Kurt Johnson ACDelco News & Notes for the Prolong Northwest Nationals and Autolite Nationals NEXT RACES: Prolong Super Lubricants Northwest Nationals, July 30-August 1, Seattle, Wash. TV: ESPN2, Aug. 1, 8:00-9:00 p.m. EDT - check local ...
Kurt Johnson ACDelco News & Notes for the Prolong Northwest Nationals and Autolite Nationals
NEXT RACES: Prolong Super Lubricants Northwest Nationals, July 30-August 1, Seattle, Wash. TV: ESPN2, Aug. 1, 8:00-9:00 p.m. EDT - check local listings. Autolite Nationals, August 6-8, Sonoma, Calif. TV: ESPN2, Aug. 8, 8:00-9:00 p.m. EDT - check local listings.
K.J. RETURNS TO SITE OF FIRST WIN IN SEATTLE
You never forget your first kiss, your first car, or your first national event victory. Kurt Johnson will return to the scene of his memorable first win when the NHRA circuit goes to Seattle International Raceway for the Prolong Super Lubricants Northwest Nationals on July 30-August 1. With three final-round appearances in six starts at SIR, K.J. can hardly wait to get back to the Emerald City. "We're running engines on the dyno right now, trying to find some more power for the second half of the season," said Kurt as he made final preparations for the second race of the three-race Western Swing. "We're aiming to get back on top after going to the semi-final round in Denver. "The first 400 feet of the Seattle track is so good that you don't have to worry about problems with tire shake," K.J. commented. "When you drive up to the starting line and let out the clutch, you know the car is going to go down the track. That makes a driver feel comfortable." Kurt scored his first NHRA national event victory at SIR in August 1993 in only his 12th race. He had already notched three runner-up finishes in his short six-month career as a professional racer, losing to his father Warren in all three of his previous final-round appearances. But in Seattle, Kurt beat the "Old Man" on a holeshot in the semi-final round and then defeated Mark Pawuk to claim the first of his 14 career victories. Kurt has advanced to the final round three times in the last six races at SIR. After going all the way in 1993, he lost to Mike Edwards in the 1996 final and to his father in 1998. "I've always enjoyed racing in Seattle because the trees and the track remind me of when I was growing up in Minnesota," Kurt confided. K.J. finally broke out of a slump that had left him without a round win for 2 1/2 months when he advanced to the semi-final round of the Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals in Denver on July 18. Miraculously, Kurt maintained his No. 2 ranking in the Pro Stock standings throughout his long dry spell. "We started the season really well with two wins, a runner-up, and three semi-finals in the first six races - and then we stumbled," said Johnson. "No one except Dad has been performing consistently this year, which shows just how tough the Pro Stock category is. I'm just glad we made it through that period. Now it's time to get our act together and start winning races again. "Starting the second half of the season with a semi-final finish isn't bad," Kurt declared. "It looks like we're back to where we began the year. The car was fast in the first 330 feet in Denver, but seemed to fall off after that. I use Dad's performance as our yardstick, and we were a little slower than he was. I have the same power, and we should be running at least as fast as he does. With everything we've learned about chassis and shock absorbers over the last two months, I think we can be less aggressive on the setup and still have a quick race car." Evergreens will be replaced by grape vines when the NHRA tour travels south to Sears Point International Raceway near the shore of San Francisco Bay for the Autolite Nationals on August 6-8. In contrast to his success in Seattle, Kurt's record at the Sonoma track is dismal. In six years, he's yet to see a single final round. "I qualified No. 1 at Sears Point in 1995 and 1996, but all I have to show for results is a couple of semi-final finishes," Kurt recalled. "Sears Point is the toughest track on the circuit for me. Usually by Sunday afternoon, the surface is hot and slick. If I'm going to do better this year, we'll have to get the car hooked up to the race track and be very conservative on race day. Our goal is to get from the starting line to the finish line - and we're not going to try to set any records! "I figure we can't go back there and do poorly every year. This could finally be the year our luck changes."
K.J. NORTHWEST NATIONALS RESULTS Year Qualified Result 1993 4 Winner (over W. Johnson) 1994 7 Second Round 1995 5 Semi-Final 1996 6 Runner-up (to Edwards) 1997 1 Semi-Final 1998 3 Runner-up (to W. Johnson)
K.J AUTOLITE NATIONALS RESULTS Year Qualified Result 1993 8 First Round 1994 5 Semi-Final 1995 1 Semi-Final 1996 1 Second Round 1997 5 Second Round 1998 3 First Round
LAST RACE: Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals, Denver, July 16-18 Qualifying: Kurt Johnson qualified No. 3 at 7.355/187.18 mph. Eliminations: First Round: Kurt Johnson defeated Richie Stevens Second Round: Kurt Johnson defeated Jim Yates Semi-Final: Jeg Coughlin, Jr. defeated Kurt Johnson Final Round: Jeg Coughlin, Jr. defeated Troy Coughlin Low ET: Jeg Coughlin, Jr., 7.267 seconds (track record) Top Speed: Warren Johnson, 189.50 mph (track record)