THE KURT CHRONICLES: DALLAS/HOUSTON EDITION Kurt Johnson ACDelco News & Notes NEXT RACES: O'Reilly Fall Nationals, October 22-24, Dallas, Texas Matco Tools SuperNationals, October 29-31, Houston, Texas A TALE OF TWO TRACKS The Texas ...
THE KURT CHRONICLES: DALLAS/HOUSTON EDITION
Kurt Johnson ACDelco News & Notes
NEXT RACES: O'Reilly Fall Nationals, October 22-24, Dallas, Texas Matco Tools SuperNationals, October 29-31, Houston, Texas
A TALE OF TWO TRACKS
The Texas Motorplex near Dallas and Houston Raceway Park in Baytown are only a few hundred miles apart, but they might as well be on different planets as far as Kurt Johnson is concerned. Kurt has enjoyed great success on the Motorplex's all-concrete quarter-mile - but he's endured years of frustration on the Gulf Coast.
Kurt has scored two wins and two runners-up in six seasons at the Motorplex, the site of the upcoming O'Reilly Fall Nationals on October 22-24. In contrast, he'd never advanced past the semi-final round at Houston Raceway Park until he won there in April. HRP will host the Matco Tools SuperNationals on October 29-31.
"We're going to do really good in Dallas and really good in Houston this time!" Kurt vowed. "The weather can be a real factor this time of year; it changes in a heartbeat. Last October we qualified No. 1 in Houston, but the temperature dropped on Sunday and we didn't make the right adjustments to the car. We won't make that mistake again. I expect it to be warm, but we'll be prepared for anything in Texas."
Wet weather has dampened spirits and drag strips at three consecutive national events. After dodging the remnants of Hurricane Floyd in Pennsylvania and shivering in frigid winds in Kansas, the NHRA tour arrived in Memphis in pouring rain.
The show must go on, and NHRA officials condensed the AutoZone Nationals to 1 1/2 days. The abbreviated schedule left Kurt Johnson on the outside looking in - until a "Hail Mary" final qualifying run saved the day for the ACDelco driver.
"That was the longest race I've ever been to," said Kurt. "We arrived on Thursday, and didn't get a run on Friday. We sat in the trailer on Saturday waiting for the rain to stop and the track to dry. We finally got one qualifying shot on Saturday afternoon.
"It started raining again on Saturday night, and I was one of eight Pro Stock drivers who were left stranded in the staging lanes. I put on my helmet three times, but every time I got ready, the rain began again. It was torture.
"We had one last chance on Sunday morning," Kurt recalls. "I'm sitting in the water box, looking at the scoreboard that says I need a 7-flat e.t. to make the cut. I'd run 7.01 the day before. Believe me, that's not a good feeling!"
Kurt slipped into the field in the No. 8 spot with a 6.94-second elapsed time. When eliminations began several hours later, he almost reprised his final-round finish in last year's Memphis race. K.J. defeated Bruce Allen on a holeshot in the first round, slam-dunked former NBA star Larry Nance in the second round, and left the starting line first against Richie Stevens in the semis. Stevens pulled out a 6.928 to defeat Johnson's close 6.943.
Kurt's curt appraisal: "I was trying to win it on the Tree, but Richie made a flawless run."
THE COMMERCE CURVE
Kurt and his ACDelco team stayed at Memphis Motorsports Park for a Monday test session. "I think we accomplished something," Kurt reported. "We worked with the tire pressure, the clutch, and the shock absorbers. We kept the tires flat on the ground, and the car wasn't even close to shaking.
"I'm pumped up about the car's performance," Kurt confided. "It felt smooth where I was sitting, and the runs looked great on the computer.
"We usually test at Atlanta Dragway, and that's a track that can throw us a 'Commerce Curve.' When you're testing with just one or two cars, Commerce is nothing like a national event track. It was much better to test at Memphis with the same conditions we race under."
KEEPING UP WITH COUGHLIN
The battle between Kurt Johnson and Jeg Coughlin, Jr. for second place in the Pro Stock championship continues unabated. The two rivals both advanced to the semi-final round in Topeka and Memphis. Kurt has a 96-point lead - the equivalent of five rounds of racing - with 12 rounds of eliminations remaining.
Kurt Johnson Texas Motorplex Results Year Qual. Result 1993 6 Winner (over W. Johnson) 1994 5 Semi Final 1995 6 Winner (over Patrick) 1996 15 Runner-up (to Yates) 1997 Spring 11 Second Round 1997 Fall 1 Second Round 1998 Spring 5 Runner-up (to Edwards) 1998 Fall 5 Second Round 1999 Spring 2 Semi-Final
Kurt Johnson Houston Raceway Park Results Year Qual. Result 1993 3 First Round 1994 4 Semi Final 1995 5 Second Round 1996 4 Second Round 1997 Spring 3 Semi Final 1997 Fall 11 First Round 1998 Spring 9 First Round 1998 Fall 1 Second Round 1999 Spring 3 Winner (over Edwards)
LAST RACE: AutoZone Nationals, Memphis, Tenn., October 10, 1999 Qualifying: Kurt Johnson qualified No. 8 at 6.946/198.38 mph. Eliminations: First Round: Kurt Johnson defeated Bruce Allen Second Round: Kurt Johnson defeated Larry Nance Semi-Final: Richie Stevens defeated Kurt Johnson
Final Round: Mike Edwards defeated Richie Stevens Low ET: Warren Johnson, 6.917 seconds Top Speed: Warren Johnson, 199.70 mph
POINTS RACE: (After 19 of 22 events) Driver Wins Points 1. Warren Johnson 6 1,512 2. Kurt Johnson 3 1,332 3. Jeg Coughlin, Jr. 4 1,236 4. Jim Yates 2 1,087 5. Richie Stevens 1 1,004