Las Vegas II: Kurt Johnson Saturday summary

Team ACDelco has Mixed Results on Saturday in Las Vegas The second day of qualifying for the ACDelco Las Vegas Nationals proved to an extremely challenging one for all the competitors. A series of on-track incidents delayed the activities by ...

Team ACDelco has Mixed Results on Saturday in Las Vegas

The second day of qualifying for the ACDelco Las Vegas Nationals proved to an extremely challenging one for all the competitors. A series of on-track incidents delayed the activities by several hours, sending crew chiefs scrambling to find the proper set-up for an ever-changing racing surface. At the end of the day, the three drivers that comprised Team ACDelco at this event combined to cover virtually every aspect of the competitive spectrum.

Kurt Johnson in the ACDelco/KISS Cavalier had the best outing of the three. On his third attempt on Saturday, Johnson rocketed down the quarter-mile in 6.886 seconds with a top speed of 199.88 mph to claim the third starting position.

"After running that 6.88 this morning, we actually expected to pick up on that last run, but we decided to do a little fishing," detailed Johnson. "We tried some carburetor technology we'd tested on the dyno, and made a decent run at 6.90, but honestly we were looking for a 6.87. We'll go back to our set-up from this morning for tomorrow and see what happens.

"Unfortunately, it's hard to be too happy considering the problems Dad had on his car. It brings everybody down on both teams. It just goes to show you how tough it is out there. His last run didn't look that bad, but it just didn't put the number up.

"It's now up to us to take care of business for the whole team. The cheering section of ACDelco employees and customers we had going by the stands last night was awesome, and got deep inside of me. To be able to win with everyone here from ACDelco and General Motors, as well as the guys from KISS, would be as big as doing it at the U.S. Nationals."

As K.J. alluded, his father, six-time Pro Stock champion Warren Johnson, did not fare as well. The elder Johnson, who was also carrying the ACDelco colors this weekend to highlight their sponsorship of this event, batted to find the proper combination to tame the tricky track at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Johnson's Grand Am showed improvement on every run. However, his best effort of 6.956 seconds with a top speed of 198.32 mph fell shy of earning a spot in Sunday's starting field.

"We never really established a baseline from which we could properly tune the car," said Johnson. "The last run was the only one we could have used for that purpose, and by that time, it was obviously too late. We needed that type of run on our first attempt.

"We just couldn't get the clutch, gear and tire combination right, which showed in our sixty-foot times. I think if there was a chuck wagon in the other lane, it would probably have out sixty-footed us this weekend. We really have no excuse, but we will spend the next two weeks making sure whatever is wrong with this ACDelco/GM Performance Parts Grand Am is fixed and we are ready for the last race in Pomona."

Harold Martin and the ACDelco Pro Mod Racing team came to Las Vegas looking for a successful NHRA debut. Throughout their first three attempts, they seemed on pace to do just that, with three consistent runs in the 6.3 second range. Entering the final qualifying session on Saturday evening, the crew knew they would need to step up in order to guarantee their participation on Sunday.

As he had throughout qualifying, Martin's Grand Am jumped off the starting line, posting the fourth quickest sixty-foot time of the session. However, it suddenly veered towards the right side wall, forcing Martin to make a series of corrections, which sent the car rocking on the rear tires, and eventually into a slow spin across the track. Just as it seemed Martin would be able to successfully bring his mount to a halt without damage across the middle of the track, it slid into the opposite-side wall, not only damaging his car, but ending his chances of racing on Sunday.

"The ACDelco Grand Am left the starting line on a pretty good pass," recalled Martin. "The first thing I recall was that it was drifting to the right and with the front end in the air, there was no way to maneuver it back left. I put it into second gear a little early with hopes of calming the car down and getting through it.

"Unfortunately, it shook the tires hard, which I hoped to drive through. Unfortunately, it darted across the race track almost instantaneously, which was a completely new job of trying to recover. I did everything I could to keep it from being very, very ugly, but I couldn't avoid just touching the wall and damaging a very good race car.

"Our car was on a mission. It was the third quickest to sixty feet, so we feel like it could have run a low to mid 6.20, which would have easily put us in the show. You're going to have these unavoidable situations where the driver walks a very line trying to get through something you might not be able to. In hindsight, I could have lifted, but I'm aggressive and here to win, so I hoped the front end would come down and I could steer it, and that just was not the case.

"It certainly could have been worse, because there was clearly the potential for a more serious, high-speed incident at the top end, where my competitor came over in my lane and had a serious crash.

"On the positive side, we clearly demonstrated our ability this weekend to run fast and be among the best in the world. The support we received not only from the great people at ACDelco, but also from everyone at the NHRA, has been excellent. I'm down right now because I really wanted to come here and win this race for ACDelco and end our season on a high note, but it has still been a great year for this entire ACDelco team."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Harold Martin