Chevy Doubles at Phoenix With Pro Stock, Funny Car Victories Kurt Johnson Wins in All-GM Pro Stock Duel, Tony Pedregon Sets National Record En Route to Funny Car Crown PHOENIX, February 25, 2007 - It was "An American Revolution" in the desert...
Chevy Doubles at Phoenix With Pro Stock, Funny Car Victories
Kurt Johnson Wins in All-GM Pro Stock Duel, Tony Pedregon Sets National Record En Route to Funny Car Crown
PHOENIX, February 25, 2007 - It was "An American Revolution" in the desert as Chevy drivers Kurt Johnson in the ACDelco Chevy Cobalt Pro Stock car and Tony Pedregon in the Q Racing Chevy Monte Carlo Funny Car posted wins at the 23rd annual Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals at Firebird International Raceway in Chandler. Johnson matched the Pro Stock win in this event last year by his father Warren with a holeshot win over Pontiac driver Jason Line in an all-GM Pro Stock final round. Pedregon came into today's eliminations qualified second and defeated No. 1 qualifier Robert Hight in the Funny Car final. The 2003 NHRA POWERade Funny Car champ also set a national elapsed-time record of 4.659 seconds after backing-up his qualifying run within 1% as required by NHRA rules.
Johnson, a winner of this event in both 1999 and 2004, entered today's eliminations qualified seventh and defeated fellow Chevy driver Jeg Coughlin in Round 1, No. 2 qualifier Richie Stevens in Round 2, and then Erica Enders in the semifinals to reach his 66th career final round. In the final round Johnson's ACDelco Chevy had an elapsed time of 6.694 seconds at 206.67 mph to Line's quicker but losing 6.676 e.t. at 207.85 mph in the Summit Racing Pontiac GTO. Johnson had a .016-second reaction time to Line's .051.
"Great day in the desert!" said Johnson. "We were kind of disappointed on Friday night when we were 18th. We made a little bit of power over the winter, and felt we were doing decent after making some good runs (testing) at Valdosta (Ga.), and then we go to Pomona (Calif.) and we both lose first round. It's a team deal and I look at both cars. That's not supposed to happen after a lot of hard work and a lot of sponsors putting there money on us, and nothing was going on.
"Last year I goofed around for four races and finally decided to change everything, and we won at Las Vegas. Friday night I said, 'Alright, let me change everything back' because I had a lot of stuff on the car that was different. I actually put the car back to the way I ran it in Reading (Pa.) last year before we went in the dirt. Came out Saturday and ran 6.67 and 6.65, and everything was going good, and then it was just up to me to drive the thing."
Johnson's 36th career win was the 26th win for him behind the wheel of a Chevy, tying him with the legendary Lee Shepherd for most Pro Stock wins in a Chevy. The win also extended his NHRA streak of winning at least one race per season to 13, longest active streak in the class.
Line was the No. 1 qualifier with a then track-record elapsed time of 6.635 seconds, and he lowered that record to 6.634 seconds in defeating Max Naylor in the first round. He went on to defeat Dave Connolly in Round 2 and Jim Yates by a scant .006 seconds in Round 3 to reach the 25th final round of his young career. Although it's early in the season, the 2006 NHRA POWERade Pro Stock champ leaves Phoenix with one-point lead over his teammate Greg Anderson.
"All in all it was a good day for our team, for the most part," said Line. "Hey, we went to the final round so how bad can it be. The car and the engine are running great, and we still have new crew guys we're working on and we're getting better. I think we have bright days ahead of us for sure. Two races, two No. 1 qualifiers and two final rounds for the KB Racing team, so we've got nothing to hang our heads about."
Anderson, winner in his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO in the season-opener at Pomona two weeks ago, ran a track-record and career-best 209.49 mph in qualifying fourth, but a broken oil line prevented him from even making a pass in losing to Jim Yates in the second round.
"We just broke an oil line there in the second round," said Anderson. "but it's definitely a good start to the season for our team. If you want to stand back and look at things down the road, try and look into a crystal ball, I think we've got a great package right now which should only get better. It's already great. We just kind of made some minor errors this weekend and didn't win the race, but the total package is just unbelievable. What we've got at our fingertips here between the cars and the engines we have under the hoods, it's the best we've ever had. If you want to look at it that way, our future's looking pretty doggone bright. I couldn't be happier."
Two-time NHRA POWERade Pro Stock champ Yates advanced to the semifinal in his Wiley X/Sea Ray Pontiac GTO before losing to Line by a narrow .006 seconds.
"It's nice to go rounds and reach the semifinals," said Yates, "and it's nice to get back into the top 10 in points where we feel we belong and where we finished last year, but it's more than that. Bill (engine builder Jenkins) has worked on the engine program all winter and has come up with a lot of nice combinations to try. Unfortunately, testing them anywhere other than a national event is pretty much a waste of time. We ran a different motor on Saturday, decided to stick with it today, and Bill was working on other parts to go with that combination, and this GTO responded pretty well. There's a lot of ways we could have made up .006 seconds in that last round, but we'll take all that we've learned from these first two races and take it to the next 21, and we'll be a better team for it. I don't think I've ever felt that we've had any better potential in the last five years than we do right now."
In Funny Car, Pedregon drove the Q Racing Chevy Monte Carlo to his 58th career final round after defeating Scott Kalitta in Round 1, Jim Head in Round 2 and fellow Chevy driver Gary Densham in the semifinals. In the final he ran a 4.803 e.t. at 326.32 mph to Hight's tire-smoking 9.723 e.t. at 84.75 mph.
Tommy Johnson Jr. in his new Skoal Racing Impala SS set top speed of the meet at a track-record 330.88 mph.
"We were excited to come here because we tested here and we made close to 20 runs," said Pedregon. "We just felt a lot better coming into this season. We didn't have a new tire we were trying to become accustomed to running like last year, so we had a pretty good combination. There were a couple of things we did over the winter that we felt we needed to increase our performance a little bit, so we had to do some things mechanically. When cars are running 4.66 on a more frequent basis, you really have to re-evaluate what you are doing. It's really tough to change things, but that's why we made so many runs testing. We came here to test three days and we wound up staying seven days, so that was a big benefit for us.
"The conditions were there. Another luxury is just getting down the track on the first session because once you do that, you've got a little room to see what the car will really under good conditions. I think that first run for us really set the stage for us to make that good run on Friday night."
"It's such a tough deal," said Densham. "We've got such quality numbers of nitro Funny Cars that even to qualify makes you proud of that to be part of this. There are a lot of guys out there with huge budgets and multi-car teams, and we're just out here trying to pick away at it. I think what I'm most proud about is my crew. To allow me to do a pedal deal like in the first round and not have it blow up, they just do such a great job. Would we have liked to win? Yea, you want to win every single, solitary race, but with this type of season and this type of competition, every round win you've got to feel good about, and every time you qualify you've got to feel good about it. If we can just keep getting better then hopefully they'll still have a couple more of those winner's circle photos for us."
In the Sportsman classes, Brad Plourd from Maple Valley, Wash., drove a '91 Calais to the Super Stock title, and Matt Constant from Stockton, Calif., won Super Gas in an '02 S-10.
The next stop on the 23-race NHRA POWERade circuit is the 38th annual ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway in Gainesville, Fla., on March 15-18.
-credit: gm racing