Kurt Johnson's Chevrolet wins U.S. Nationals pole INDIANAPOLIS, Sept. 6, 2003 - Chevrolet's Kurt Johnson survived two additional rounds of Pro Stock qualifying today to win the pole for the 49th annual U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park.
Kurt Johnson's Chevrolet wins U.S. Nationals pole
INDIANAPOLIS, Sept. 6, 2003 - Chevrolet's Kurt Johnson survived two additional rounds of Pro Stock qualifying today to win the pole for the 49th annual U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Johnson's ACDelco Cavalier set the Pro Stock elapsed-time track record with a run on Friday night of 6.778 seconds at 203.77 mph. It is the 23rd career low qualifier for Kurt Johnson, his second straight at a national event and the second time he's been No. 1 qualifier at the U.S. Nationals. Johnson's last No. 1 qualifying effort at this event was in 1997.
"Just being in the show at this event is a big deal," said Johnson. "There are so many good cars that slipped on the sheet that didn't make it. We just took advantage of the opportunities more than anything else. The good conditions, and making a good run at the right time because there are 16 cars here today that could've been on the pole with the perfect run. We've been doing our homework so it feels pretty good to have our ACDelco Chevrolet in the top spot.
"We didn't make a clean run this morning. It shook the tires going into second, probably knocked a solid hundredth off, although it seemed like a hundredth and a half at the finish line. There's still quite a bit left in the car but we have to correct that problem. We have to make clean runs to win this thing and with a little luck we might be able to get the job done"
In addition to Johnson's low qualifying number on Friday night, the ACDelco Chevy Cavalier set low elapsed time in the first session today running 6.807 seconds. Currently second in the points standings behind Greg Anderson, Johnson is a two-time winner of the U.S. Nationals capturing back-to-back races in 1996-97.
"We've been working hard over the last few weeks, on the ACDelco Cavalier, on the dyno and then putting the whole package together. We've had the opportunity to take advantage of qualifying to test and that may be the biggest factor. We're continuing to learn a lot with every run and things are going in the right direction."
Defending U.S. Nationals champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. will try to put his Chevy Cavalier in the winner's circle for the second straight year. His run on Friday of 6.785 seconds was good for the No. 2 qualifying position.
Last year, Coughlin's win was the first Pro Stock victory for Chevrolet at the U.S. Nationals since Frank Iaconio's win in 1982. Coughlin is also a two-time champion at the "Big Go" with visits to the winner's circle in 2000 and 2002.
"We had a spark plug bow out on us during the morning run in about third gear," said Coughlin. "By the look of our numbers we would have been one of the quickest cars of the session. We'll just make sure our ducks are in a row for tomorrow. We showed up here at Indy with a new Chevy Cavalier which seems to be running very, very strong. Our test session in St. Louis earlier in the week was pretty successful in that it gave us a lot of good information about the new car and we've been able to use that here. If we can continue on our current pace we'll be good tomorrow."
Points-leader Greg Anderson will start Sunday eliminations from the No. 3 position. Anderson has the quickest Pontiac in the field with a qualifying run of 6.786 seconds at a track-record top speed of 205.01 mph. Anderson's 6.794 e.t. in the final qualifying session was the quickest run of the day. Anderson won the U.S. Nationals in 2001 and was runner-up in 1999.
"We didn't make perfect runs last week, but they weren't bad," said Anderson. "We have to get it in our minds that the starting line isn't as good as it was last Saturday. It's going to get hotter and it's going to even get worse. We made some serious changes to the car for the final session and we finally got it to hook up in low gear. It's our own fault though because we're not paying enough attention to what the racetrack is telling us. We needed to get more aggressive and the car responded. Keep in mind that even though we're qualified fourth, and we're excited to be in the show, we strive for perfection on every run."
Jim Yates has the Splitfire Pontiac SC/T Grand Am parked in the No. 4 qualifying spot with a run of 6.810 seconds at 202.97 mph. Yates was runner-up at last year's U.S. Nationals, and seems to have his silver and purple Pontiac running consistent 6.81 elapsed times. That could bode well for the 50-year-old Virginian on Sunday.
