Las Vegas II: Kurt Johnson preview

Kurt Johnson is ready to wrap up a win in Las Vegas ACDelco Cavalier Racing team looks to hit the jackpot at their sponsor's race Sugar Hill, Ga., October 20, 2003 - For most racers, competing at an event bearing your sponsor's name is not an ...

Kurt Johnson is ready to wrap up a win in Las Vegas
ACDelco Cavalier Racing team looks to hit the jackpot at their sponsor's race

Sugar Hill, Ga., October 20, 2003 - For most racers, competing at an event bearing your sponsor's name is not an experience to look forward to. In addition to the extra commitments away from the race track, there is a perceived added pressure to perform in front the people primarily responsible for your racing efforts.

However, ACDelco Cavalier pilot Kurt Johnson is not your typical race car driver. As the son of six-time NHRA Pro Stock champion Warren Johnson, he has not only grown up in a racing environment, but has also been held to a higher standard than many of his contemporaries. As a result, he is able to maintain the proper perspective when approaching this weekend's ACDelco Las Vegas Nationals in Las Vegas, NV.

"Believe it or not, having ACDelco sponsor the race actually makes it more fun for me," said Johnson. "We're going to have well over 3,600 people coming out to the track, as well as Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley from KISS, and we want to make sure they're having a good time. We know all those eyes are going to be on us, but we're prepared for whatever comes our way."

Adding to the high profile nature of this event is the return of Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley of the legendary rock group KISS as the event's Grand Marshals, with Johnson's ACDelco Cavalier once again being transformed into the flagship for the KISS Army. This transformation was effected by means of a unique wrapping procedure, where Johnson's familiar red, white and blue look was covered with a thin layer of vinyl.

"Our ACDelco/KISS Cavalier is ready to take care of business," declared Johnson. "Sam Bass did a great job coming up with a cool design. Since we wrapped it, the car has come to life, looking like it wants to jump off the jack stands and race. This year's vinyl is a little thinner, so the weight is not really an issue. All it does is keep that electricity bottled up inside until we unleash it on the race track."

As the penultimate stop in the 2003 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is an important stop for virtually every competitor. With the season's championship still undecided in two of the four professional categories, every round will be crucial. For others, it is simply one of two remaining chances to score a national event win in 2003. For Johnson, the Nevada quarter-mile provides an opportunity to score an important victory. With a No. 1 qualifying performance and a runner-up finish at his last two races in the desert, he seems poised to accomplish his goal.

"The first few times we raced in Las Vegas, we didn't have the right set-up," stated Johnson. "The car wasn't quite right, we were on a different brand of tires, and everything was just a little bit off. Since then, we've adapted to the conditions. We've actually correlated the tune-up for Las Vegas to the one we run in Denver, simply backing off the set-up we use on the mountain."

"I am as excited about this race as I was for the U.S. Nationals, which "is traditionally the biggest race of the year. The key thing is to "make a good run right off the bat, so you're in a good position for "Friday night, which is normally the best session of qualifying. That "way, you can put yourself solidly in the show, and take the pressure "off for Saturday. Lane choice will be important for Sunday. Although "they try to keep the lanes as equal as they can, you definitely want "to be on the left side on race day. These second round losses we've "been suffering of late have gotten pretty annoying. The entire ACDelco "team is ready to get back to the final and win the race. Like that "credit card commercial says, if we can do it in Las Vegas, it would be "priceless."

Facts on Kurt Johnson and the ACDelco Racing Team entering the ACDelco Las Vegas Nationals:

KJ at Las Vegas:

This will be Kurt's seventh appearance at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where he has one final round appearance at the spring race this year. He also has one No. 1 qualifying performance in Las Vegas, which he accomplished at last year's ACDelco Las Vegas Nationals.

One year ago:

Kurt was the No. 1 qualifier with a time of 6.921 seconds and a top speed of 199.20 mph, and advanced to the quarterfinals.

Las Vegas Record Holder:

Kurt holds the top speed record at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway at 201.73 mph, which he recorded during this year's Summitracing.com Nationals.

KJ's Stellar Season Continues:

Kurt has several personal single-season marks in 2003. His eight final round appearances eclipse his previous best of seven, set in 1993 & 1997. He has also set a new single season mark for elimination round wins, which currently sits at 43, breaking his previous record of 41 set in 2000. Kurt could also reach his best single season win total of six, also set in 2000.

Winning percentage:

Kurt's .642 elimination round winning percentage (340-190) ranks 11th among all active NHRA professional drivers.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson