ENGLISHTOWN, N.J., May 14, 2002 - Spring heats up on the NHRA POWERade schedule with races on three consecutive weekends and four events in the next five weeks starting with the Matco Tools SuperNationals beginning Thursday at Old Bridge Township...
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J., May 14, 2002 - Spring heats up on the NHRA POWERade schedule with races on three consecutive weekends and four events in the next five weeks starting with the Matco Tools SuperNationals beginning Thursday at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. Chevrolet's Pro Stock Cavalier drivers are preparing in earnest knowing full well that the results over the next month and a half will go a long way towards determining the next NHRA Pro Stock champion. The goal between now and the completion of the Pontiac Excitement Nationals in Columbus, Ohio, on June 16 is to battle, survive and not be left behind.
"You're definitely going to have to keep the wheels on your suitcase lubed," said ACDelco Chevy Cavalier driver Kurt Johnson. "But we're actually pretty excited about racing these next few weeks."
Already this year the level of competition in the Pro Stock category has been tremendous with seven different drivers winning in seven different races. With its tradition of producing record-setting e.t.'s and speeds, you can expect more of the same this weekend at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. In addition to this weekend's race, eight drivers will fight it out for $50,000 on Saturday in the 18th annual NHRA Pro Stock Challenge on Saturday. Chevy Cavalier drivers in the NHRA Pro Stock Challenge include Kurt Johnson, Ron Krisher and Mike Edwards.
Kurt Johnson will be looking for his first victory of the season as he hopes to become the eighth different winner in 2002. Over the years the quarter-mile at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park has treated him well. On May 20, 1994, he became the first NHRA Pro Stock competitor to break into the 6.90s with a run of 6.988 seconds, giving him the national e.t. record and his first career pole. He was also the No. 1 qualifier in 1998 and is a two-time winner of the Pro Stock Challenge (1994, '98). Currently 7th in the POWERade Pro Stock standings, Johnson was runner-up at this event in '93. He's also the No. 7 qualifier for his ninth appearance in the Pro Stock Challenge.
"We've got this new Jerry Haas Chevy Cavalier running well," explained Johnson. "We tested it in Atlanta, put some more runs on it and we think we picked it up a couple of hundredths. We had limited testing on it going into the Atlanta race - it only had six runs on it, but now that we have another 24 runs on it, we feel a lot better. Motorwise we should be in good shape - we've got plenty stacked up here, we're ready! We feel better with the new car and we're ready to go racing.
"We need a win here - it's just waiting to happen. The car keeps running better and better. We haven't won since the Winternationals last year. We've just had a little bit of bad luck here. Who knows, maybe with a little bit of luck we might win a couple of these races. The competition is just so tough and so close you're just going to have to do everything right on every run."
Young Life Chevy Cavalier driver Mike Edwards is a competitor who has experienced the highs and lows of NHRA Pro Stock racing this year. A winner last month at Las Vegas, a pair of DNQs at Gainesville and Atlanta have hampered his bid for the points title. "We have a brand new Jerry Bickel car coming which we're excited about," said Edwards, "and we're continuously working on the engine program. Our biggest deal is just trying to get consistent - we've been very up and down but we're trying to improve in that area."
Edwards was the No. 2 qualifier for the SuperNationals last year and was runner-up in '98. Currently No. 6 in the Pro Stock points standings, Edwards is qualified fifth for his second Pro Stock Challenge, a race in which he was the runner-up in '97.
"It would be awesome to win the Challenge, especially coming off the DNQ in Atlanta," said Edwards. "There are a lot of good cars in that deal, but if we can get a handle on it, and get our engine running good again, then we've got as good of a chance as anybody."
At the '97 SuperNationals, Winnebago Chevy Cavalier driver Tom Hammonds qualified for his first national event. He'll be looking to crack back into the top 10 of the points standings with a strong performance this weekend.
"Just knowing that we're going back to some of the tracks that we have some data on is a relief," said Hammonds. "We're not going into these places blindly like we have been during the first part of the season. Our performance should start to pick up and we're looking forward to it, that's for sure. The one thing we talked about as a team was our trying to stay consistent. If we can do that then our chances look pretty good. The last couple of events we've stumbled and not qualified, but at the same time we've got 15 more races to go so we've got plenty of time before the season is over.
"We feel like we've still got time to improve and make a move on the frontrunners, but we want to use these next few races to win some rounds and get back into the points chase. No one is running away with it right now. If we can get hot then we can get right back into the thick of things. We're going to test this Cavalier before Englishtown. We'll put some laps on it, fine-tune it and head into this three-race swing with some confidence."