KURT JOHNSON FACES DIFFICULT DECISION BEFORE DEFENDING WINTERNATIONALS TITLE Kurt Johnson faces a dilemma that any drag racer would relish. He has two fast cars in his stable, and he must choose which one to race at the season-opening K&N ...
KURT JOHNSON FACES DIFFICULT DECISION BEFORE DEFENDING WINTERNATIONALS TITLE
Kurt Johnson faces a dilemma that any drag racer would relish. He has two fast cars in his stable, and he must choose which one to race at the season-opening K&N Filters Winternationals.
In this corner is the Don Ness-built ACDelco Pro Stock Cavalier that ran 6.817 at 202.42 mph at a test session in Bradenton, Fla., last December. In the other corner is a brand-new Jerry Bickel-built ACDelco Cavalier that outran six-time Pro Stock champion Warren Johnson in a test session at the same track last week.
So which one will it be for the Winternationals?
"Both cars ran consistently, with just a few thousandths of a second difference in elapsed times between them," Kurt reported. "I'm favoring the Don Ness chassis right now because it seems to have a wide operating window. We tested a very aggressive clutch setup, several different suspension adjustments and a 600-rpm spread on the starting line. Regardless of the changes we made, the car went right down the racetrack."
Johnson has no illusions about quick times and fast speeds in preseason testing, however. The first qualifying session at Pomona Raceway will be a reality check for off-season dreams.
"We intentionally ran the bumpy lane in Bradenton so we could adapt to a bad track situation," Johnson said. "We had high humidity and a track temperature that ranged from 85 to 110 degrees. That gave us an opportunity to prepare for the variables we'll face in the months ahead."
One year ago, Kurt brought his new red, white and blue ACDelco Cavalier to Pomona and went home a winner after defeating Darrell Alderman in the final round. He scored the first Pro Stock victory in NHRA history for Chevy's Cavalier, and he raised the Pomona Raceway track speed record to 202.18 mph. Now last season's Winternationals-winning car has been retired -- a leading indicator of the furious pace of progress in Pro Stock.
This year's Winternationals will see Johnson reunited with Kevin Horst, his crew chief during his successful 1996-97 campaigns. Horst was with Johnson when he notched the first of his three career victories at Pomona Raceway in 1997.
"Kevin has been down this road before, so he knows what to expect," said K.J. "The ACDelco team will have all four barrels loaded: Kevin doing the clutch, Buddy Ingersoll monitoring the track, Joe Cottle working on the suspension and me tuning the motors."
Johnson recognizes that his team will have to perform at the highest level because competition for the NHRA POWERade championship is going to be intense.
"It's going to be more brutal than ever," he conceded. "There are a lot of fast cars out there, and I expect to see fields even tighter than the .029-second spread we had at the Auto Club NHRA Finals. To be successful this year, we have to operate at 110 percent. Organization and attitude will be key factors."
With an upbeat attitude, an accomplished crew and two fast race cars in his transporter, Johnson has great expectations for the 2002 season.
"We'll probably head west with both cars," he confided. "It's a long drive to California, and we might change our mind between here and Pomona."
<pre> KURT JOHNSON'S POMONA RACEWAY RECORD
Year Qual. Result 1993 Spring 15 Semi-Final 1993 Fall 2 Runner-up (to W. Johnson) 1994 Spring 3 Semi-Final 1994 Fall 7 Second Round 1995 Spring 3 First Round 1995 Fall 4 Semi Final 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 Semi-Final 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 Semi-Final 2001 Fall DNQ