Charlotte: Kurt Johnson final report

Despite its Unusual Ending, KJ's Runner-Up Finish in Concord Propels Him to the Points Lead For the first three rounds of Sunday's final eliminations of the inaugural Carolina Nationals, in Concord, NC Kurt Johnson and the ACDelco Cobalt Racing...

Despite its Unusual Ending, KJ's Runner-Up Finish in Concord Propels Him to the Points Lead

For the first three rounds of Sunday's final eliminations of the inaugural Carolina Nationals, in Concord, NC Kurt Johnson and the ACDelco Cobalt Racing team seemed poised to score their fourth win of the season. Starting from the No. 1 position, Johnson opened his competitive effort at zMAX Dragway with a solid 6.701-second, 207.43 mph to defeat newcomer Vinnie Deceglie.

The next step was a crucial second-round encounter with archrival Greg Anderson, who had entered the weekend as the Pro Stock points leader. Once again, Johnson proved up to the challenge, using an almost perfect .003 reaction time to gain the advantage by three hundredths of a second and never looked back, with his 6.694-second, 207.34 mph pass outdistancing Anderson's 6.708-second effort. Defeating veteran V. Gaines in the semifinals with the quickest pass of the day at 6.688-seconds sent Johnson to the 72nd final round of his career, and fifth of the 2008 season.

The last obstacle between KJ and his 40th career national event win was a final round match-up between quasi-teammates, as he would face Justin Humphreys, who had switched to using Johnson motors for this event.

Unfortunately, when the time came, KJ was unable to start his car for the final. After quickly attempting to repair the problem, the crew resorted to pushing the car, and, much to the delight of the capacity crowd, they were able to fire the engine and roll to the line. Even so, Kurt was unable to race, as push-starting is not allowed under the NHRA rules. This allowed Humphreys to run uncontested for his first national event win. Despite the disappointment, Johnson took some solace in that another strong showing had propelled him into the championship points lead.

"That's the first time I've ever had something like that happen. I hit the ignition switch to get the starter spinning, and the engine must have tried to fire right away, because it kicked back and chipped a tooth on the starter drive gear. We took it apart once we got back to the pits and found that a sliver the size of a penny nail had jammed in the armature cost us a chance at winning the race, twenty championship points, and a little bit of money.

"It's good to have a Johnson motor in the winner's circle -- I only wish it had been the one in my car. I'm happy for Justin and his crew, and congratulate him on his first win -- I just would have liked to give him a run for his money.

"Despite how things ended up, I prefer to look at it on the positive side. It could have happened earlier in the day, I could have gone red in the second round instead of that .003, or it could have been someone else in the other lane. There are a lot of things that could have gone wrong, but we made to the final, our ACDelco Cobalt ran flawlessly and we leave here with the points lead.

"Still, losing a race that way only serves to motivate me even more. I'm as hot as the headers after a run. We'll put today behind us and move on, determined to complete the picture next week in Dallas."

-credit: j2r

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson