Kurt is also looking for his first win in Thunder Valley, having advanced to the quarterfinals in 2000.

*Top Speed Streak Continues: Kurt reset the National Pro Stock track top speed record at 205.57 mph, and has now set the track record at the last four NHRA national events (202.30 mph in Phoenix, 203.71 mph in Gainesville, 201.73 mph in Las Vegas), while his father Warren Johnson established a new track record of 204.91 mph at the season-opening Winternationals in Pomona, CA..

*One Year Ago: KJ qualified sixteenth in Bristol with an elapsed time of 6.916 seconds and a top speed of 199.88 mph, but fell in the first round.

*Back-to Back, Jack?: Kurt will be looking to score back-to-back wins for the third time in his career, having most recently accomplished the feat three years ago with wins in Sonoma and Brainerd in 2000. The timing is right, as the two previous instances were also three years apart.

*Flying the Stars and Stripes: At the request of their sponsors, Kurt and his father Warren Johnson have replaced the Chevrolet and Pontiac logos on the roofs of their race cars with the American flag to honor America and show their support for the troops.

*POWERade Points standings: After the fifth of 23 events, Kurt leads the 2003 POWERade point standings by 18 over second place Greg Anderson, and 77 ahead of his father, Warren Johnson, who is in third. Kurt finished sixth in 2002, his tenth consecutive Top Ten finish.

*Winning percentage: Kurt's .636 elimination round winning percentage (311-178) ranks 11th among all active NHRA professional drivers.

*National event wins: Kurt's 25 national event victories ties him for 17th on the all-time NHRA professional win list. Kurt's most recent win came two weeks ago at the 2003 O'Reilly Spring Nationals in Houston, TX

*Career best elapsed time: 6.726 seconds, Houston, TX 2003 (The second quickest elapsed time in NHRA Pro Stock history.)

*Career best top speed: 205.57 mph, Houston, TX. 2003 (The fastest top speed in NHRA Pro Stock history.)

-jgk-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Greg Anderson