Gateway Kurt Johnson Review

Kurt Johnson Wins His And Camaro's First Pro Stock Title Of Season MADISON, Ill.; June 28, 1998: It was a hot and humid day at Gateway International Raceway outside of St. Louis, but Kurt Johnson was a cool customer as he drove his ...

Kurt Johnson Wins His And Camaro's First Pro Stock Title Of Season

MADISON, Ill.; June 28, 1998: It was a hot and humid day at Gateway International Raceway outside of St. Louis, but Kurt Johnson was a cool customer as he drove his all-new ACDelco Camaro Z28, debuted this weekend, across the finish line ahead of Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the final round of the Pro Stock finals at the Sears Craftsman Nationals, sanctioned by the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA).

This was Kurt's and the Camaro's first title of the 1998 season, his 22nd career final round and his 10th career victory. It was also the first win for a Camaro since 1988, when Harry Scribner beat Don Beverly in the final round at the Autolite Nationals in Sonoma, Calif.

Larry Morgan, in the Raybestos Camaro, had his best showing of the year, as he advanced into the semifinals after defeating Scott Geoffrion and Tom Martino. He red-lighted in the semi-finals, however, allowing Jeg Coughlin Jr. to face Kurt in the final.

"Actually, I thought it was going to be an all-Camaro final with Larry," said Kurt, 35, of Lawrenceville, Ga., who qualified No. 2. "I thought to myself, I'd better not lose, because that would make Larry the first one to win in a Camaro. That was great. He went to the semis, we got to the final and won. It was a lot of hard work, it's just the guys back at the shop doing their jobs, and the guys here doing their jobs. I'm just the lucky guy who gets the trophy."

Kurt eliminated Steve Schmidt in the first round, then took care of Shawn Collins and reigning champion Jim Yates to earn a spot in the final. The final was a nail-biter, as Kurt's reaction time was not one of his best, a .507 to Coughlin's .453. Coughlin was ahead as Kurt poured the power on at the end and just nicked Coughlin at the finish line, with an e.t. of 7.056 seconds and a top speed of 195.31 mph to Coughlin's 7.169/194.25. The margin of victory was a mere .059 of a second.

"I tried to give the race to him with a bad light," commented Kurt, "but we have to run the clutches so soft and leave at such a slow rpm to get down this kind of track that reaction time seems less important."

Kurt's last victory was in the Winston Finals in Pomona, Calif., in November, 1997. Kurt moves into fourth in championship points, with 667, 44 points out of third place (Yates). Kurt's crew chief Jeff Purley earned the Sears Craftsman Crew Chief of the Race Award.

In Other Sears Craftsman Nationals Action:

* All three Camaros (Ron Capps, Whit Bazemore and Chuck Etchells) advanced two rounds today in Funny Car eliminations.

* New Team Chevrolet member Whit Bazemore eliminated John Force in the first round.

* Etchells advanced to the final after defeating Bazemore in an all-Camaro semifinal. Capps was also defeated in the semifinal, by eventual winner Frank Pedregon.

* With Force out early, and Etchells advancing to the final (where he lost to Frank Pedregon), Force's points lead narrows to only four over Etchells (815-811). Capps moves into third with 722.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Frank Pedregon , Jeg Coughlin , Kurt Johnson , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Larry Morgan , Chuck Etchells , Tom Martino , Scott Geoffrion , Steve Schmidt