Kurt Johnson makes his 2003 ACDelco Cavalier a winner in Gainesville. Gainesville, Fla., March 16, 2003 - ACDelco Pro Stock pilot Kurt Johnson made the debut of the 2003 Cavalier in NHRA Pro Stock competition a successful one by scoring an ...
Kurt Johnson makes his 2003 ACDelco Cavalier a winner in Gainesville.
Gainesville, Fla., March 16, 2003 - ACDelco Pro Stock pilot Kurt Johnson made the debut of the 2003 Cavalier in NHRA Pro Stock competition a successful one by scoring an impressive win at today's Mac Tools Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla. Just over one week after completing the work to update his race car, Johnson faced off against 2002 POWERade champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the final round.
Both cars left the line as if welded together, with Coughlin seeming to gain a very slight edge in the first 300 feet. However, the legendary Johnson horsepower soon took over, and Kurt pulled ahead to stay by half-track, crossing the finish line in 6.825 seconds with a top speed of 202.65 mph, to Coughlin's 6.840-second, 201.29 mph effort. This is the 24th national event win of KJ's illustrious career, but first at storied Gainesville Raceway.
"I've been coming to Gainesville Raceway since 1976, when Dad (six-time Pro Stock champion Warren Johnson) was the runner-up, and it's stuck in my mind ever since," stated Johnson. "It's a great place to race, and we normally run extremely well here. I've done it all in Gainesville. I was the runner-up in 1999 and I've broken parts here. Now I've put my ACDelco Cavalier in the winner's circle, and to have done that is something special."
Starting third, KJ was the beneficiary of Mike Edwards foul start in the first round. Despite the automatic win, Johnson powered down the quarter-mile and recorded the quickest elapsed time of eliminations at 6.808 seconds with at top speed of 203.48 mph to earn lane choice for his second round encounter with Mark Whisnant.
After disposing of Whisnant, the younger member of the Johnson racing family then met current POWERade points leader Greg Anderson in the semi-finals, who had been one of the quickest cars throughout the weekend. Knowing he would need every possible advantage, Kurt used his best reaction time of the day to leave the starting line fifteen thousandths of a second ahead of his rival, which, when combined with his 6.823-second elapsed time (vs. Anderson's 6.824-second effort) helped propel Johnson into the 41st final round of his career. "After the first qualifying session on Friday, when we were the No. 1 qualifier, we knew our ACDelco Cavalier was a good race car," explained Johnson. "It's been good for the last six races, and especially since Saturday morning in Phoenix. Even though this is the first race for the 2003 bodystyle, and we still have a lot of work to bring it to its full potential, we can already tell that it improves the balance of the race car.
"As close as the competition is in this category, you have to have the whole package to win. In the first two rounds today, the car did its job, but I was a little off. Going into the races against Greg and Jeg, I knew I would have to step up to the plate, and I did. In addition, we made some good calls in the pits. Everything just came together for us today."
This win was particularly significant in light of the effort put forth by the ACDelco crew to ensure their car would be ready in time for this event, and Kurt was quick to credit those responsible.
"My ACDelco crew did an incredible job over the last few weeks getting the car changed over," detailed Johnson. "On their way home from Phoenix, they were delayed in Dallas by an ice storm, but once they were back in the shop, they worked non-stop to get the job done.
"As soon as the car was finished, we were at the track in Atlanta testing. After that, we were in the wind tunnel for a day before heading down here. Honestly, without Kevin (Horst) and Joe (Cottle)'s hard work and dedication, as well as everyone back at the shop, this win would not have happened.
"Naturally, it feels good to win. We've now won a race every year for the last nine years, and it's great to get this year out of the way early. We're excited about the rest of the season, and are looking forward to going to Las Vegas in a few weeks. But tonight, we're going to enjoy this win before getting back to work tomorrow."