"After the kind of year we've had, we're real happy to have the Splitfire Pontiac Grand Am in the top 16," said Yates. "Coming in here with the rainout and all the things that have gone on, we're excited with the potential this team shows. Rickie's (Smith) only been here a couple of weeks. We didn't get down the track on the first run, just knocked the clutch out of the car. We were No. 4 in the second session, went testing and changed clutches, changed shocks, came back last night and we were No. 4 down the track. We went out today and were second quickest. We're headed in the right direction. We're not at our destination yet, but every indication I'm seeing is that the Splitfire Pontiac is going to continue to improve.
"Tomorrow's race will come down to consistency of the racecar and the performance of the driver. On Sunday, all the cars are going to run within four hundredths of a second, especially after the second round, and therefore, it's going to come down to the driver. The lanes at Indy are equal so no one has a clear lane advantage. Typically at Indy there are a lot of hungry drivers that want to win this race. Right now, I hope I have that fire in the belly that will make me perform at my best. Greg (Anderson) and Kurt (Johnson) are faster than us right now, but if we can be consistent and stay close to them in e.t., then maybe we can drive good enough to put this Grand Am in the winner's circle."
Ron Krisher is qualified in the No. 6 spot in a Chevy Cavalier and Mike Edwards rounds out the top half of the field in a Pontiac Grand Am.
"I was a little stressed out there this morning because I wasn't sure what to expect," said Edwards. "We have our Young Life Pontiac right there in the middle of things. We're just a tick away from really stepping up with this Grand Am. We're qualifying decent, have been at the front a few times, and now we're going to be racing on Sunday at the U.S. Nationals.
"We should have run a little quicker last night. We left here last Sunday qualified seventh, we got bumped a spot this morning, but anytime you're in the top half of the field at the U.S. Nationals, you're pretty happy. This is our Super Bowl. You'd like to win any one of them but this one's special. I like Indianapolis. It's been good to me in the past and if can let the clutch out on time, you never know what may happen."
The rest of the GM field shows Jason Line qualified ninth in a Chevy Cavalier, Warren Johnson is qualified 11th in a Grand Am, Steve Schmidt is 12th in a Cavalier, George Marnell is 14th in a Grand Am and Troy Coughlin is 16th in a Cavalier. The bump was Troy Coughlin's 6.833 second run, and the quickest Pro Stock field in U.S. Nationals history is separated by just .055 of a second.
GM Racing Notes - U.S. Nationals
ACDelco Chevrolet driver Kurt Johnson has advanced to the second round of eliminations at 22 consecutive races, a long and impressive streak that began at last season's NHRA Nationals in Reading, Pa., on Sept. 15, 2002. Chevrolet's Jeg Coughlin has the second-longest streak at 11 races.
Kurt Johnson's low qualifying effort three weeks ago at Brainerd, Minn., was Chevrolet's first in Pro Stock in 2003. Johnson has now registered at least one No. 1 qualifying effort every year since 1994. His current Pro Stock low-qualifying streak is second only to Warren Johnson in longevity.
Jeg Coughlin holds the longest consecutive-qualifying streak in Pro Stock at 30 straight races. Coughlin's last DNQ came at the Route 66 Nationals in Joliet, Ill., on June 1, 2002. Coughlin can win his 250th round as a Pro Stock competitor by advancing to the third round of eliminations on Sunday.
Seven GM racers currently occupy a spot in the top-10 of the Pro Stock standings. Pontiac's Greg Anderson leads the title race with 1,454 points, Chevrolet's Kurt Johnson is in second place with 1,296 points, Jeg Coughlin is in third place in a Cavalier with 1,057 points and Warren Johnson is in fourth place in a Grand Am with 1,012 points. Ron Krisher (Chevrolet) is sixth with 723 points, Mike Edwards (Pontiac) is seventh with 682 and Bruce Allen (Pontiac) is ninth with 589.
Current Grand Am drivers who have previously won the U.S. Nationals include Greg Anderson (2001), Warren Johnson (1984, 1992-95, 1999) and Mike Edwards (1998).
Current Chevy Cavalier drivers who have previously won the U.S. Nationals in Pro Stock include Jeg Coughlin Jr. (2000, '02) and Kurt Johnson (1996-97).
Greg Anderson's win at Brainerd, Minn., on Aug. 17, was Pontiac's 119th all-time NHRA Pro Stock victory, the most by any manufacturer in the history of the sport, and Grand Am's 28th all-time win in Pro Stock competition.