Englishtown: Kurt Johnson preview

Ten Years Later, Kurt Johnson Aims to Add to His History in "E-town" Confidence is high on ACDelco Racing team heading into NHRA SuperNationals Sugar Hill, Ga., June 15, 2004 - Ten years ago, Kurt Johnson was just starting his NHRA Pro Stock ...

Ten Years Later, Kurt Johnson Aims to Add to His History in "E-town"
Confidence is high on ACDelco Racing team heading into NHRA SuperNationals

Sugar Hill, Ga., June 15, 2004 - Ten years ago, Kurt Johnson was just starting his NHRA Pro Stock career. In just over a year, he had already shown signs of his future prominence, with three national event wins and a Rookie of the Year title in 1993. To the casual spectator, however, he was most often associated with being the son of Warren Johnson, who at the time was the two-time and defending Pro Stock champion.

All that would change on a cool Friday evening in May at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, NJ. On his second qualifying attempt, at 8:30 p.m. on May 20, 1994, Johnson rocketed down the Garden State quarter-mile in 6.988 seconds, becoming the first Pro Stock driver to record an elapsed time in the six-second range.

Now firmly established as one of the stars of the highly competitive Pro Stock division, Johnson took time as he prepared his ACDelco Cavalier for this weekend's Supernationals to revisit that day and the run that permanently etched his name in the NHRA history books.

"Everything went the way I had planned it," deadpanned Johnson. "Actually, I remember flying into New Jersey on Thursday, and it was very cold and hailing. I knew that if the weather cleaned itself up a little and it stopped raining, someone would definitely be going into the sixes.

"We went out for the first session at four o'clock in the afternoon loaded for bear, and it hooked and shook and was half sideways going down the track, so that going into the Friday night session we weren't even in the show.

"Back then, qualifying was not done in designated pairs as we do now, so we waited until the very end to run. Actually, I think we may have even had a problem with the car. All the heavy hitters of the time, (Scott) Geoffrion, (Darrell) Alderman and Dad, had a shot to do it before we even ran. However, Dad had an ignition problem, and Scott and Darrell had mechanical issues of their own, so the six-second barrier still hadn't been broken when we rolled to the line.

"I let the clutch out and that thing was on a string. It left with the front wheels in the air, and when I put it in second gear, it set them down and just headed for the finish line. I didn't even have to touch the steering wheel the whole way down.

"I knew it was a good run, but you never really know just how fast it is until you get to the top end. As soon as I turned off, I could see Steve Evans (the late, legendary racing announcer) running towards my car, so I knew something special had happened, and that we had gone in the sixes. To say the least, it was quite a night."

Ironically, as Johnson arrives at Raceway Park for this year's race, he remains in search of his first national event win in New Jersey. Although the second-generation driver has had his share of success at this legendary speedplant, with three wins in the non-points paying Pro Stock Shootout (currently known as the King Demon Crown), and two No. 1 qualifying performances, he is still looking for his first visit to the Englishtown winner's circle on Sunday, an oversight he looks to correct this weekend.

"I guess I won too much in 1994," said Johnson. "I won the shootout, and the $25,000 for the first six-second run, so maybe that was supposed to tide us over for a while. But, for whatever reason, Englishtown has just been one of those races that I have yet to win.

"Maybe we can put it all together this year. We certainly have the right parts. I'm really pleased with the way our ACDelco Cavalier is running right now. It's just a matter of putting it in the winner's circle again. When we won in Phoenix earlier this year, we were still learning about the car. But now we've hit on a combination that's pretty sweet, which gives me tremendous confidence every time I let the clutch out. I see no reason why we can't celebrate the tenth anniversary of the first six-second run in the winner's circle in Englishtown on Sunday night."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Steve Evans