Team Chevy's Kurt Johnson Riding High After Mid-South Nationals Pro Stock Victory ACDelco Cobalt Driver Hoping to Capture Third Win at Indianapolis INDIANAPOLIS, Aug. 27, 2006 - There's nothing like a national-event victory to put a race team...
Team Chevy's Kurt Johnson Riding High After Mid-South Nationals Pro Stock Victory
ACDelco Cobalt Driver Hoping to Capture Third Win at Indianapolis
INDIANAPOLIS, Aug. 27, 2006 - There's nothing like a national-event victory to put a race team back on track, and Kurt Johnson's most recent win at Memphis with a brand-new ACDelco Chevy Cobalt couldn't have come at a better time. On the eve of the season's most celebrated event, the 52nd annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, Johnson is hoping his recent performance last week in Tennessee will carry over when the series sets up shop at O'Reilly Raceway Park on Aug. 30 - Sept. 4.
"The win at Memphis was just what we needed," said Johnson. "Plus, we didn't get hit by lightning, so that makes it even better. It was a mess there Sunday night with the storms that rolled through, but running in the kind of conditions we did on Saturday and Monday gave us a nice feel for what our new Chevy Cobalt can do. We still only have 13 runs on the new car, and so far, it goes straight and responds to the changes we make. We're pretty pleased with the results.
"We went to Memphis with a setup on the car that we were unfamiliar with, and we kind of gambled on the first run. We thought it would hurt us since we knew we would only have three runs to qualify when we missed the early session on Friday. We left the experimental setup in the car for the first run on Friday night and it went right down the racetrack - we made a pretty decent run. We made a change on the second run that the car didn't like, so we went back to our first setup on the third qualifying run and kind of left it there for eliminations. We were pretty pleased, actually."
During eliminations at the O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals, Johnson's ACDelco Chevy Cobalt became stronger and more consistent with each pass, running inside a razor-thin margin of a hundredth of a second during each of the three rounds contested on Monday. Grabbing lane choice with the quickest e.t. of the semifinals at 6.708 seconds, Johnson was able to hold off a hard-charging Jason Line in the final round to win the race by a margin of .015 of a second. It was the 35th career win for Johnson, his third victory this season and a sturdy steppingstone heading into Indianapolis. Johnson also became just the third Pro Stock driver this season to reach three national-event victories.
"I feel a lot better going into Indy with a win under our belt than I would if we hadn't qualified," said Johnson. "We feel with the good outing we had in Memphis, and with the way the ACDelco Chevrolet ran in Brainerd, the new car seems to be pretty happy. New tubing is always good and a fresh car certainly helps. It's been a long time since we've been in the winner's circle at Indy and it would be good to get back there this year."
A two-time champion at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, Johnson's last visit to the O'Reilly Raceway Park winner's circle came with back-to-back victories when he defeated Rickie Smith in the final of the 1996 eliminator and V. Gaines in the final of the 1997 race. Johnson was runner-up to Greg Anderson in 2003, and twice qualified on the pole in 1997 and in 2003.
"Indy is an exciting race from the fact that you have all the media, the fans and the sponsors," said Johnson. "It's a huge event with an extra day added in. Everyone is watching and everyone comes there with their barrels clean, loaded and ready to rip. Everything needs to go right to win there, and hopefully we can have a little bit of luck on our side too, which seems to be a part of the game nowadays."
Following his Memphis win, Johnson headed back to the team's raceshop in Sugar Hill, Ga.,to continue on the never-ending quest to find more horsepower - the goal of every successful NHRA Pro Stock program.
"After Memphis, we went back to the shop and started working on engines," said Johnson. "Our test session for Indy was Saturday and Monday in Memphis. These engines are pretty reliable so it's not a matter of wearing out parts as much as it is making more horsepower right now. We were back in the dyno room running VP gasoline trying to make more power."
Currently in fourth place in the POWERade standings, and 277 points behind first-place Jason Line with six races remaining, Johnson knows winning a championship this year is a long shot, but that certainly won't deter the ACDelco Chevy Cobalt driver from trying to win out the remainder of the schedule.
"I want to win the next six races, but there are so many good drivers and crews out here," said Johnson. "We're all human. We want to hit home runs every time up, but it usually doesn't work that way. You have to do the best you can and see what happens.
"Getting on a roll would be a nice way to head into the final six races of the year. Anytime you can win in this category you feel like you've accomplished something. It's so up and down and a battle to win one of these races. Everyone throws everything they have at you trying to accomplish the same goals. It was certainly gratifying to win in Memphis, and it was nice to leave there with all the money and all the points. We'll see if we can keep that going at Indy."
-credit: gm racing