A comprehensive tour of historic sites in the Northeast would have to include Plymouth Rock, the Liberty Bell, and, of course, Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J. That's where Kurt Johnson made drag racing history on May 20,...
A comprehensive tour of historic sites in the Northeast would have to include Plymouth Rock, the Liberty Bell, and, of course, Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J. That's where Kurt Johnson made drag racing history on May 20, 1994, when he recorded the first six-second NHRA Pro Stock pass.
Six years later, Kurt and his ACDelco Camaro will return to Englishtown on May 19-21 for the Matco Tools Spring SuperNationals. Kurt has fond memories of the E-town quarter-mile where he set the national elapsed time record at 6.988 seconds, won the Pro Stock Challenge bonus event, and pocketed $91,000 in winnings in a single weekend.
"That was quite a payday," Kurt recalled, "but with this year's purse for the Holley Dominator Duel and the bonuses that are available, there is $140,000 on the table. Winning that money is definitely on our list of things to do in New Jersey."
The Holley Dominator Duel, a special "race within a race" that will match the eight Pro Stock drivers with the best qualifying records over the last year, will be contested on Saturday. Kurt is the No. 3 seed in the elite field. The fact that the first two rounds of the Duel also count as qualifying runs for Sunday's final eliminations adds to the complexity of the event.
"You really want to qualify on Friday so that you can set up the car in race mode on Saturday," Kurt explained. "You need a car that's fast and consistent if you want to win the big bucks."
Along with the warm and fuzzy memories of 1994, Kurt also recalls the bitter disappointment of not qualifying at last year's event in Englishtown.
"We may run the same car that didn't qualify last year," Kurt said. "It's been reworked from bumper to bumper since then, so there's not much left of the original chassis. There's nothing better than new tubing to change things around!
"We'll test the 'new' old car in different conditions before we decide whether to race it in Englishtown," he commented. "We'll test it in the heat of the day at Atlanta Dragway, and then run in cool nighttime conditions at a Pro Stock race in Maryland on the way to Englishtown.
"After the Southern Nationals in Atlanta, we made 18 runs testing different four-link setups. The result was that we improved the elapsed time at half-track by eight hundredths of a second. I certainly could have used that on race day!
"From what we've learned lately working with the suspension and clutch, I think the car should get up on the rear tires and go down the track without shaking," Johnson predicted. "At least I hope it does."
KURT SETS SPEED RECORD - NOT!
Kurt was credited with the two fastest speeds in Pro Stock history at the Advance Auto Parts Southern Nationals in Atlanta. His ACDelco Camaro was clocked at 203.68 mph and 202.88 mph on successive qualifying runs - marks that surpassed the 202.36 mph national speed record set by his father Warren last October.
Although Kurt apparently backed up the 203.68 mph run within one percent to establish a national record as required by the NHRA rulebook, officials subsequently ruled that the speeds were erroneous. Johnson himself was skeptical of the reported times, which seemed simply too good to be true, given the conditions that prevailed at Atlanta Dragway.
"I think the front tires must have tripped the timers that measure top speed, and the front bodywork stopped them. That would shorten the speed trap about 45 inches and account for the fast speeds.
"On Saturday morning I ran side-by-side with Dad. We were dead even at the finish line, but I got a 202 mph time slip while he got a 199 mph speed. I could read the handwriting on the wall.
"There are no points or bonuses for setting a speed record, so it wasn't a big deal to lose the record. It's probably a good thing for the Pro Stock class that the 203 mph run was disallowed because no one would have touched that speed for years!"
The Spring SuperNationals kicks off a string of three national events in three grueling weeks. The NHRA tour will travel to the Texas Motorplex near Dallas for the Castrol on Memorial Day weekend, and then finish up at the Prestone Route 66 Nationals in Chicago.
"We have three good engines in the transporter, so we're ready for the long haul," Kurt reported. "Three races in a row is hard on the crew, but if we do well in Englishtown, my guys won't be able to wait to get to the next race - and neither will I!" <pre> LAST RACES: Moto1.net NHRA Nationals presented by Chevrolet, April 30, Richmond, Va. Qualified: No. 2 at 6.839/200.80 mph Finished: Lost to Jeg Coughlin Jr. in semi-final round.
Advance Auto Parts NHRA Southern Nationals, May 7, Atlanta Qualified: No. 2 at 6.922/203.68 mph. Finished: Lost to Troy Coughlin in second round.
POINTS RACE: (After 7 of 23 events) Driver Wins Points 1. Jeg Coughlin Jr. 6 755 2. Warren Johnson 1 466 3. Jim Yates 0 427 4. Mark Pawuk 0 380 5. Troy Coughlin 0 377 8. Kurt Johnson 0 361