Kurt heads west to Seattle in pursuit of points

On the eve of the three-race "Western Swing," Kurt Johnson is hoping that history repeats itself. Last year he was a winner in Seattle, a runner-up in Sonoma, and a semi-finalist in Denver. Johnson tallied 291 championship points during the ...

On the eve of the three-race "Western Swing," Kurt Johnson is hoping that history repeats itself. Last year he was a winner in Seattle, a runner-up in Sonoma, and a semi-finalist in Denver. Johnson tallied 291 championship points during the month-long trek - the highest total posted by a Pro Stock driver.

"Last year we got more points than anyone and I'm going to try to duplicate that performance," said Johnson. "Maybe it just takes me half a year to get going."

This would be an opportune time for Kurt to step up. He is sixth in the points standings and hasn't been to a final round in 11 starts this season.

"My Camaro has been working better since we went to a stiffer chassis," Kurt noted. "We've also found some horsepower on the dyno. I think we can get back in the game.

"I made more than 90 dyno runs since our last race in St. Louis," he reported, "We have definitely picked up some power. Now it's a matter of taking advantage of what we've found on the dyno and applying it to the race track.

"It's a full-time job to keep all of our race engines fresh, and we simply didn't have time for R&D until the break after the Craftsman Nationals," Johnson explained. "Now with a more consistent chassis setup and more power under the hood, I think we can get back to the head of the pack."

Kurt knows that the opposition has also raised its game, however. "Everyone has been talking about Jeg Coughlin's yellow car that is leading the points race, but it's Ron Krisher's black car that is really running fast," Kurt observed. "Krisher is the one to catch right now, and I feel confident that we can gain on him."

INTO THIN AIR

The Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway near Denver on July 14-16 will present a special challenge to Pro Stock teams. The rare air at altitude exacts a heavy toll on their naturally aspirated engines, leaving the powerful motors gasping for oxygen. Racing a mile above sea level also affects the drivers.

"Maybe my brain works better in thin air," Johnson joked. "Whatever the reason, I've done well over the years at the Mile-High Nationals."

Johnson raced Jim Yates in two final rounds at Bandimere Speedway; he beat him in 1995 and lost to him in 1997. Kurt was also the crew chief for Don Beverley when he defeated his teammate Warren Johnson in the final round at Bandimere in 1992.

"When you race in Denver, everything slows down inside the car," Kurt commented. "You have more time to think and you can drive more consistently. It's like watching the race in slow motion."

RELENTLESS IN SEATTLE

One year ago Kurt decisively broke an eight-race losing streak by scoring his 15th career victory in the Prolong Super Lubricants Northwest Nationals at Seattle International Raceway. That was the last time that K.J. celebrated in the NHRA winner's circle. With a 20-race victory drought, he's more than ready to return to SIR for the Northwest Nationals on July 28-30.

Kurt was relentless last year in Seattle. His ACDelco Camaro ran the quickest elapsed time of the event, set the track elapsed time record at 6.876 seconds, and topped 200 mph six times - twice in qualifying and in all four rounds of eliminations. Kurt's final-round victory over Jim Yates, 6.923 to 6.962, denied Yates the $50,000 Winston "No Bull" bonus.

"Seattle's starting line is phenomenal," said Johnson, "I don't know why it's so good - maybe there is something about the tree pollen in Washington that makes the track sticky. Whatever the reason, it's probably the best concrete we'll see all season.

"The back half of Seattle is a bumpy ride," Kurt added. "That could be an advantage for me because my new double-rail chassis seems to ride over bumps really well. The stiff frame works the shock absorbers. We have worked hard on our shock absorber program and understand what it takes to make a drag racing shock work properly.

LAST RACES: Pontiac Excitement Nationals, June 18, Columbus, Ohio Qualified: No. 7 at 6.981/196.85 Finished: Lost to Ron Krisher in second round.

Sears Craftsman Nationals, June 24, Madison, Ill. Qualified: No. 2 at 6.952/197.48 Finished: Lost to Warren Johnson in second round.

POINTS RACE: (After 11 of 23 events) Driver Wins Points 1. Jeg Coughlin Jr. 6 973 2. Ron Krisher 2 763 3. Warren Johnson 1 726 4. Mark Pawuk 1 634 5. Troy Coughlin 0 614 6. Kurt Johnson 0 583

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Troy Coughlin , Mark Pawuk , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Ron Krisher