Joliet: Kurt Johnson preview

Kurt Johnson Pulls Double Driving Duties for Joliet Race Defending Route 66 Raceway Pro Stock winner gets behind wheel of ACDelco transporter Sugar Hill, Ga., May 19, 2004 - Kurt Johnson is acknowledged as one of the top drivers in the NHRA's...

Kurt Johnson Pulls Double Driving Duties for Joliet Race
Defending Route 66 Raceway Pro Stock winner gets behind wheel of ACDelco transporter

Sugar Hill, Ga., May 19, 2004 - Kurt Johnson is acknowledged as one of the top drivers in the NHRA's Pro Stock division. Since his rookie season in 1993, the second-generation wheelman has accumulated 28 national event wins, and has finished in the Top Ten in the championship standings every year. In 2003, he was a prime contender for the POWERade championship, finishing in the runner-up position for the second time in his career. The ACDelco Cavalier pilot has been equally proficient in 2004, scoring a popular win in Phoenix, and is again poised to challenge for the title.

However, Johnson will be calling on different driving skills as part of his pre-race preparations for this weekend's NHRA Route 66 Nationals. Late on Wednesday evening, he will get behind the wheel of the team's massive race transporter to help with the 12-hour drive from the team's shop in Sugar Hill, GA to Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, IL.

"Joe Cottle from our crew will be attending his daughter's graduation on Friday, so I'll be jumping in the truck with Kevin (Horst) and driving up to Chicago," said Johnson. "I guess you could say the real car guy will become a real truck guy for a day. It's been a while since I've driven the rig, and I'm looking forward to it. It might not have the acceleration of our ACDelco Cavalier, but it's still a challenge to drive. I'm sure by the time we pull into Route 66 Raceway, we'll have our strategy for the weekend all mapped out, and maybe have a few stories to tell."

One year ago, the Johnson crew experienced both ends of the competitive spectrum at Route 66 Raceway. Struggling to get a handle on the racetrack throughout qualifying, they squeaked into the field in the 15th position. On Sunday, however, the team came to life, powering through the field to score their fourth win of the 2003 season.

"Last year, 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," recalled Johnson. "Therefore, on Saturday night I took all our notes from the year back to the hotel, and spent a few hours going over them to come up with a combination.

"Fortunately, the entire crew did a fantastic job on Sunday with our ACDelco Cavalier, including changing engines between the first and second rounds, and we pulled together as a team to score a big win. Coming out of the fifteenth spot, it felt like we had come back from the dead."

The younger member of the Johnson racing family will arrive in Illinois with the unique distinction of being the only competitor looking to defend two titles, as the King Demon Crown returns to Route 66 Raceway. This annual all-star event pits the top eight qualifiers in Pro Stock from the past year against each other in a three-round shootout, with the winner earning $50,000. With three wins in his ten previous attempts, including last year's race in Englishtown, N.J., K.J. understandably looks forward to the 2004 edition.

"This weekend is like any other during the season, with two races in one, and we're going in as the defending champion in both," stated Johnson. "I really enjoy the non-points races like the King Demon Crown. There's no pressure, so I have fun with it, going in half-cocked, letting the clutch out and trying to get to the finish line first. The biggest priority going in is making sure you're qualified for the race on Friday night, so you can have fun on Saturday."

"I feel good about our chances in both events. We're excited by how well our ACDelco Cavalier is running in the first 330 feet, which is crucial to the run. It has been absolutely flawless. We went back to our basic combination, and it's making smooth runs, not even coming close to shaking the tires. We'll see if we can go up to Chicago, do some damage, win a lot of money and have a lot of fun."

KJ's Comments

On a memorable King Demon Crown moment at Route 66 Raceway:

"The last time we had the shootout at Route 66 Raceway was in 1999, and I raced Richie Stephens in the first round. We were running the ACDelco Camaro at the time, and I remember it stood up and went left at the start, feeling as if it had one tire over the wall. I was in the left lane, and when I brought it back in the groove I saw the back of Richie's car, and thought 'Man, I can catch him!', so I stuffed it in third and got him by a thousandth at the finish line. That was fun."


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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson