Columbus: Kurt Johnson preview

Kurt Johnson makes minor moves in preparing for Columbus ACDelco Racing team confident in their Pro Stock Cavalier's performance Sugar Hill, Ga., June 8, 2004 - For the first time in over a month, competitors in the NHRA's POWERade Drag Racing...

Kurt Johnson makes minor moves in preparing for Columbus ACDelco Racing team confident in their Pro Stock Cavalier's performance

Sugar Hill, Ga., June 8, 2004 - For the first time in over a month, competitors in the NHRA's POWERade Drag Racing Series will have a weekend without racing prior to their next event. Several teams will take advantage of the extra time before the Pontiac Excitement Nationals in Columbus, Ohio to completely reconfigure their race cars, making major changes as they search for extra performance.

Coming off a runner-up finish in Topeka a week ago, however, Kurt Johnson and his ACDelco Racing team will take a more conservative approach as they prepare their Cavalier for competition. As Johnson sees it, there is no reason to fix something that isn't broken.

"We're pretty pleased with the ACDelco Cavalier's performance in the last few races, so we'll be fine-tuning instead of rebuilding it," said Johnson. "For example, anything extra we can throw under the hood will definitely help, so we'll see if we can find a few extra horses on the dyno."

"The car has been really strong in the first 300 feet, but down a little on speed at the eighth mile, so we'd like to pick that up, as well as the overall performance in the back half. The bottom line is that we don't want to run equal to everyone else, we want to be better. We know we have something we can work and win with, so we're just going to do a little tweaking."

Having a good handle on his race car, perhaps the biggest challenge facing Johnson this weekend will be taming the new racing surface at National Trail Raceway. Traditionally one of the toughest on the entire circuit, its rough, bumpy surface put drivers to the test in the past, with two rookie pilots ending their runs on their roofs a year ago.

Much to the relief of every competitor in the pit area, however, the track has received extensive attention since the NHRA's last visit, including a total resurfacing of the quarter-mile. Therefore, the first race this weekend will be to find the proper combination to extract the maximum performance.

"Going in, we really don't know what to expect from the new surface," stated Johnson. "I've only spoken to one person, who was pretty positive about it, but, quite frankly, anything will be better than what we had to race on before. We will have to see what we have when we get there."

"National Trail is one track that for some reason has given me trouble throughout my career. The best I've done there so far is a final round appearance during my rookie season, so we would certainly like to break into the win column this weekend."

"We will just have to get the tune-up right, matching the motor to the gear to the clutch to the race track, and do it better than our competitors. Fortunately, I believe this ACDelco crew is going to Columbus in better shape than we ever have before, so I'm confident we are going to do well. We'll go there, let the clutch fly and see what we can do."

Facts on Kurt Johnson and the ACDelco Racing Team entering the Pontiac Excitement Nationals:

KJ in Columbus: This will be Kurt's 12th appearance at National Trail Raceway, where he has one final round appearance in 1993, and one No. 1 qualifying performance in 1998.

One year ago: Kurt qualified ninth with an elapsed time of 6.901 seconds and a top speed of 200.14 mph, and advanced to the quarterfinals.

Winning percentage: Kurt's .646 elimination round winning percentage (366-201) ranks 10th among all active NHRA professional drivers.

National event wins: Kurt's 28 national event victories ties him for 14th on the all-time NHRA professional win list, and tie him for fourth on the all-time Pro Stock win list. Kurt's most recent win came at this year's Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals in Phoenix, AZ.

Career best elapsed time: 6.716 seconds, Englishtown, NJ. 2003

Career best top speed: 206.61 mph, Englishtown, NJ. 2003

Event schedule: Qualifying: Friday, June 11: Two sessions at 4:00 & 7:00 p.m. Saturday, June 12: Two sessions at 12:00 noon & 2:30 p.m. Eliminations: Sunday, June 13: Pre-race ceremonies and driver's introduction start at 10:00 a.m., followed by the first round of eliminations at 11:00 a.m. TV Schedule: Qualifying Highlights: Saturday, June 12: 7:00 - 8:00 p.m. ESPN Final Eliminations Coverage: Sunday, June 13: 3:00 - 6:00 p.m. (ESPN2) NHRA2Day: Sunday, June 13: 11:30 a.m. - 12:00 noon (ESPN2) (Note: All TV times are Eastern. Please check your local listings for updated air times, as they are subject, and most likely to change.)

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson