Kurt Johnson scores dramatic win in Joliet, retakes POWERade points lead ACDelco Cavalier pilot Kurt Johnson scored a dramatic win today, capturing the Pro Stock title at the Lucas Oil NHRA Route 66 Nationals in Joliet, IL. This was Johnson's ...
Kurt Johnson scores dramatic win in Joliet, retakes POWERade points lead
ACDelco Cavalier pilot Kurt Johnson scored a dramatic win today, capturing the Pro Stock title at the Lucas Oil NHRA Route 66 Nationals in Joliet, IL. This was Johnson's fourth win of 2003, 27th of his career, and first at Route 66 Raceway. Today's performance also allowed Johnson to reclaim the POWERade points lead by just two points over Greg Anderson
"This was just a great day for the ACDelco team," stated an ecstatic Johnson. "Coming out of the fifteenth spot, we feel like we came back from the dead. I took all our notes from this year back to the hotel last night, and spent a few hours going over them to come up with a combination for today.
"Fortunately, Kevin (Horst), Joe (Cottle) and the entire crew did a fantastic job with our Cavalier, and we pulled together as a team to score a big win."
Only twenty-four hours earlier, a Johnson victory had seemed unlikely, as the team battled through qualifying to secure a position in Sunday's field, finally earning the fifteenth position with a 6.814-second, 202.24 mph pass.
However, facing good friend and former teammate Scott Geoffrion in the first round, KJ quickly returned to the impressive form he has shown throughout the 2003 season, combining an outstanding .012 second reaction time with a 6.791-second, 202.91 mph pass to earn the hole-shot win.
"I knew Scotty would be tough," explained Johnson. "When he ran that 6.76 yesterday afternoon, it put a little fire under me, because I knew I would have to run well. He's good on the tree, but I knew I had to get out on him. Fortunately, I drove well all weekend, and the .012 was what we needed to get the win."
However, the win was a costly one, as Johnson suffered engine damage, forcing the team to swap motors before the second round. Despite only having seventy-five minutes to complete the task, the ACDelco crew responded, getting to the line with time to spare. Johnson rewarded them for their effort with two strong runs to defeat defending event winner Bruce Allen and Greg Stanfield in the next two rounds to advance to his sixth championship round of the season, and first ever at Route 66 Raceway.
"We came here with an engine that we had never used in competition, and it threw us a bit of a curve, as evidenced by our performance in qualifying," stated Johnson. "We then swapped motors for the first round, and put a set-up in the car that we used to win in Budd's Creek (a non-points paying event in Maryland).
"We ran that 6.79 in the first round but hurt the engine, so we had to revert to the bullet we used in qualifying. It had only run a 6.81 on Saturday, but our ACDelco Cavalier came back on Sunday to run that 6.77 in the semis, so we obviously got the combination right today."
Standing between Johnson and the winner's circle was 2002 POWERade champion Jeg Coughlin Jr.. Although Coughlin was able to gain a slight advantage at the start, Johnson secured the win with yet another strong run, a 6.791-second, 203.40 mph blast.
"We had an outstanding race in the final. Jeggie was as tough as always on the tree, throwing that .009 reaction time out there, but I was able to get around him. Ironically, I did the same to Greg (Anderson) last week in Topeka, and was the runner-up," said Johnson. "It's certainly nice to be in the points leads, but it's too early in the season to make a big deal of it. Our competition never sleeps, and we never lift. There are only 24 hours in a day, and we try to work 25.
"Today was fun, but it was also an important win for the ACDelco crew. We not only won the race, but also learned a lot about fine-tuning our Cavalier for the conditions. I believe we should be in good shape for the rest of the year."
Pontiac Excitement Nationals