Reading, Pa. - Five years ago, Pro Stock driver Kurt Johnson made his first visit to the Maple Grove Raceway winner's circle as a raw rookie. On Sunday afternoon, Kurt returned to the picturesque track in the hills of eastern Pennsylvania as a ...
Reading, Pa. - Five years ago, Pro Stock driver Kurt Johnson made his first visit to the Maple Grove Raceway winner's circle as a raw rookie. On Sunday afternoon, Kurt returned to the picturesque track in the hills of eastern Pennsylvania as a polished professional and won the Pioneer Electronics Keystone Nationals for the second time. Johnson's second victory of the season in his ACDelco Camaro propelled him to the No. 2 spot in the championship standings, 347 points behind his father Warren and 39 points ahead of third-ranked Jeg Coughlin, Jr.
"It was quite a day," said Kurt after defeating Mike Edwards in the final, 6.984/196.63 to 7.034/195.86. "It was one good team versus another good team. It's never easy. Every race is a battle, every run is a final round."
Johnson relied on quick reflexes and prodigious horsepower to win four tough rounds of racing and post his 12th career victory. He drove away from Robert Patrick in the first round and defeated Troy Coughlin on a holeshot in the second round with a .023-second reaction time advantage. Kurt outran Troy's brother, Jeg, in the semi-final, and then chased down Edwards in the final, avenging his second-round loss to Edwards two weeks ago at the U.S. Nationals.
"The pressure was on in the third round against Jeg because we were tied for second place in the championship," Kurt recalled. "The pressure kept building because we had to face Mike Edwards in the final. He had just won the U.S. Nationals, and when the luck's going his way, he's hard to stop.
"I went to see Dad before the final round to get some tips from him," K.J. reported. "He's got a wealth of experience and knowledge, so why not take advantage of it? We sat down with my crew chief Jeff Perley, and we came up with a decision on what to do."
Ironically, Kurt's early exit two weeks ago at the U.S. Nationals may have been the catalyst for his Keystone victory. "The problem we had in Indy was that the car was just spinning the tires," he explained. "We tested for two days at Atlanta Dragway and finally got some bite in the car. The testing made a big difference. We came here and the car ran very consistently."
Warren and Kurt qualified first and second respectively for the second straight race. W.J. put his GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac in the top spot at 6.940/198.36 mph, earning his 99th career "pole" and setting track records for elapsed time and top speed. Kurt qualified No. 2, just .01 seconds off his father's record-setting pace at 6.950/197.67 mph. A broken clutch sidelined the elder Johnson in the semi-final round, but did little damage to his bid for a fourth Pro Stock championship.
Warren and Kurt are now in position to post their second 1-2 finish in the championship standings, a feat they first accomplished in 1993. "In the big picture, everything is looking pretty good," Warren noted.
The "Johnson Juggernaut" will be ready to roll again at the Parts America Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka on October 2-4 - a track where W.J. has scored four victories in the last six years.
KURT JOHNSON ACDELCO RACE SUMMARY
QUALIFYING: Kurt Johnson qualified No. 2 at 6.950/197.67 mph ELIMINATIONS: Round 1: Kurt Johnson (6.971/197.19) defeated Robert Patrick (7.033/195.48) Round 2: Kurt Johnson (7.026/196.37) defeated Troy Coughlin (7.006/195.52) Semi-Final: Kurt Johnson (6.970/196.97) defeated Jeg Coughlin (7.032/197.02) Final Round: Kurt Johnson (6.984/196.63) defeated Mike Edwards (7.034/195.86)
LOW ET: Warren Johnson, 6.940 seconds (track record) TOP SPEED: Warren Johnson, 198.36 mph (track record)
PRO STOCK STANDINGS (after 17 of 22 events; victories in parentheses): 1. Warren Johnson (6) 1469 2. Kurt Johnson (2) 1122 -347 3. Jeg Coughlin (3) 1083 -386 4. Jim Yates (1) 1013 -456 5. Mark Osborne (1) 869 -600
NEXT EVENT: Oct. 1-4, NHRA Parts America Nationals, Topeka, Kan. (TV: TNN, Oct. 4, 6:00-8:00 p.m. Eastern - check local listings)