Seattle: Kurt Johnson looking for win

KENT, Wash. - What does a driver do when he ends a yearlong winless streak? You guessed it: Get ready to win another one. Kurt Johnson, who made a Pro Stock victory parade recently at Denver's Bandimere Speedway, can't wait to copy that ...

KENT, Wash. - What does a driver do when he ends a yearlong winless streak? You guessed it: Get ready to win another one.

Kurt Johnson, who made a Pro Stock victory parade recently at Denver's Bandimere Speedway, can't wait to copy that performance at a track where he's had quite a bit of success in the past. Last year at Seattle International Raceway, Johnson claimed a win, his last since ending the drought in Denver.

He defeated Jim Yates that day, continuing what would become one of his finest performances during the grueling three-race West Coast swing. If his performance at Banidmere Speedway is any indication, Johnson could post even better results this season during the trio of races that makes stops in Colorado, Washington and Northern California over a four week span. He hopes a repeat victory at the Prolong Super Lubricants Northwest Nationals presented by NAPA Auto Parts, July 28-30, will continue his recent momentum as he climbs to the front of the NHRA Winston point standings. The $1.6 million race is the 14th of 23 events in the $45 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

"Last year we got more points than anyone (during the western swing) and I'm going to try to duplicate that performance," said Johnson, 37, from Lawrenceville, Ga. "Maybe it just takes me half a year to get going." Johnson is especially excited about returning to SIR, a track where he's had plenty of success over the years. In addition to winning here last year, Johnson also claimed a victory here in '93 and posted runner-up efforts in '98 and '96.

While he has a great grip on the track, he says his success there is partly because of the great grip his AC Delco Chevrolet Camaro's tires get when his car launches from the starting pad.

"Seattle's starting line is phenomenal," said Johnson, who sits fourth in the Winston point standings, 326 behind series leader Jeg Coughlin Jr. "I don't know why it's so good -- maybe there is something about the tree pollen in Washington that makes the track sticky. Whatever the reason, it's probably the best concrete we'll see all season."

While the first 300 feet of the track has bite, the back-end of the track can bite a driver if he's not careful.

"The back-half of Seattle is a bumpy ride," Johnson added. "That could be an advantage for me because my new double-rail chassis seems to ride over bumps really well. The stiff frame works the shock absorbers. We have worked hard on our shock absorber program and understand what it takes to make a drag racing shock work properly."

He says since making a few necessary chassis and engine changes, he feels certain he'll see positive results in the second half of the season. "My Camaro has been working better since we went to a stiffer chassis," Johnson said. "We've also found some horsepower on the dyno. I think we can get back in the game. We have definitely picked up some power. Now it's a matter of taking advantage of what we've found on the dyno and applying it to the racetrack. With a more consistent chassis setup and more power under the hood, I think we can get back to the head of the pack."

If he's to do that, he'll need to take advantage of head-to-head meetings with points leader Jeg Coughlin Jr. Johnson is also worried about red-hot Ron Krisher, winner of events in Chicago and St. Louis.

"Everyone has been talking about Jeg Coughlin's yellow car that is leading the points race, but it's Ron Krisher's black car that is really running fast," Johnson said. "Krisher is the one to catch right now, and I feel confident that we can gain on him."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Kurt Johnson , Ron Krisher