THE KURT CHRONICLES: O'REILLY NATIONALS EDITION Kurt Johnson ACDelco News & Notes for the NHRA O'Reilly Nationals, April 8-11, Houston, Texas TV: TNN, April 18, 12:00-1:30 p.m. Eastern - check local ...
THE KURT CHRONICLES: O'REILLY NATIONALS EDITION Kurt Johnson ACDelco News & Notes for the NHRA O'Reilly Nationals, April 8-11, Houston, Texas TV: TNN, April 18, 12:00-1:30 p.m. Eastern - check local listings.
KURT PADS POINTS LEAD WITH RUNNER-UP FINISH IN FLORIDA
With a win, a runner-up, and a semi-final finish in the first three races of the 1999 season, Kurt Johnson stands squarely at the head of the Pro Stock class. By advancing to the final round of the Mac Tools Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla., Kurt increased his lead in the Winston championship race to 35 points over his closest pursuer, Troy Coughlin.
"We gained some points," said Kurt after losing to his father, four-time champion Warren Johnson, in the final round. "That's why we came here."
Johnson's runner-up finish was his best result in seven career appearances at the Gatornationals. He topped 200 mph twice during eliminations, running a personal-best speed of 200.17 mph.
"I'm not disappointed with a runner-up," Kurt asserted. "We're going to keep striding forward."
SURVIVAL OF THE FASTEST
Although Gainesville Raceway is regarded as one of the fastest tracks on the circuit, traction proved elusive for many Pro Stock teams at this year's Gatornationals. Kurt's first qualifying run nearly ended in disaster when his car made a violent move across the centerline. His final trip down the Gainesville quarter-mile produced a similar result, forcing him to shut off in the final race with his father.
"The car hooked left and got out into the marbles," Kurt explained. "I wasn't expecting that because the car had been going straight. It made a move in low gear, I corrected and got it back - but with one wheel out of the groove, it started sashaying. I had a flashback of Allen Johnson crashing in that lane. I stayed with it a while longer, but finally Dad just took off."
Kurt struggled in his first three qualifying attempts at the Gatornationals, languishing in the 11th spot after the third session. A radical suspension adjustment before the final qualifying run vaulted Kurt to the No. 2 spot behind his father.
The Gatornationals was the third straight race that the Johnson family claimed the top two spots. Father and son had identical 6.906-second qualifying times, but Warren was awarded the No. 1 spot based on his faster speed. "I guess it's better to keep the old man happy," Kurt observed philosophically.
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
Kurt had the advantage of lane choice going into the final round contest with his father. "If I've taught him anything at all, he'll put me in the bad lane," Warren said with a smile before the last race of the day.
K.J. concentrated on his own chassis setup before the final round. "We moved some weight in the chassis and changed the transmission gear ratios to try to calm down the car," he reported. "When the wind hit the car in high gear, it was like flying a glider. The car was skating around, so we needed to put some more weight on the rear wheels - or run on an eighth-mile race track!"
Kurt was bitterly disappointed at his loss to his father. The last time K.J. came out on top in a final-round contest with Warren was the 1993 Chief Nationals in Dallas.
"The track changed before the final," he noted. "My car hooked up and went left. I ran 1.022 seconds in the first 60-feet, my best 60-foot time of the weekend. It could have been on a record run - but when the car doesn't go straight, it's not going to set any records.
"This track threw us a curve," Kurt conceded, "but we survived. I'm looking forward to racing in Houston. The track is fast and consistent, and we were flying when we tested there in January."
* Happy Birthday, K.J. Kurt Johnson celebrated his 36th birthday on March 23, two days after the Gatornationals. His parents, Warren and Arlene, celebrated their 37th anniversary on the following day, March 24.
* Speeding Tickets: Kurt logged a pair of 200 mph runs during eliminations at the Gatornationals, bringing his career total to five 200 mph passes. He ran 200.08 mph in the opening stanza against Hurley Blakeney, and then notched a new personal-best 200.17 mph in his victory over Troy Coughlin. The Johnsons have now run 39 of the 41 200 mph Pro Stock runs in NHRA history.
KURT JOHNSON'S HOUSTON RACEWAY PARK RESULTS
Year Qualified Result 1993 3 First Round 1994 4 Semi Final 1995 5 Second Round 1996 4 Second Round 1997 Spring 3 Semi Final 1997 Fall 11 First Round 1998 Spring 9 First Round 1998 Fall 1 Second Round
LAST RACE: Mac Tools Gatornationals, March 21, Gainesville, Fla. Qualifying: Kurt Johnson qualified No. 2 at 6.906/199.43 mph Eliminations: Round 1: Kurt Johnson (6.896/200.08) defeated Hurley Blakeney (10.978/124.63) Round 2: Kurt Johnson (6.907/199.76) defeated Larry Morgan (6.985/198.61) Semi-Final: Kurt Johnson (6.882/200.17) defeated Troy Coughlin (6.954/199.37) Final Round: Warren Johnson (6.971/199.37) defeated Kurt Johnson (7.250/167.07)
Low ET: Warren Johnson, 6.866 seconds (national record) Top Speed: Warren Johnson, 201.37 mph (national record)
POINTS RACE: (After 3 of 22 events) Driver Wins Points 1. Kurt Johnson 1 291 2. Troy Coughlin 0 256 3. Warren Johnson 1 254 4. Jeg Coughlin, Jr. 1 242 5. Jim Yates 0 180
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E-mail from: Rick Voegelin, 29-Mar-1999