KJ Looks to Translate "Trey" into Third Phoenix Win Team ACDelco Prepares to Defend Title at Firebird Raceway Sugar Hill, Ga., February 21, 2005 - Coming off his semi-final finish at the season-opening event ten days ago, ACDelco Cavalier pilot...
KJ Looks to Translate "Trey" into Third Phoenix Win
Team ACDelco Prepares to Defend Title at Firebird Raceway
Sugar Hill, Ga., February 21, 2005 - Coming off his semi-final finish at the season-opening event ten days ago, ACDelco Cavalier pilot Kurt Johnson enters this weekend's Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals as he did in 2004, sitting third in the POWERade championship standings. In fact, Johnson's 2005 performance in Pomona was identical to the previous year's, having qualified second and then being eliminated by his father, six-time champion Warren Johnson.
Naturally, Johnson hopes to continue this trend of duplication as he looks to defend his popular win at this event from a year ago. However, the second-generation racer believes his team is in an even better position in 2005 as a result of some extremely hard work during the off-season, and a solid performance in California.
"Our ACDelco Cavalier's performance in Pomona has us pumped up going into Phoenix," stated Johnson. "It's only one race, but we appear to be back near the top of the charts. I'm sure our competition has been doing their homework over the last two weeks, and that race is already behind us, but it's still an accomplishment anytime you can run both the top speed and low elapsed time of the event in this category.
"Besides, we haven't exactly been sitting around since then. We brought the DRCE 3's my father and I used back to the shop, went over them thoroughly to check that everything was in optimum condition, made a few adjustments based on our findings, buttoned them up and sent them to Arizona. We won't really know until Sunday evening, but I think we'll be in good shape this weekend."
The primary difference in Johnson's attitude comes as a result of the efforts of the engine room at their shop in Sugar Hill, GA. Focusing solely on the DRCE III engine, which the team has nicknamed "Trey", the Johnson-led crew made significant progress over the winter, which, combined with a proven and predictable race car, gives the team a solid and competitive foundation, with even further improvement anticipated as they continue to learn this powerplant's intricacies, all of which will play an important role as they look to tame a difficult Firebird Raceway surface.
"We are still very early in the development process of the DRCE III," detailed Johnson. "In fact, at this point, we are barely beyond simply assembling the necessary pieces. We will not get into any in-depth r & d until after Phoenix. However, it has already shown the potential of being a very good piece, which has a beneficial effect on the entire program.
"For example, one year ago, we had absolutely no room for error. In order to qualify, we needed to make an almost perfect run. Now we know that if we make a decent run, we'll be solidly in the show. You still need to be perfect to win, but we're headed in the right direction. Qualifying second in Pomona gave us a real boost, and we ran even better on Sunday. The ACDelco Cavalier feels like it wants to go, and it's still a work in progress.
"I'm sure Firebird will present its usual challenges. The racing surface is actually better than it looks and could be a low 6.70-second track. Over the years, I've been fortunate to have done fairly well there, and we're planning to keep it up this weekend. We're looking for another strong qualifying effort, after which we'll see if we can take care of business and successfully defend our win from last year."
Notes on Kurt Johnson and the ACDelco Chevy Cavalier racing team entering the Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals:
* KJ's Career at Firebird Raceway: This will be Kurt's 13th appearance at Firebird Raceway. In his 12 previous starts, he has two wins, with an 18-10 elimination round record for a .643 win percentage.
* Kurt Qualifies Well in Phoenix: KJ has started final eliminations in the top half of the field at 11 of his 12 previous races at Firebird, with the sole exception being his 13th place effort in 1996. Kurt also has one No. 1 qualifying performance in Arizona, which came in 2000, and an average starting position of 5.17.
* One year ago - Defending Champion: Kurt qualified fifth with an elapsed time of 6.803 seconds at 204.35 mph, and defeated J.R. Carr (who red-lit), his father Warren Johnson, Greg Anderson (on a holeshot) and David Connolly for the 28th win of his career.