Kurt Johnson's 2003 Chevy Cavalier makes victorious Gatornationals debut. GAINESVILLE, Fla., March 16, 2003 - A pair of Chevrolets, featuring current NHRA Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin and ACDelco Cavalier driver Kurt Johnson, squared off...
Kurt Johnson's 2003 Chevy Cavalier makes victorious Gatornationals debut.
GAINESVILLE, Fla., March 16, 2003 - A pair of Chevrolets, featuring current NHRA Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin and ACDelco Cavalier driver Kurt Johnson, squared off today in a winner-take-all final-round duel at Gainesville Raceway. When the dust settled, the championship trophy belonged to the 39-year-old Johnson, who collected his first Gatornationals title medallion and the first victory ever for the 2003 Chevy Cavalier.
"It's great to have close races out there," said Johnson. "But even better, it's great to be on the winning end of those races. It's great for the fans and it's great for ACDelco, Chevrolet and all of our sponsors. In this category when both drivers let out the clutch at the same time, it's going to be determined by inches at the finish line. I had never won here before and it's really something special."
Johnson's new Cavalier was a monster all weekend, qualifying in the No. 3 position on Saturday and setting a new Gainesville Raceway track-record top speed of 203.71 mph. During Sunday's 16-car tournament, Johnson's Chevrolet set top speed in every round and low elapsed time in three of the four eliminator sessions. In round one, his red and blue Cavalier set low e.t. and top speed of the day with a stellar run of 6.808 seconds at 203.48 mph.
Johnson, who celebrates his 40th birthday a week from today, defeated Mike Edwards in round one, Mark Whisnant in round two and Greg Anderson in round three. In the title heat against Coughlin, the yellow and black Jeg's Cavalier bolted to a slight lead at the 330-foot marker, but by halftrack, the ACDelco Chevrolet had overcome the deficit and held on to win the race. Johnson's final-round numbers were 6.825 seconds at 202.65 mph while Coughlin's Cavalier followed with a 6.840-elapsed time at 201.29 mph. The margin of victory at the stripe was approximately four feet!
"This category is so crazy," said Johnson. "You come in here during qualifying hoping you make a good run on the first hit and get a good baseline. It's not so bad the first part of the year, but when we get into the summer where we'll have one good qualifying shot, it's going to be brutal. You're just glad to be in the top 16. If you can get qualified you can win the race. There are so many good drivers, and the cars are so close that it's like Winston Cup Racing in a quarter-mile. We're just glad to be here."
It was the 24th career victory in 41 final rounds for the Buford, Ga., resident. Johnson also goes forward with an impressive winning streak intact where he has won at least one race every year since 1995 - a streak of nine consecutive years. With 223 points, Johnson also moves into second place in the NHRA POWERade Pro Stock standings, just 42 points behind first-place Greg Anderson.
"The new body style on the Cavalier has the car balanced better than last year's model," said Johnson. "These Cavaliers are already so aerodynamically sleek that it's hard to make huge leaps in performance. But we definitely saw an improvement and when we have more time to test, we'll be able to make this car even better.
"It feels good to get a win just three races into the season. There's a lot of it that's just luck-being in the right place at the right time and making the right decisions given the conditions. This Chevrolet did it's job today and I was able to do a good job driving in the final two rounds. We made some good calls in the pits and the car made some great runs down that right-hand lane. Everything came together at just the right time."
The next NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series event is the Fourth annual NHRA SummitRacing.com Nationals on April 3 - 6, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Nev.
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