THE KURT CHRONICLES: COLUMBUS EDITION Kurt Johnson ACDelco News & Notes for the NHRA Pontiac Excitement Nationals June 10-13, Columbus, Ohio TV: ABC, June 20, 3:00-4:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific - check local listings. TRIALS AND ...
THE KURT CHRONICLES: COLUMBUS EDITION
Kurt Johnson ACDelco News & Notes for the NHRA Pontiac Excitement Nationals June 10-13, Columbus, Ohio TV: ABC, June 20, 3:00-4:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific - check local listings.
TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS
Kurt Johnson has experienced more ups and downs in the last six weeks than the Dow Jones average. He set the national elapsed time record in Richmond, Va., and then failed to qualify in Englishtown, N.J. He was back on top when he qualified No. 1 at the Fram Route 66 Nationals in Joliet, Ill. - and then he made an early exit in the first round of eliminations when his old nemesis, tire shake, returned with a vengeance.
WORKING ON A MYSTERY
Kurt rebounded in style from his surprising DNQ at the Mopar Parts Nationals to qualify in the top spot at Route 66 Raceway. K.J. won the Pro Stock "pole" for the second time this season with a track-record 6.955-second elapsed time. With his father (and current points leader) Warren Johnson in the No. 2 slot, the Route 66 Nationals was the sixth race this season in which the Johnson family has monopolized the top two qualifying positions.
"After I missed the cut in New Jersey, we made 17 test runs at Atlanta Dragway," Kurt reported. "We really didn't find one thing wrong with the car - it was just a matter of our combination not being compatible with the tracks."
On race day, Kurt again experienced severe tire shake in the first round of eliminations when his car made a hard right turn toward the centerline. K.J. muscled his machine back to the middle of the lane, but by then it was too late. He slowed four tenths of a second from his qualifying time while his opponent, No. 16 qualifier John Nobile, took the win light.
"It's got me baffled," Kurt admitted. "We made 21 flawless runs in testing and qualifying. Then when it counted in the first round of eliminations, we were flat on our back again."
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
Kurt and his ACDelco team remained at Route 66 Raceway after the race to continue their search for a solution to the tire shake problem.
"Obviously we're going to have to change our game plan again," Kurt said as he prepared for the Pontiac Excitement Nationals, which will be held in Columbus, Ohio, on June 10-13. "We changed it once, and it put us back on top in qualifying. There's no reason why we can't change it again and get back on top on race day as well.
"I qualified No. 1 in Columbus last year, so I know we can run quick there," he recalled. "The three tracks we race on in June - Route 66 Raceway, National Trail Raceway in Columbus, and Gateway International Raceway across the river from St. Louis - all require similar setups. If we have some cloud cover in Columbus, the racing surface will be good - but if it's hot and sunny, National Trail can be tricky.
"I've gone to the races in Columbus almost as long as I can remember," Kurt added. "When I was a kid, the race was called the Springnationals, and it was one of the 'Big Four' events of the year, along with the Winternationals, Summernationals, and the U.S. Nationals. I was runner-up to Dad in Columbus in my rookie season as a driver, but I'm not sentimental about going back there. Every race pays the same points, and you've got to do well in all of them if you want to win the championship."
THE COST OF EDUCATION
"I did learn one thing in Ohio last year: Save the speed for the race track," K.J. commented. "I got a ticket for going 64 in a 55 mph zone. The policeman let me pay the fine on the spot with a credit card. How's that for convenience!"
Kurt is hoping that the only citation he receives this year in Columbus is for winning the Pontiac Excitement Nationals.
KURT JOHNSON PONTIAC EXCITEMENT NATIONALS RESULTS Year Qualified Result 1993 2 Runner-up (to Warren Johnson) 1994 14 First Round 1995 4 Second Round 1996 6 Second Round 1997 2 Second Round 1998 1 First Round
LAST RACE: Fram Route 66 Nationals, June 6, Joliet, Ill. Qualifying: Kurt Johnson qualified No. 1 at 6.955/197.94 mph.
Eliminations: First Round: John Nobile (7.089/195.39) defeated Kurt Johnson (7.427/191.10)
Final Round: Warren Johnson (6.987/198.06) defeated Troy Coughlin (7.110/196.19) Low ET: Kurt Johnson, 6.955 seconds (track record) Top Speed: Warren Johnson, 198.70 mph (track record)
POINTS RACE: (After 9 of 22 events) Driver Wins Points 1. Warren Johnson 4 760 2. Kurt Johnson 2 661 3. Richie Stevens 1 517 4. Jim Yates 0 500 5. Troy Coughlin 0 464