Englishtown: GM Racing preview

Team Chevy's Kurt Johnson, Pontiac's Jim Yates Make a Bid for 2006 NHRA Pro Stock Crown Series Heads East for New Jersey and Season's 11th Event ENGLISHTOWN, N.J., June 13, 2006 - As the NHRA POWERade schedule moves closer toward the ...

Team Chevy's Kurt Johnson, Pontiac's Jim Yates Make a Bid for 2006 NHRA Pro Stock Crown Series Heads East for New Jersey and Season's 11th Event

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J., June 13, 2006 - As the NHRA POWERade schedule moves closer toward the season's halfway point, the battle for the 2006 Pro Stock championship is about as close now as it was when the series left Pomona Raceway (Calif.) on Feb. 12. With a win last Sunday at the CARQUEST NHRA Nationals in Joliet, Ill., Team Chevy's Kurt Johnson put his name back into the mix of the 2006 title chase. The 43-year-old driver of the ACDelco Chevrolet used a starting-line holeshot and a career-best e.t. of 6.646 seconds to get past points leader Greg Anderson in the final round at Route 66 Raceway. With two consecutive final-round appearances etched into his holster, Johnson finds himself firmly planted in the top five of the points standings for the first time this season.

"It's good to go two final rounds in a row because it shows what your team is capable of on a consistent basis," said Johnson. "This category is so tough that anything can happen, and it feels good to accomplish what we have over the last two races. You can go and test, but what really matters is when you run well at a national event against your competition. There's a lot of hard work and a little luck involved, but we paid attention and did what we needed to do."

With years of racing experience that includes 34 career victories, Johnson knows that fortunes in a category as tightly contested as NHRA Pro Stock can turn on a dime. As far back as 17th in the points standings following a DNQ at Gainesville (Fla.) in March, the ACDelco Chevy Cobalt team has made the hard slog back to the front of the pack. Now Johnson finds himself in fourth place in the standings and within 161 points of first-place Greg Anderson.

"When it's good, it's good," said Johnson. "The old Cobalt's fine. It's just a matter of putting the right pegs in the right holes. It ran good last year, so it should run good this year. We're happy. Two wins in 10 races so far this season. We've had a couple of mishaps, but that's going to happen. This category is just so tough, I don't have to explain it to you. Everybody knows."

Next up on the docket is the K & N Filters Supernationals this weekend at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J. It's a venue where Johnson has yet to win a national event, but he's been runner-up there twice (1993, 2004), and No. 1 qualifier three times (1994, 1998, 2005), including last year's race. Johnson also made racing history at Englishtown when he became the first Pro Stock driver to make a run quicker than seven seconds with a pass of 6.988 seconds on May 20, 1994.

"Everything is good right now," said Johnson of his team's recent resurgence. "The key is to keep it going week after week, and that is what we're focused on doing. Based on our results at Joliet, I would say we have a definite direction in which to take our tune-up, and we're going to keep working towards it."

Also closing in on first-place Greg Anderson is two-time NHRA champion (1996-97) Jim Yates who has used a strong showing at three of the last four events to move around Jason Line and into second place in the standings - his best effort since 2002 when he left Joliet and the 10th race of the year in 1st place.

"We're definitely making some good moves in the right direction," said Yates. "We were fortunate to get a couple of round wins at Joliet, but the whole program seems to be coming together. Bill (Jenkins) worked on the engine a little bit and changed the tune-up. I think it's just as fast as before, but we've got to figure out how to make it run fast. Overall, we has a good weekend in Joliet. The main thing is that we keep winning rounds, and if we can continue to do that we'll be able to stay right there with Greg (Anderson)."

Three weeks ago at the Pontiac Performance Nationals in Columbus, Ohio, the Sea-Ray Boats Pontiac GTO driver won his first national event in four years. It was Yates second final-round appearance this season, and combined with a gradual, consistent improvement in the performance of his racecar, the Occoquan, Va. resident is making his own bold bid for a third NHRA Pro Stock crown.

"As competitive as Pro Stock is right now, and as tough as the teams are that are out there, it feels great to be back in the mix," said Yates. "The class has moved so far forward from where it used to be in terms of parity, that it's nice to be in that top group of cars. It makes us really confident that we made the right decisions over the winter to get us into this position, and now what we need to do is take advantage of those decisions, actually execute the program and go out and perform to our potential."

