Kurt Johnson Drives to a Big Win in Phoenix ACDelco Cobalt crew reaches winner's circle in NHRA season's second race Sugar Hill , Ga., February 25, 2007 -- Kurt Johnson and the ACDelco Cobalt Racing team scored an important victory on Sunday,...
Kurt Johnson Drives to a Big Win in Phoenix
ACDelco Cobalt crew reaches winner's circle in NHRA season's second race
Sugar Hill , Ga., February 25, 2007 -- Kurt Johnson and the ACDelco Cobalt Racing team scored an important victory on Sunday, battling their way to the winner's circle at the Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals in Phoenix, AZ. After qualifying seventh, Johnson combined a very consistent race car with some tremendous driving to score early round wins over Jeg Coughlin, Richie Stevens and Erica Enders in the second race of the 2007 POWERade Drag Racing season, before squaring off against No. 1 qualifier Jason Line in the final.
Knowing he would need a near-perfect performance to take home the trophy, Johnson took control from the start, using a stellar .016 reaction time to gain the advantage by over three hundredths of a second and never looked back, crossing the finish line in 6.694 seconds with a top speed of 206.67 mph to score a hole-shot win over the defending Pro Stock champion, who recorded a quicker 6.676-second time in the losing effort. It was Johnson's 36 th national event win, first of the 2007 season, and third at Firebird Raceway.
"We knew Jason (Line) would be tough in the final," said Johnson. "That's a good team and they've won a lot of races. However, I also have a lot of confidence in my ACDelco Cobalt crew. Over the last two days, we got a handle on the tune-up, allowing us to make the right calls and put ourselves in a position to win. For the final, we just concentrated on doing the best we could. Fortunately, I did my part behind the wheel, and we ended up in the winner's circle. It was just a great day in the desert."
Today's win was a testament to the hard work and dedication of the entire Johnson crew. After struggling to match their race car to the tough Phoenix quarter-mile on Friday, they entered the second day of qualifying outside the field. However, after poring over his tuning notes from previous outings, Johnson decided to revert to a formula used successfully in the past. The end result was the quickest pass of the final qualifying session at 6.658 seconds and a seventh starting position.
In the first round of eliminations on Sunday, Johnson opened a solid 6.676-second, 206.83 mph pass to overcome Jeg Coughlin's starting line advantage and score his first elimination round win of the young season.
After eliminating a tire-shaking Richie Stevens in the second round, he used a .025 light and a 6.698-second, 206.48 mph pass to overcome the lack of lane choice and score the hole-shot win over Erica Enders in the semifinals, who recorded a 6.687-second time in defeat. This sent Johnson to the 66th final round of his Pro Stock career, where he would square off against Jason Line.
"We got off to a slow start this weekend, but we never gave up, doing whatever we needed to make the car better," said Johnson. "Over the last few months, we had been trying different combinations in our ACDelco Cobalt seeing what we could do to go quicker and faster. Unfortunately, we got off on a tangent that hurt our consistency. Finally, on Friday night we got to the point where were out of the show and struggling.
"That's when we decided to go back to the set-ups we had used when we first got this particular car. As a result, we came out with two strong runs on Saturday and a consistently fast car for race day with which we were able to win. Now I feel we can make small changes in the tune-up to not only adjust for the conditions, but make even better runs. This turned out to be a productive weekend in more ways than one."
Despite the rigors of competition, Johnson still took time throughout the day to salute Roy Johnson, father of fellow Pro Stock racer and close friend Allen Johnson, who had been hospitalized the night before following a heart attack. In each of the four rounds, Kurt put a piece of tape on his driver's side window sending get well wishes including humorous touches such as an apology in the semifinals for eliminating Richie Stevens, who drives Allen Johnson's team car the second round.
"At the end of the day, very little matters other than your family and friends," said Johnson. "We've known Allen and Roy for many years, and they're good friends. Naturally, we were very worried when we heard the news. I felt so sorry Allen -- after all, that's his father and they almost lost him a couple times last night. I'm sure he didn't sleep at all. Fortunately, it sounds like he's on the road to making a full recovery, so I taped some encouraging words on the window of our ACDelco Cobalt each round, making sure they knew we were thinking about him"
Finally, in addition to extending a streak that has seen him win at least one national event in each of the last 13 years, which is the longest such streak in the highly competitive Pro Stock category, Johnson also saw the benefit today's success would have on the outlook of the entire Sugar Hill, GA based operation.
"This win was an important one for the entire organization," stated Johnson. "We've had some new people come on board, including Terry Adams, and wanted to win as soon as we could for them, as well as our great sponsors, ACDelco and Chevrolet. Everyone has been working extremely hard, doing what they can to help us succeed, and it makes a big difference all the way around when one of our cars makes it to the winner's circle.
"For example, just before the final, everyone on both crews got involved in getting our car ready, making sure every little detail was taken care of, and we were able to come out on top. It doesn't matter if it's my ACDelco Cobalt or Dad's (six-time champion Warren Johnson) GM Performance Parts GTO, when one of us wins, the entire team wins."