KJ returns to site of first career victory SEATTLE, July 15, 2009 -- With the Mile-High Nationals and the first leg of the Western Swing now in the NHRA history books, another opportunity for Kurt Johnson to put the ACDelco Chevrolet in the ...
KJ returns to site of first career victory
SEATTLE, July 15, 2009 -- With the Mile-High Nationals and the first leg of the Western Swing now in the NHRA history books, another opportunity for Kurt Johnson to put the ACDelco Chevrolet in the winner's circle will come in just a few days at the 22nd Northwest Nationals in Kent, Wash.
Pacific Raceways has been a hospitable venue for Johnson over the years. In fact, it was at this event in 1993 that the Georgia resident scored the first of his 39 career national-event victories.
"I remember Bob Glidden telling me at the finish line after the first round that if I kept my head screwed on straight I could win the race," Johnson said. "We took Bob's advice, made sure we kept our cool, and came away with a win.
"Winning a race like that during my first year was kind of exciting from the fact that I had never driven any sportsman classes, or anything like that -- we went right into Pro Stock. It was definitely a learning curve but it's come together for us quite well."
Since that first win at Pacific Raceways, Johnson has scored two additional victories at the Northwest Nationals (1999, 2005), has been runner-up twice (1996, 1998) and was No. 1 qualifier in 1997.
"It seems like Seattle has always been a good place for us to race," Johnson said. "It's a good, wide racetrack, you have a lot of trees and the Pro Stock cars can really thrive in that kind of environment. The weather seems to be cool in the morning, sunny in the afternoon, and it stays around the mid-80s in temperature. Plus, it can very fast. You're right there at sea level, and the track seems to run slightly downhill so you can definitely light up the board."
The ACDelco driver enters this year's race in eighth place in the Full Throttle points standings and coming off an outing at the Mile-High Nationals where the team battled to find a consistent chassis setup. Heading into Seattle, and going forward, Johnson is confident that the chassis issues are solved, and that the ACDelco Chevrolet is ready to return to the consistent, competitive setup displayed throughout the 2008 campaign.
"We gave our combination one more chance in Denver, and the changes we made didn't pan out until Sunday," Johnson said. "Even though we lost, we felt it was because of an engine issue. The car made a nice, smooth run -- it did everything it should have. We compared the run to our notes from last year and the graph was almost identical. I think the chassis is pretty solid right now. We just need to address the engine issue and move on, and we know how to do that."
With five races remaining before the Countdown to 1 (when the professional categories lock in the top 10 in the standings for the final six races that will determine the Full Throttle champion), the ACDelco team will be applying a full-court press to solidify its position in the Pro Stock standings, and also to put their driver in the 2009 win column.
"It's time to get some round wins in, get some cushion to stay in the top 10 and get ourselves a victory," Johnson said. "We don't want to be going down to the last few races on the edge of the cut line. We had a couple of No. 2 qualifying efforts earlier in the year and we were runner-up in Phoenix. We're going back to where we were at the beginning of the season, to a suspension package that's been fast and consistent for us before, so we're pretty positive."
The 22nd annual Northwest Nationals on July 17 -- 19 at Pacific Raceways in Kent, Wash., is the 14th race on the 24-event NHRA Full Throttle Series tour. ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise two hours of qualifying highlights beginning at 7 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, July 18. NHRA Race Day, a 30-minute pre-race show, will air at 11 a.m. (ET) on Sunday, July 19, on ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD. ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will feature three hours of eliminations coverage beginning at 9 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, July 19.