Englishtown Pre-Race Stats & Facts

Pontiac GTO drivers Greg Anderson and Jason Line will be making an autograph appearance at Green Brook Buick/Pontiac/GMC in Green Brook, N.J., on Thursday, June 15, beginning at 4 p.m. The dealership is located at 101 U.S. Highway 22, Green Brook, N.J. 08812. Telephone: 732.752.3000. Anderson's Summit Racing Pontiac GTO and race hauler will be on display and everyone is invited to attend.

Kurt Johnson's victory at Joliet was Chevrolet's fourth this season in NHRA Pro Stock competition and the red bowtie's 131st all-time in the category.

Kurt Johnson's 34th career victory ties him with Jeg Coughlin Jr. for fourth place on the list for all time wins by an NHRA Pro Stock driver. Warren Johnson is first with 96, Bob Glidden is second with 85 and Greg Anderson is third with 40.

Of Kurt Johnson's 34 career victories, 24 have been behind the wheel of a Chevrolet. Lee Shepherd has the most Chevrolet Pro Stock wins with 26.

Although it won't officially be recognized as such, Greg Anderson delivered the quickest run in the history of the Pro Stock category after driving his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO to a 6.620 e.t. in the final round of the King Demon Crown non-points Pro Stock bonus event at Route 66 Raceway on June 10. The three-time defending Pro Stock champion claimed his second King Demon Crown (2004) in three final-round appearances by taking out teammate Jason Line in the title round.

Greg Anderson's top speed of 208.20 mph in the final round of the King Demon Crown is the fastest ever recorded by a Pontiac GTO in NHRA Pro Stock competition.

Anderson has led the Pro Stock category since the season-opening Winternationals at Pomona and has 726 points. Jim Yates (Pontiac) is in second place with 616 points, Jason Line (Pontiac) is third with 612 points, Kurt Johnson (Chevrolet) is fourth with 565 points and Dave Connolly (Chevrolet) is fifth with 564 points. Erica Enders (Chevrolet) is in sixth place with 550 points, Mike Edwards (Pontiac) is seventh with 534 points and Warren Johnson (Pontiac) is ninth with 452 points.

Anderson's final-round appearance at Joliet was his fourth this season (Pomona, Phoenix, Bristol, Joliet), the most this year in the NHRA Pro Stock category. Kurt Johnson was making his third final-round appearance at Joliet (Joliet, Topeka, Las Vegas) and Dave Connolly has made three final-round appearances (Topeka, Atlanta, Las Vegas). Jim Yates and Mike Edwards have both competed in two final rounds; Yates at Houston and Columbus, and Edwards at Pomona and Houston.

Jason Line is the back-to-back defending champion at the K & N Supernationals (2004-05). Line also holds the Pro Stock track e.t. record at 6.659 seconds set at last year's event.

Among active Pro Stock drivers, Warren Johnson has the most victories at Englishtown (1982, 1986, 1992 - 93). The driver of the GM Performance Parts Pontiac GTO scored the first of his 96 career wins at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in 1982.

Warren Johnson holds the Pro Stock track speed record set at last year's event at 207.50 mph.

Greg Anderson has two victories at the K & N Supernationals (2002-03) and Jim Yates has one (1996).

Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins, current engine builder for Yates' Sea-Ray Boats Pontiac GTO, was a two-time Pro Stock champion at Englishtown in 1972-73. Frank Iaconio, who builds engines for Mike Edwards' Young Life Pontiac GTO, is a three-time winner at Englishtown (1979, 1981, 1983).

With 391 career round wins, Pontiac GTO driver Jim Yates is just 9 shy of his 400th career round win. Among active Pro Stock competitors, only Warren Johnson (824) and Kurt Johnson (432) have more career round wins.

Tommy Johnson qualified No. 1 at Joliet in the Skoal Racing Chevy Monte Carlo to lead the quickest field in NHRA Funny Car history. Johnson made the third quickest pass in the history of the class in qualifying with a career-best 4.672 e.t. at 328.70 mph.

In the Funny Car standings, Tony Pedregon is in fifth place in a Chevy Monte Carlo with 562 points. Tommy Johnson Jr. is in sixth place in a Monte Carlo with 536 points, Del Worsham is ninth in a Monte Carlo with 469 points and Cruz Pedregon is 10th in a Monte Carlo with 467 points.

Qualifying highlights can be seen on ESPN2 on Saturday, June 17, beginning at 5 p.m. Eastern. Final eliminations from the K & N Supernationals can be seen on ESPN2 on Sunday, June 18, starting at 4 p.m. Eastern.

-gm racing

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Greg Anderson , Tommy Johnson , Bob Glidden , Cruz Pedregon , Jason Line , Dave Connolly , Mike Edwards , Tommy Johnson Jr.