Kurt Johnson Grabs 30th Career Pro Stock Win at Seattle Chevy Cobalt Driver Repeats First Career Win at Pacific Raceways KENT, Wash., July 24, 2005 - Twelve years ago Pro Stock driver Kurt Johnson recorded his first career NHRA professional win...
Kurt Johnson Grabs 30th Career Pro Stock Win at Seattle
Chevy Cobalt Driver Repeats First Career Win at Pacific Raceways
KENT, Wash., July 24, 2005 - Twelve years ago Pro Stock driver Kurt Johnson recorded his first career NHRA professional win at Pacific Raceways en route to claiming the Rookie of the Year title. Today it was dejà vu all over again as Johnson drove his ACDelco Chevy Cobalt to its second win of the season and the 30th NHRA Pro Stock win of his career in today's final eliminations of the 18th annual CARQUEST NHRA Nationals at Pacific Raceways. Johnson had a single pass in the final after Ron Krisher totaled his new Valvoline Chevrolet Cobalt in his semifinal victory over Jeg Coughlin. Krisher was relatively unhurt but his Chevy was unable to make it to the starting line for the 12th final round of his career. Johnson didn't bother with a burnout in the final and made a slow victory pass of 16.32 seconds at 75.14 mph.
"That certainly wasn't the way we wanted to win today," said Johnson. "First of all, I'm glad to see that Ron (Krisher) is all right. Cars are fixable, but people are not always, so I was happy to see him at the top end afterwards. Certainly, we would have preferred to race him in the final, because it feels as though we only did three quarters of the work. But the situation wasn't of our making, so we just played it by the rules.
"[PRO president] Kenny Bernstein came over and told dad I had to stage and take the light to win. [Technical director] Ray Alley told us the same thing at the scales so we just got out of the way up there. I didn't want to mess up the track for the guys behind us. A win is a win. I've had plenty of tough losses so I'll take this one, take the points, and move on to Sonoma."
Chevy Cobalts occupied three of the four semifinal positions as Johnson, Krisher and Bob Panella all were looking to advance to the finals. Johnson defeated Panella in an all-Chevy semifinal with an elapsed time of 6.706 seconds at 206.73 to Panella's 6.743 e.t. at 204.70 mph. Johnson showed amazing consistency through the first three rounds of eliminations as his Chevy Cobalt was the quickest car of each round with elapsed times of 6.689, 6.699 and 6.706 to power him to the 57th final round of his career.
"When I saw Ron get in trouble, I knew the semis had essentially turned into the final," said Johnson. "I was watching the big screen, and saw the fire when I realized this is it. You try and treat every round as if it was the final, but when the win is really on the line, it's a different matter altogether. We knew if we beat Panella, we'd have a solo in the final, and fortunately, this ACDelco Cobalt team got it done."
It was no easy road for Krisher en route to his second final-round appearance of the season. He had a hole-shot win over points leader Warren Johnson in Round 1, No. 1 qualifier Mike Thomas in Round 2, and then another hole-shot win over former Pro Stock champ Jeg Coughlin in the semifinals. Unfortunately Krisher's Chevy veered to the left as it crossed the finish line in his semifinal win over Coughlin and made contact with the retaining wall. His car ended up briefly sliding down the track on its side before coming to rest in the middle of the track back on all four wheels and on fire. Krisher climbed out of the car on his own power but his car was totaled.
"I'm feeling okay, except for a sore throat," said Krisher. "I inhaled a lot of fumes. There was a lot of fire in there and couldn't get it out. I finally got out of the car. You know, that's always cumbersome, but I had to get out because it was getting real hot. I knew I had won. I was looking for him and he wasn't there. But I got my foot caught under the brake pedal and couldn't get it out from underneath. With the gas pedal and the brake pedal, it's kind of an odd situation with that car. It's something we just worked on last round, but I've got to do something. It's just not right. The pedal needs shortened or something."
Uncharacteristically the top four drivers in Pro Stock lost in the first round today. Points leader Warren Johnson lost to Ron Krisher, second-place Greg Anderson lost to Jim Yates, Anderson's teammate Jason Line lost to V. Gaines, and Dave Connolly lost fourth in points to Kurt Johnson after losing to him in the first round. Warren Johnson maintains a 29-point lead over two-time defending champ Anderson going into next week's race at Sonoma.
"We just messed up," said Anderson. "We went over the line a little bit and we basically overestimated the racetrack. It's been real good out there all weekend, and it just seemed like it kept getting better, and better, and better. We went over the line today. We went a little too far, we shook the tires, and it just would not stop shaking. The end result is a first-round loss. Apparently it bit a few others out there, too, who are near the top of the points. It's not a catastrophe because everybody close to us in points went out too, but I hate to look at it that way. It was a great time to make some hay, and we didn't do it."
In Funny Car, Tommy Johnson Jr. qualified fourth to claim top honors among Chevy Monte Carlos and made it to the semifinals before losing to No. 1 qualifier and eventual event-winner Eric Medlen. In the semis, Johnson had a big starting-line advantage but went up in smoke and ran an elapsed time of 7.363 seconds at 130.07 mph to Medlen's winning 4.930 e.t. at 303.50 mph in his Ford. In the finals Medlen defeated his teammate Robert Hight with an elapsed time of 4.887 seconds at 310.48 mph to Hight's elapsed time of 4.933 seconds at 305.63 mph.
"This was more like '93 when I won Top Fuel here my first national event," said Johnson. "It was great to get this Skoal Chevy Monte Carlo in the semis. These guys have really got this car turned around this year with the consistency. That's what's important, to come out here and qualify, and run good, consistent runs."
In Top Fuel, No. 1 qualifier Larry Dixon lost to eventual event-winner Brandon Bernstein in Round 2. Dixon had a slight advantage off the starting line but smoked the tires and had an elapsed time of 8.281 seconds at 113.43 mph to Bernstein's 6.079 e.t. at 230.13 mph. In the finals, Bernstein defeated Tony Schumacher with an elapsed time of 4.527 seconds at 329.99 mph to Schumacher's 6.021 e.t. at 154.35 mph.
The next stop on the 23-race NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series is the 18th annual Fram Autolite NHRA Nationals at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., on July 29-31.