Kurt Johnson Scores Stunning Win in Phoenix Kurt Johnson scored his first win of the 2004 POWERade Drag Racing season during Sunday's final eliminations of the Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals in Phoenix, Arizona. Starting from the fifth...
Kurt Johnson Scores Stunning Win in Phoenix
Kurt Johnson scored his first win of the 2004 POWERade Drag Racing season during Sunday's final eliminations of the Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals in Phoenix, Arizona. Starting from the fifth position at Firebird Raceway, Johnson's ACDelco Cavalier powered through the first three rounds in dramatic fashion before facing David Connolly in the championship round. Although Connolly was able to gain a slight advantage at the start, Johnson roared back with a 6.835-second, 203.49 mph pass to nip his opponent at the finish line by an immeasurable eight ten-thousandths of a second.
"Our ACDelco Cavalier made four absolutely perfect runs today," said Johnson. "In the final against Connolly, I thought I had a decent light, but it's tough to tell between the .20s, .30s, .40s and .50s out there. That Connolly kid is very good for the amount of experience he has.
"Fortunately, I made a good run, and was able to reel him back in. According to the incremental timers, we didn't lead until the very last mark, but that's when it counts. Anytime you can win by eight ten-thousandths of a second, it's exciting, not only for the fans, but also for the team."
Johnson's day started with a relatively easy first round win over J.R. Carr, whose red-light start handed the second-generation racer the automatic win. His next opponent would be his father, six-time Pro Stock champion Warren Johnson. Taking full advantage of being able to choose his lane, Kurt used a solid 6.834-second, 203.31 mph pass to advance to the semifinals for the second time in as many races, where he would face defending Pro Stock champion Greg Anderson.
Johnson's assignment was made even tougher by the fact that he would be racing in the less-preferred right hand lane. Responding to the challenge, KJ welded his opponent to the starting line with an outstanding .027 reaction time, and used an impressive 6.850-second, 202.88 mph run to defeat his rival's quicker 6.820-second pass. This well-deserved victory snapped Johnson's ten-race personal losing streak against Anderson.
"As well as he had been running this weekend, I was glad to be within two hundredths of Greg," said Johnson. "However, we prefer to work on our car instead of worrying about what he was doing. Throughout the day, we kept making adjustments, picking up our performance first in the front half, and then in the back half. I also think he might have been slowing down.
"In that semi-final race, I felt my light was pretty good, but even so, I could just feel him there on my left-hand side. I wanted to look so badly, but I just concentrated on doing my job, suffering through those seven seconds and waited for my win light to come on. Fortunately, it did."
This win was the 28th of Johnson's career, and second at Firebird Raceway. Of equal importance, it also closed the second-generation driver within five points of the championship lead.
"I know several people are making a big deal about my beating Greg in the semis, but winning the race is what really matters," said Johnson. "Some people may haven been a little surprised by our performance, but I wasn't.
"After we ran that 6.81 in the last qualifying session, I was pretty confident about our chances, and that confidence carried over into today. Fortunately, I have great sponsors in ACDelco and Chevrolet, a great crew behind me in Kevin Horst and Joe Cottle, as well as everyone back at the shop in Sugar Hill, who have been working non-stop. I know Dad (Six-time champion Warren Johnson) was also excited to see us win.
"Every race is a battle and a key piece in the championship. Today, the ACDelco crew won the battle, and we're about 80 points ahead of where we were last year at this time, but it's going to be tight all season. There are several teams working hard and running well. It really doesn't matter until the end of the year, and it's our job to make sure we're on top then. But for now, we're going to take a little time and enjoy this win."