THE KURT CHRONICLES: NHRA FINALS EDITION Kurt Johnson ACDelco News & Notes for the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals, November 11-14, Pomona, Calif. JOHNSON CHANGES HORSES FOR FINAL RIDE Just as TV cowboy Roy Rogers...
THE KURT CHRONICLES: NHRA FINALS EDITION
Kurt Johnson ACDelco News & Notes for the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals, November 11-14, Pomona, Calif.
JOHNSON CHANGES HORSES FOR FINAL RIDE
Just as TV cowboy Roy Rogers depended on his trusty horse Trigger and the Lone Ranger relied on his loyal steed Silver, Pro Stock driver Kurt Johnson will saddle up an old friend from his stable of race cars for the final race of the '90s. After a season of inconsistency, Johnson will bring back the ACDelco Camaro he campaigned last year for the season-ending Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals in Pomona, Calif., on November 11-14.
Johnson is in a shootout with young gun Jeg Coughlin Jr. for second place in the Pro Stock championship. He has watched his lead over Coughlin dwindle from 237 points in August to just 57 points coming into the series' finale. In order to reverse this disturbing trend, Johnson will park the car he has campaigned since June 1998 in favor of a Don Ness-built chassis he first drove three years ago.
"I made the decision go back to my old Ness car after I saw how fast Tom Martino ran with his Ness car in Dallas and Houston," Johnson explained.
Johnson is optimistic that his change of equipment will produce the desired results. "The car I've raced this year is fast, but it's not consistently fast," Kurt commented. "I've got three wins and two runners-up in 1999, but I also have seven first-round losses. With my old car, I could make a good run regardless of the track conditions."
Kurt's faithful race car won the NHRA Finals in 1997 wearing Firebird sheetmetal. It was reskinned with Camaro body panels before the start of the '98 season.
"We took the car out of mothballs this summer when we thought about going back to it," Kurt reported. "We cleaned it up, went through all the wiring, and got it ready to race. We decided not to pursue the project, but now the time is right."
Kurt has raced 13 times at Pomona Raceway in his career. He scored a victory over Tom Martino in the '97 NHRA Finals and finished as runner-up to his father Warren in the '93 Finals and the '97 Winternationals. After coming to Pomona for 23 years as a mechanic, crew chief, and driver, K.J. knows what to expect at "Parker Avenue."
"The track always gets better as the race goes on," Kurt observed. "The first qualifying session on Thursday will just be a tune-up run because there won't be much rubber on the track. Friday it will get better, and Saturday will be the day to really fly.
"You have to constantly adjust the car at Pomona because the track keeps coming to you," he explained. "You have to stay on top of it."
THE RACE FOR SECOND PLACE
Kurt was runner-up to his father Warren in the 1993 championship race in his rookie season - the first 1-2 finish by a father and son in NHRA history. For Kurt to repeat that feat, he must score at least 82 points at the NHRA Finals to mathematically eliminate Coughlin from contention.
"We're in a better position than he is," Kurt calculates. "I'd rather go into the final race leading in the points race than have to chase somebody down."
SECOND TO 202
Kurt became the second Pro Stock driver to run 202 mph when he was timed at 202.02 mph during qualifying for the O'Reilly NHRA Finals Nationals in Dallas on October 23rd - the sixth fastest in Pro Stock history. Not surprisingly, Warren Johnson owns the five fastest speeds, ranging from the national record 202.36 to 202.11.
TEN FASTEST PRO STOCK RUNS Speed Driver Location Date 202.36 Warren Johnson Houston 10/31/99 202.33 Warren Johnson Dallas 10/23/99 202.24 Warren Johnson Richmond, Va. 4/30/99 202.15 Warren Johnson Dallas 10/23/99 202.11 Warren Johnson Dallas 10/24/99 202.02 Kurt Johnson Dallas 10/23/99 201.94 Kurt Johnson Richmond, Va. 5/1/99 201.74 Warren Johnson Dallas 10/24/99 201.61 Kurt Johnson Richmond, Va. 5/2/99 201.61 Jeg Coughlin Dallas 10/23/99
Kurt will carry ACDelco's red, white, and blue colors into battle in NHRA championship drag racing for the next three years. Bill Fitzgerald, manager of event marketing for GM Service Parts Operations, recently announced a three-year extension of Kurt's sponsorship agreement with ACDelco.
"Kurt Johnson is more than an accomplished driver; he has learned the business of motorsports from the ground up as a machinist, engine builder, and crew chief," said Fitzgerald. "He understands the technical side of racing and can help us develop and evaluate new products that will ultimately benefit ACDelco customers."
Johnson's Camaro is a 200mph laboratory for ACDelco products. "ACDelco spark plugs, filters, and batteries give me the confidence that my race car is going to go down the track," Johnson said. "If I didn't have ACDelco, I'd still have a race car - but with ACDelco, I have a fast race car."
KURT JOHNSON POMONA RACEWAY RESULTS:
Year Qualified Result 1993 Winternationals 15 Semi-Final 1993 NHRA Finals 2 Runner-up (to W. Johnson) 1994 Winternationals 3 Semi-Final 1994 NHRA Finals 7 Second Round 1995 Winternationals 3 First Round 1995 NHRA Finals 4 Semi Final 1996 Winternationals 4 Second Round 1996 NHRA Finals 13 First Round 1997 Winternationals 5 Runner-up (to W. Johnson) 1997 NHRA Finals 6 Winner (over Martino) 1998 Winternationals 11 First Round 1998 NHRA Finals 3 Second Round 1999 Winternationals 2 Semi-Final
NEXT RACE: Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals, November 11-14, Pomona, Calif. TV: Nov. 14, ESPN2, 8:30 - 9:30 p.m. Eastern - check local listings.
LAST RACE: Matco Tools SuperNationals, Houston, Texas; October 31, 1999 Qualifying: Kurt Johnson qualified No. 5 at 6.890/200.71 mph. Eliminations: First Round: Rickie Smith defeated Kurt Johnson
Final Round: Rickie Smith defeated Tom Martino Low ET: Jeg Coughlin, Jr., 6.837 seconds (track record) Top Speed: Warren Johnson, 202.36 mph (national record)
POINTS RACE: (After 21 of 22 events) Driver Wins Points 1. Warren Johnson 7 1,706* 2. Kurt Johnson 3 1,401 3. Jeg Coughlin, Jr. 4 1,344 4. Jim Yates 2 1,233 5. Richie Stevens 1 1,068 *Clinched championship