Johnson heads for the hills. Kurt Johnson was an eyewitness to history last year at the NHRA Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway. When he trailed Warren Johnson across the finish line in the final round, he saw his father become the most...
Johnson heads for the hills.
Kurt Johnson was an eyewitness to history last year at the NHRA Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway. When he trailed Warren Johnson across the finish line in the final round, he saw his father become the most prolific Pro Stock driver in NHRA history with his record-setting 86th career victory. Although disappointed by the loss, Kurt found consolation in his second straight (and fourth overall) final-round appearance in nine starts at the high-altitude track.
"A win and a runner-up at Denver in the last two years -- I'd be happy to duplicate either one of those," said Johnson as he prepared his ACDelco Cavalier for the three-race Western Swing.
Johnson is confident that two weeks of diligent work will reverse his flagging fortunes in the NHRA POWERade championship. A transmission failure at the preceding race in Madison, Ill., led to his fourth DNQ of the season.
"We took every used transmission gear out of the trailer and put in all new parts," Kurt reported. "We've been wearing out the dynamometer and freshening up all of our engines. I think we've finally exterminated all of the gremlins that have been biting us."
While some racers struggle in the thin air of the Front Range, Johnson has been consistently quick at the Mile-High Nationals.
"The key is to apply every bit of power you have to the race track," he observed. "You can still overpower the track, so it's a matter of managing the engine and the chassis. You need a perfect combination up there.
"Dad tested for three days in Denver, and his runs confirmed the changes we planned to make for the race. We have good notes on gear ratios, carburetor jets and ignition timing, so I'm cautiously optimistic that we can be fast right off the trailer.
"We have to be on top of our game on Friday night because that session is going to be crucial to qualifying," Kurt cautioned. "We see a huge change in conditions between the afternoon and evening sessions at Denver. If you miss on Friday night, your only hope to get in the show is to make a 'Hail Mary' run on Saturday morning."
Kurt and his ACDelco team will journey from the Rocky Mountains to the lush forests of Seattle for the Lucas Oil Northwest NHRA Nationals on July 26-28. The recently renamed Pacific Raceways in Kent, Wash., retains the ferocious starting line and rich oxygen-laden air that make the track one of the fastest quarter-miles on the circuit.
Johnson scored his first national event victory in Seattle in his rookie season in 1993. He defeated his father for the first time with a holeshot in the semifinal round, and then beat Mark Pawuk in the money round. He won again in Seattle in 1999 when he defeated Jim Yates in the final, and he posted runner-up finishes in 1996 (to Mike Edwards) and in 1998 (to W.J.)
"I'll never forget that first win in Seattle in 1993, and I'd really like to get back in the winner's circle there," Johnson declared. "It's a very fast race track, but it's also rough. The key to winning there is to make smooth runs.
"I had the quickest e.t. in the first qualifying session in Seattle last year, and I've still got my notes on how we set up the car," he noted. "We need a good performance there to get this program back on the right track."