Kurt Johnson Maintains His Positive Attitude Heading into Route 66 ACDelco crew determined to sweep Chicago and claw back into championship battle SUGAR HILL, GA., September 23, 2003 - As the 2003 NHRA POWERade season enters its final five...
Kurt Johnson Maintains His Positive Attitude Heading into Route 66
ACDelco crew determined to sweep Chicago and claw back into championship battle
SUGAR HILL, GA., September 23, 2003 - As the 2003 NHRA POWERade season enters its final five races, Kurt Johnson knows he faces a difficult task. Throughout the year, the ACDelco Cavalier pilot has been locked in a hard-fought, two-person battle with friend and former teammate Greg Anderson for this year's Pro Stock championship. For most of the season, the two were within a few rounds of each other, with no clear victor emerging.
However, in the last few weeks, the distance between Johnson and the leader has increased to the point where some have discounted his chances of winning. Naturally, Johnson does not share this opinion and enters this weekend's Carquest Auto Parts Nationals in Joliet, IL with full intentions of turning the tide and placing himself back in serious contention for the title.
"It will definitely not be easy, and it may not be probable, but it certainly is still possible for us to win the championship this year," stated Johnson. "There is no quit in this ACDelco team, but we know that with only five races left, time is not exactly on our side.
"We're trying as best as we can. All season long, our ACDelco Cavalier has been one of the best cars in Pro Stock. The bottom line is that you have to be better than everyone else on a consistent basis. Obviously this year the bar has been raised, so we keep battling to go even faster.
"We have to start cutting into Greg's lead now before there is no time left. From here on out, we have no room for error. We have to maximize every opportunity to gain points, and certainly not make it easy for him, as we have in the last few races.
"The breaks also have got to start going our way. So far, they've been leaning pretty heavily in Greg's favor, but I feel that's about to change."
If Johnson is to mount a championship charge, it would be appropriate that it begin at Route 66 Raceway, site of this weekend's race. Earlier this year in Joliet, Johnson not only scored his most recent national event win in, but perhaps the most improbable. In qualifying, Johnson had battled to find the right tune-up for a new engine. Facing the possibility of missing the field, the ACDelco replaced the troublesome motor before their last attempt, and narrowly avoided the dreaded DNQ by capturing the 15th starting position. In Sunday's final eliminations, the ACDelco crew returned to form, powering through the field to earn their fourth win of the season, a performance Johnson believes they can repeat this weekend.
"Back in June, we were at the front of the pack when it counted," said Johnson. "That win takes the pressure off as far as making a good hit in the first session this Friday. It's the same track and we have great notes to work from. Even though that was our first win at Route 66, it's been a good track for me.
"We're going back with same recipe book, and we're making more power, so we're fairly optimistic about this weekend. We're looking to qualify at least in the top three, if not No. 1, which will put our ACDelco Cavalier in a good position to not only make a return appearance to the Joliet winner's circle, but to also start reeling in the points leader."
Facts on Kurt Johnson and the ACDelco Racing Team entering The Carquest Auto Parts Nationals:
Kurt's Performances at Route 66: This will be Kurt's ninth appearance in Joliet, where he has one win from earlier this year, and a 12-9 elimination round record, for a .556 winning percentage.
KJ's Qualifying Record in Joliet: KJ has two No. 1 qualifying performances at Route 66 Raceway (in 1999 and the fall race in 2001), and an overall average of 7.71
One year ago: Kurt qualified eighth in Joliet with an elapsed time of 6.829 seconds and a top speed of 201.16 mph, and advanced to the semi-finals.
Career year: Kurt stands to set several personal single-season marks in 2003. His eight final round appearances eclipse his previous best of seven, set in 1993 & 1997, and with two more elimination round wins, he will set a new single season high, breaking his previous record of 41 set in 2000. Kurt is also within reach of his best single season win total of six, also set in 2000.
POWERade Points standings: After the eighteenth of 23 events, Kurt sits second in the 2003 POWERade Championship standings with 1447 points, 240 behind current leader Greg Anderson, and 215 ahead of Jeg Coughlin, who is in third. Kurt finished sixth in 2002, his tenth consecutive Top 10 finish.
Winning percentage: Kurt's .643 elimination round winning percentage (339-189) ranks 11th among all active NHRA professional drivers.
Career best elapsed time: 6.716 seconds, Englishtown, NJ, 2003
Career best top speed: 206.61 mph, Englishtown, NJ, 2003