Denver: Kurt Johnson preview

Kurt Johnson aims for the top of the mountain in Denver ACDelco crew looks to score third win at picturesque Bandimere Speedway SUGAR HILL, GA., July 14, 2003 - Throughout the course of its 23-race season, the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series ...

Kurt Johnson aims for the top of the mountain in Denver
ACDelco crew looks to score third win at picturesque Bandimere Speedway

SUGAR HILL, GA., July 14, 2003 - Throughout the course of its 23-race season, the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series competes at 20 racetracks across the United States. With locations ranging from Pomona, California to Englishtown, New Jersey, and Gainesville, Florida to Seattle, Washington, each facility has its own characteristics that differentiate it from the other stops on the circuit.

However, Bandimere Speedway, site of this weekend's Mile-High Nationals, boasts distinguishing features that make it the most unique of all. It is arguably the most scenic location in drag racing, with the entire facility carved into the side of the Rocky Mountains overlooking the city of Denver. In addition, with an elevation of 5,860 feet, the thin air challenges teams to find a way to compensate for the dramatic drop in horsepower.

Throughout his Pro Stock career, ACDelco Cavalier pilot Kurt Johnson has responded well to the challenge of "racing on the mountain" with two wins and a stellar .724 elimination round win percentage in his ten previous appearances.

"The conditions at Bandimere Speedway are unlike any other we face throughout the course of the year, and the entire ACDelco crew takes a very aggressive approach to racing there," detailed Johnson. "First, I really get after the motor, trying to make as much power as we can in the thin air. In addition, I try to develop a feel for the car and what it does on the track, particularly getting off the starting line."

"For example, when we tested there last week, I could really feel what the car was doing on our first run. We came back and made some changes based on that, and we picked up a couple hundredths on our next pass. Driving and tuning by the seat of your pants can be a big part to winning in Denver."

In addition to the unique tuning conditions, this event is also significant as the first leg of the NHRA's "West Coast Swing", where the world's best quarter-milers traditionally start the second half of the season with three races on consecutive weekends. It is a difficult stretch, with the combination of extended travel and a compressed schedule putting added pressure on all involved.

Some participants will approach this period much as they will race in the altitude this weekend, hoping to survive, and keep any losses to a minimum. However, Johnson and the ACDelco crew prefer to focus on the immediate task at hand, with the final objective remaining constant - winning.

"We have never gone to Denver hoping to just qualify and grab a point or two," stated Johnson. "Bandimere Speedway is an awesome facility, and a great track to race on, which just makes winning there even sweeter. This race pays just as many points as the other twenty-two on the circuit, and we want to leave with the most possible."

"As for this being the first stop of the West Coast Swing, there's no point in looking beyond this race, because the conditions at the next two will be completely different. Our game plan remains the same as it has all season. We'll take it one run at a time, avoid mistakes, make smart decisions, hope for good luck and try to end the weekend with the ACDelco Cavalier in the winner's circle."

Facts on Kurt Johnson and the ACDelco Racing Team entering the NHRA Mile-High Nationals:

KJ Bats .700 at Bandimere:

This will be Kurt's eleventh appearance at Bandimere Speedway, where he has scored two wins (in 1995 and 2000) in four final round appearances. In his ten previous starts, he has compiled a 21-8 elimination round record, for a .724 winning percentage, with only one first round loss (to Mike Thomas in 1994).

Kurt Qualifies near the Top on the Mountain:

KJ was the No.1 qualifier in Denver in 2000, and has qualified in the top half of the field in all ten previous attempts.

Traveling in Elite Company:

Kurt's 27 national event victories tie him with Cory McClenethan for 15th on the all-time NHRA professional win list, and give him sole possession of fifth in the Pro Stock Career Victories, breaking a tie with legendary Pro Stock driver Lee Shepherd. Kurt's most recent win came at the Lucas Oil NHRA Route 66 Nationals in Joliet, IL.

POWERade Points standings:

After the twelfth of 23 events, Kurt sits second in the 2003 POWERade Championship standings with 993 points, 70 behind current leader Greg Anderson, and 234 ahead of his father, Warren Johnson, who is in third. Kurt finished sixth in 2002, his tenth consecutive Top 10 finish.

Winning percentage:

Kurt's .642 elimination round winning percentage (326-182) ranks 11th among all active NHRA professional drivers.

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

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

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Greg Anderson