Indy ORP: Kurt Johnson preview

A Proven Closer, KJ is Ready to Start Stage Two in Indy ACDelco Cobalt pilot takes time to help others before NHRA's biggest race Sugar Hill, Ga., August 29, 2007 -- This weekend, Kurt Johnson and the ACDelco Cobalt Racing team will join the...

A Proven Closer, KJ is Ready to Start Stage Two in Indy
ACDelco Cobalt pilot takes time to help others before NHRA's biggest race

Sugar Hill, Ga., August 29, 2007 -- This weekend, Kurt Johnson and the ACDelco Cobalt Racing team will join the drag racing community in gathering at O'Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis, IN for the 53rd running of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. This five-day celebration of speed is widely recognized as the sport's biggest event, with racers coming from all over the country to compete. As such, a win is considered to be among the most cherished in drag racing and a necessary element of any successful racing resume.

However, this year a solid performance at the "Big Go" takes on added significance for eight drivers in each of the POWERade Drag Racing Series' professional categories, as it marks the beginning of the second phase of the 2007 championship. Entering the NHRA's equivalent of the playoffs in the sixth position, Johnson will look to use a strong showing at this marquee event to further solidify his title aspirations.

"Everything seems to be going according to plan," said Johnson. "We survived the first cut and qualified for the Countdown to Four, and our ACDelco Cobalt is running well coming into the biggest race of the year, the U.S. Nationals, which is one place where I'd definitely like to get back to the winner's circle.

"This race is unlike any other throughout the year. Don't get me wrong - every race we enter is a big one, but there is an added electricity in Indianapolis. After all, this is the world's center of speed, with every major sanctioning body holding a major event here. Traditionally, it's our best attended race from the racers and fans to the media. To win there is like nowhere else on the circuit. It's a long race, with three days of qualifying and final eliminations on Monday, so we'll have to be on our game. Of course, after making it through the rain delay in Reading, we're well conditioned.

"The track at ORP is nice and smooth, and really wide, making it a great place to race. We always look forward to racing there. As if everything associated with the U.S. Nationals isn't enough, this year we have a chance to double up, winning Indy while also putting ourselves in the thick of the championship fight. It's an opportunity we certainly don't want to waste."

A look at Johnson's career history reveals that the newly-instituted Countdown format could actually play to his competitive strength. Throughout his 14-year Pro Stock career, over one third of his 36 national event wins came in the last six races of the season, which is precisely the timeframe for the NHRA's title stretch run. Coming off an impressive runner-up finish at the most recent race in Reading, PA, the Johnson-led crew feels more than up for the challenge that lies ahead.

"We're coming out of halftime, heading into the third quarter with our game faces on," quipped Johnson. "We know that everyone has been rebuilding and regrouping for this next stage, but so have we. We've been working on getting our ACDelco Cobalt to run consistently, making good runs every time out, and it's starting to pay off. For example, we'll use a lot of what we learned in Reading this weekend.

"I know that historically I've usually run well in the last six races of the year, but can't say why. Who knows, maybe subconsciously I'm trying to get some extra money for the holidays. Seriously, though, you always want to run well at the end of the year, because that's what you carry in to the off-season. In any case, I think the next six races will be fun, and I'm excited by our prospects."

However, before he takes to the track, Johnson will handle an equally important assignment, visiting the Riley Children's Hospital in Indianapolis on Thursday afternoon. As a father of three, he appreciates the plight of the patients he will see, and looks forward to spending time with them while helping lift their spirits in whatever way he can.

"Over the last few years, I've gone to the children's hospitals in Indianapolis and Columbus, and it really shows you how lucky you are," said Johnson. "Although it's hard to see kids that young having to deal with health problems, I'm always impressed by their incredible attitude. We'll be there Thursday with our ACDelco Cobalt show car, signing some autographs and doing what we can to cheer them up, but we often find that they lift our spirits up as much as we do theirs."

-credit: j2r

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson