"Combine 1,300 horsepower with one seasoned Pro Stock Cavalier chassis. Add a full measure of driving skill, a dollop of suspension savvy, and a pinch of good luck. Bake for four days at Pomona Raceway and serve a repeat victory at the Auto...
"Combine 1,300 horsepower with one seasoned Pro Stock Cavalier chassis. Add a full measure of driving skill, a dollop of suspension savvy, and a pinch of good luck. Bake for four days at Pomona Raceway and serve a repeat victory at the Auto Club NHRA Finals."
That is the recipe for success that Kurt Johnson intends to follow this weekend. Johnson, the defending Pro Stock champion at the Auto Club NHRA Finals, started 2001 with a victory in the AutoZone Winternationals at Pomona Raceway. Another win in the finale of the 24-race Winston Drag Racing Series would give his season symmetry and redeem a disappointing year.
"We kept our recipe book from the Winternationals, and we came within two thousandths of a second of making the final round in July at Pomona Raceway," Johnson said. "I've won the Finals twice, in 1997 and in 2000, so my ACDelco team definitely has a handle on the place."
Although K.J. has visited the Pomona drag strip for decades as both crew chief and driver, the track's refurbished surface will require major adjustments in his approach and his car setup.
"Since February, we've developed a different suspension combination and I'm leaving the starting line at much higher rpm," Johnson revealed. "When we raced in Pomona in July, the car spun the tires for the first few feet before they hooked up. The acceleration graphs didn't look very pretty, but we qualified in the No. 2 spot and went to the semifinals. The car is considerably different now, but we can always go back to what worked before."
When K.J. debuted his new ACDelco Cavalier nine months ago with a victory over Darrell Alderman, he set the Pomona Raceway track speed record at 202.18 mph. Johnson was second in the championship after six events, but his hot streak turned cold when he failed to win a round in six straight races during a midseason slump. Johnson comes into the NHRA Finals in eighth place in the Winston standings after a trio of first-round losses in Reading, Dallas and Las Vegas.
"It would be cool to win the first and last races of the season, but our focus is really on next year," Kurt confided. "We know that we have a lot of work ahead of us this winter, both in the dyno room and on the track."
Johnson has learned some hard lessons in his eighth year as a driver on the NHRA national tour.
"When the car was fast, my reaction times were off and we'd lose by two or three thousandths," he recalled. "When I drove well, we'd either slip the clutch a little too much or run into a little bit of shake and we'd still lose by two or three thousandths.
"With 15 different winners in 23 races, nobody is dominating Pro Stock," Johnson observed. "To be a title contender in 2002, we have to learn how to get down the track on every run. My team and I are going to have to make it happen next year."
The future is now for Kurt Johnson, and the Auto Club NHRA Finals is where his new season begins. <pre>
KURT JOHNSON'S POMONA RACEWAY RECORD
Year Qual. Result 1993 Spring 15 Semifinal 1993 Fall 2 Runner-up (to W. Johnson) 1994 Spring 3 Semifinal 1994 Fall 7 Second Round 1995 Spring 3 First Round 1995 Fall 4 Semifinal 1996 Spring 4 Second Round 1996 Fall 13 First Round 1997 Spring 5 Runner-up (to W. Johnson) 1997 Fall 6 Winner (over Martino) 1998 Spring 11 First Round 1998 Fall 3 Second Round 1999 Spring 2 Semifinal 1999 Fall 7 First Round 2000 Spring 8 Second Round 2000 Fall 6 Winner (over J. Coughlin) 2001 Spring 5 Winner (over Alderman) 2001 Summer 2 Semifinal