DALLAS, Sept. 24, 2009 -- It's been said for years that everything is bigger in Texas, and if you don't believe it, just ask any one of the approximately 24 million or so denizens of the Lone Star State and they'll be glad to set you straight....
DALLAS, Sept. 24, 2009 -- It's been said for years that everything is bigger in Texas, and if you don't believe it, just ask any one of the approximately 24 million or so denizens of the Lone Star State and they'll be glad to set you straight. That probably includes their passion for drag racing, too, as one can see firsthand by driving south out of Dallas for about 30 minutes and coming to the Texas Motorplex, the site of this weekend's O'Reilly NHRA Fall Nationals. The Texas Motorplex has been a hospitable locale for ACDelco's Kurt Johnson over the years, and with three national-event victories at this venue during a 17-year career, a win there on Sunday would be as about as big as it gets.
"It would put us right back into the points race, but we need to do it now," Johnson said. "If we can put together a good run at Dallas, then we can start picking off some of the drivers ahead of us, build some momentum, start moving up and then maybe place the leaders in our sights."
Johnson didn't win last Sunday in Charlotte, but the rejuvenated performance of the ACDelco Chevrolet has him confident that he can. He qualified No. 3 at zMAX Dragway, his best starting position since early May, and he also collected two Countdown bonus points for being the second quickest in round three of time trials, and one bonus point for being the third quickest of the session in round four.
"We're pretty pumped up that we have a more consistent race car, one that can put the number up on the scoreboard and go rounds," Johnson said. "We definitely don't have the fastest horse out there right now, but it's good enough to qualify in the top half. We were No. 3 (in Charlotte) and that's a huge improvement over the last few races. We just have to get the car to move better on the starting line and maintain our performance. The rest of the package seems to be there."
Johnson has three wins and has competed in five final rounds at the Texas Motorplex. He defeated Warren Johnson in the finals of the 1993 event, Robert Patrick in the championship round in 1995 and Jeg Coughlin in 2000. He was runner-up to Jim Yates in 1996 and to Mike Edwards at the discontinued spring contest in 1998. He was No. 1 qualifier at the Fall Nationals in '97 and at the spring race in 2000. Johnson enters this year's Fall Nationals in seventh place in the Full Throttle standings.
"I'm excited about racing in Dallas," Johnson said. "It makes it a lot easier when you're not making major changes on the race car. All you have to do is make sure you get the gearing and the clutch right, and make sure it goes straight. I'm definitely fired up about the fact we're running fast again."
The O'Reilly NHRA Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex in Ennis, Tex., on Sept. 24 -- 27, is the second race on the six-event NHRA Countdown to 1 for the 2009 Full Throttle Championship.
Qualifying coverage can be seen on ESPN2 on Sunday, Sept. 27, beginning at 12:15 a.m. Eastern. Final eliminations coverage gets underway on Sunday, Sept. 27, with NHRA Race Day starting at 11 a.m., and a repeat broadcast of qualifying gets underway at 11:30 a.m. A three-hour telecast of final eliminations kicks off at 7 p.m. Eastern.
"I've had good success at the Motorplex. It's been there since 1986, was the first concrete race track, and a lot of people like racing there. Some people kind of worry about staying in the groove, but we won there in '93, '95 and 2000, so it's a place that's been good to me. As long as we're faster than everybody else, that's all that matters."