ACDelco's Kurt Johnson Prepared for Season Opener At NHRA Winternationals POMONA, Calif., Feb. 5, 2009 -- The slate is wiped clean, the points are reset to zero, and all the long hours of preseason preparation on Kurt Johnson's ACDelco Pro Stock...
ACDelco's Kurt Johnson Prepared for Season Opener At NHRA Winternationals
POMONA, Calif., Feb. 5, 2009 -- The slate is wiped clean, the points are reset to zero, and all the long hours of preseason preparation on Kurt Johnson's ACDelco Pro Stock Chevrolet will be put to the test when the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing series kicks off another exciting season of competition at the 49th annual Kragen O'Reilly Auto Parts Winternationals on Feb. 5 -- 8 at Auto Club Raceway.
Johnson made his first Pro Stock appearance at the 1993 Winternationals, and after qualifying 15th, he advanced to the semifinal round before losing to Scott Geoffrion. Since that promising debut 16 years ago, the ACDelco Chevrolet driver has crafted an incredible record of achievement that includes 39 national-event victories, 73 final-round appearances, 29 No. 1 qualifying awards, 13 top-five and 16 top-10 points finishes. In fact, Johnson has never finished outside of the top 10 during his entire career.
Maybe even more remarkable is that Johnson has won at least one race every year since 1995, the longest current streak in NHRA Pro Stock, and among professional NHRA drivers, second only to John Force's 22 straight years with at least one victory.
"Sometimes you kick back and wonder how you did it," Johnson said, "especially during that one span of 46 races when we won the first race of 2001 and we didn't win until the last race of 2002. Going into that final round against Gene Wilson I really wasn't thinking of keeping the streak going. I was concentrating on winning the round and winning the NHRA Finals, and it all came together. Any time you can walk away with the trophy on Sunday, you've put in a solid day of work."
Johnson's 504 career round wins (.633) at the start of the 2009 season are second only to his father, six-time NHRA Pro Stock champ Warren Johnson, among active Pro Stock drivers. The NHRA Rookie of the Year in 1993, Johnson has averaged a 4th-place points finish over the last 16 years, and his win at St. Louis last year gave him the most victories ever by a Pro Stock driver in a Chevrolet (breaking a tie of 26 wins he held with the legendary Lee Shepherd).
"Racing NHRA Pro Stock is a blast," Johnson said. "You're always doing something different and your creativity is always pegged. That's what it's all about, and to make more horsepower you have to be open-minded."
Last year, the ACDelco driver earned his fifth career third-place finish (1995, 1997-99, 2008) after winning races at St. Louis, Chicago and Brainerd, and advancing to six final-round appearances. The ACDelco team also won the highly coveted 2008 Full Throttle award for excellence and consistency during qualifying
"You have to pay attention, you have to be consistent and you can't get too far off base," Johnson said. "Going into the season last year I felt that if we could win the Full Throttle Award then we would have a good shot at the championship. We got one, but not the other, so we have more work to do.
"You leave Sugar Hill (Ga.) with only so much horsepower and you have to get the best of what you have out of it. Preparation, tuning and adapting to the racetrack is where a majority of it is now, considering that the horsepower gains are not as great as they used to be. I hope to think I've gotten better in setting up the car over the years and I think winning the Full Throttle Award last season proved that a little bit - that we put the package together to be consistent enough to win that award."
At the fabled Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Johnson has experienced his fair share of success notching four victories in seven final-round appearances including a win at the season-opening Winternationals in 2001 and a runner-up in 1997.
"I'm pretty excited about letting out the clutch at Pomona," Johnson said. "We've had some success there. It's been awhile, though, since I've won the Winternationals and that's what we're shooting for. You're trying to win every race because every point counts."
Johnson is entering his 17th season as a Pro Stock competitor, and his 14th with ACDelco sponsorship on the side of his racecar. It is one of the longest partnerships in drag racing dating all the way back to 1996 when Johnson first competed in the Delco Freedom Batteries car.
"I've been fortunate to accomplish a lot during my career," Johnson said, "and ACDelco has been there for a long time giving us the kind of support needed to compete for an NHRA championship."