Pomona: Kurt Johnson preview

Kurt Johnson adds New Pieces to Complete Championship Puzzle ACDelco Racing team to introduce new 2004 Cavalier at season-opening Winternationals Sugar Hill, Ga., February 16, 2004 - Kurt Johnson enters the 2004 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing season...

Kurt Johnson adds New Pieces to Complete Championship Puzzle
ACDelco Racing team to introduce new 2004 Cavalier at season-opening Winternationals

Sugar Hill, Ga., February 16, 2004 - Kurt Johnson enters the 2004 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing season coming off an outstanding 2003. With four national event wins in ten final round appearances, Johnson's ACDelco Cavalier was in contention for the championship throughout the season, eventually finishing in the runner-up position. As one of the favorites to challenge for this year's title, the natural assumption would be that the Johnson crew would make minor changes to their program, fine-tuning it for the championship chase.

However, when the team pulls in to Pomona Raceway for this weekend's Winternationals, they will arrive in a different trailer carrying a new race car, indicative of the team's renewed commitment to finish first among the "factory hot rods".

"We want to win this championship for ACDelco and Chevrolet, so we made a few moves," said Johnson. "Last year was certainly a good one, but it's behind us. We're now looking to build on the experience, and take that final step.

"We have the right parts to get it done - the right car, the right sponsors, as well as a great crew both at the track and working back in the shop in Georgia. We just have to execute, producing the power and consistency necessary to put us on top."

Naturally, the most significant change in the younger Johnson's camp is the brand-new Jerry Haas chassis, which arrived in early January. Although some might question the decision to park a race car that was as competitive as last year's model, K.J. sees it as part of a blueprint for success.

"Even though the car we ran last year was a good one, we decided to switch to a new ACDelco Cavalier for this season," detailed Johnson. "We didn't want to get to the third or fourth race and suddenly have its performance turn around on us due to its age. We felt it would be better to start with a brand new car on which we could gather information and be strong throughout the entire season.

"Obviously with our new chassis and the new tire-and-wheel combination mandated by the NHRA, things will be a little different, but we should have good handle on it by Pomona. Fortunately, should we need any assistance, we can always fall back on Dad's (Six-time Pro Stock champion Warren Johnson) combination. Our cars are not exactly the same, but it will still give us an idea of where to start."

Although it would be normal for the team to experience a learning curve with the new car, preliminary testing results seem to indicate that Johnson should be more than ready for this weekend's challenge in California.

"In our limited time with this new car, it has already shown some promise," said Johnson. "For example, in our first run with it at Atlanta Dragway, it went straight down the racetrack. We had a few minor problems we had to address, but other than that, we're ready to race. We've won the Winternationals with a brand new ACDelco Cavalier before, and there's no reason we can't do it again."

KJ's Comments

On his team's hectic off-season:

"We received our trailer and new car at the same time in January, so the last few weeks have just flown by. It feels like we went right from December to February. It's been a lot of work, but we're confident it's going to pay off. We certainly could have finished sooner, but we didn't rush with either job, because we didn't want to make any mistakes. The ACDelco Cavalier is ready, and we know where everything is on the trailer. We're 100% prepared."

On not having a race car to drive from the end of the season to mid-January:

"After finishing as well as we did, making good runs every time out, it didn't bother me to not have a car. Just like you don't need ice skates in the summer, we didn't need a race car in the winter. We knew the new car was coming so, we spent the time focusing on our engine program. As far as my driving is concerned, I would have been comfortable going to Pomona even without testing. It's just like riding a bike. As long as I have air in the tires, I'm ready to go."

Facts on Kurt Johnson and the ACDelco Racing Team entering the Winternationals:

* KJ at Pomona Raceway: This will be Kurt's 23rd appearance at Pomona Raceway, where he has four wins (more than any other track during his career) in seven final round appearances. KJ has one Winternationals win (in 2001) .

* One year ago: Kurt qualified 10th with a time of 6.800 seconds and a top speed of 204.11, and advanced to the quarter-finals, where he lost to his father (and eventual race winner) Warren Johnson.

* Winning percentage: Kurt's .643 elimination round winning percentage (347-193) ranks 11th among all active NHRA professional drivers.

* National event wins: Kurt's 27 national event victories ties him for 14th on the all-time NHRA professional win list, and place him fifth on the all-time Pro Stock win list. Kurt's most recent win came last June at the Lucas Oil Nationals in Joliet, IL.

* Career best elapsed time: 6.716 seconds, Englishtown, NJ. 2003

* Career best top speed: 206.61 mph, Englishtown, NJ. 2003


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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Jerry Haas