Kurt Johnson Makes A Move Toward The Pro Stock Points Lead ACDelco Chevy Cobalt Driver Looks To Erase Deficit Even Further At Sonoma SONOMA, Calif., July 26, 2005 - After capturing his 30th career victory at last Sunday's CarQuest NHRA Nationals...
Kurt Johnson Makes A Move Toward The Pro Stock Points Lead ACDelco Chevy Cobalt Driver Looks To Erase Deficit Even Further At Sonoma SONOMA, Calif., July 26, 2005 - After capturing his 30th career victory at last Sunday's CarQuest NHRA Nationals at Pacific Raceways in the ACDelco Chevy Cobalt, you can add Kurt Johnson's name to an already crowded list of candidates who have an excellent shot of winning this year's POWERade Pro Stock title. When the four frontrunners immediately ahead of the 42-year-old Georgia resident all stumbled during the first round of eliminations at Seattle, Johnson took full advantage of the opportunity. He captured his second win of the season, picked up approximately 80 points on the rest of the field and moved into fourth place in the POWERade standings.
"Coming out of St. Louis we had nine rounds to make up and now we only have six, so things are going our way right now," said Johnson. "On the Western Swing, you race with what you have and hope nothing goes wrong. It's not like you can go back to the shop and fix stuff that needs to be fixed. We're happy that we haven't broken anything and everything is still intact. We ran decent at Denver, we won at Seattle and now we'll go on to Sonoma and try to rack up a few more points. We gained on everybody at Seattle and that what it's all about.
"Winning at Seattle was No. 30, so it was pretty special. It's also where I won my first race in 1993. I guess 30 wins in 12 years isn't too bad. We had some good competition, though, with (Greg) Stanfield and (Bob) Panella and Dave Connolly. Panella ran well and obviously knows how to drive since he was the Pro Stock Truck champion for a couple of years. We didn't take anybody lightly. We'll take the win, go on to Sonoma and try to do it all over again."
Since debuting the new Chevy Cobalt at Bristol (Tenn.), Johnson has slowly clawed his way back into the POWERade points chase. Entering the gates at Thunder Valley on April 29, the ACDelco Chevrolet driver was in 10th place in the standings with only three round wins to his credit to go along with three consecutive first-round losses at Phoenix, Gainesville and Houston. Nine races later, Johnson has scored two national-event victories, advanced to three final rounds, claimed two pole awards and captured 20 eliminator rounds. Johnson has also qualified third or better seven times since climbing into the Cobalt at Bristol, and his only first-round loss occurred at Topeka (Kan.) on May 29. His deficit with first-place Warren Johnson is now only 108 points.
"The car's been pretty good," said Johnson. "It wasn't as happy as we thought it was at first. It ran good at Bristol, but it was a unique situation where the track wasn't that good and it kind of shined. Then we shook at Atlanta and realized we had some more work to do on the car. We felt we could have won at Englishtown. We ran pretty decent on Friday and Saturday, and then came out on Sunday and started spinning the tires. We've worked pretty hard to get the car to where it is right now. But whether the surface temperature is 70 degrees or 140 degrees, it goes right down the track. We know how to adjust the ACDelco Chevy Cobalt to certain situations and that's a big plus."
The Fram Autolite Nationals at Infineon Raceway is the third and final leg of the arduous Western Swing. Johnson has been racing at Sonoma since 1993 and has the ability to infer from a large library full of notes, graphs and run statistics in order to reach a winning setup. He was runner-up at Infineon Raceway in 1999, reached the winner's circle in 2000 and has been the No. 1 qualifier for this event three times (1995-96, 1999).
"We have a pretty good data base on how to set up the car from what went on for the last few years," explained Johnson. "You take a look at the air and the racetrack, and everybody wings it on the first hit. Then you start making adjustments from there."
The Pro Stock points battle has heated up along with the summer temperatures. Only 133 points separate first place from fifth place. With nine chapters still left to be played out Johnson knows it's anybody's ballgame.
"We feel we have the potential to win every race we go to," said Johnson. "I'm a realist, though, and know we can't win them all, but as long we can claim our share of them, we're happy.
"The entire team is pumped up. We have a very fast race car, a great team, and everything is clicking right now. Our job is to make sure we keep it that way through the end of the season. We're back in the championship fight, and we want to make sure we make the most of the opportunity. Stay tuned, it's going to be interesting to the very end."
GM Racing Pre-Event Notes - Infineon Raceway
. The most recent NHRA Manufacturer's Cup standings released on July 20 show Pontiac in first place with 2,040 points, a 640-point lead over second-place Dodge. Chevrolet is in third place with 860 points. GM-branded Pro Stock cars (Chevrolet and Pontiac) have won 13 races this year, advanced to 25 final rounds, captured 12 poles, run low e.t. of the meet 13 times and set top speed 12 times.
. Kurt Johnson's win at Seattle was not only his 30th career victory as a Pro Stock driver but also the 125th all-time for Chevrolet in NHRA Pro Stock competition.
. With both Kurt Johnson and Ron Krisher advancing to the finals at Seattle, it marked the first time in NHRA Pro Stock competition that that two Chevy Cobalts had reached the championship round.
. With Ron Krisher advancing to his second final-round appearance of the season at Seattle (Phoenix was his first), he also moved from eighth place to sixth place in the points standings.
. GM Performance Parts Pontiac driver Warren Johnson is the most recent winner in a Pro Stock Pontiac, capturing his 95th career victory (148th career final-round appearance) at the 26th annual Mile-High Nationals in Denver on July 17. The "Professor of Pro Stock" sits in first place in the POWERade standings with 1,063 points. Greg Anderson (Pontiac GTO) is in second place with 1,034 points, Jason Line (Pontiac) is third with 998 points, Kurt Johnson is fourth (Chevy Cobalt) with 955 points, Dave Connolly (Chevy Cobalt) is fifth with 930 points and Ron Krisher (Chevy Cobalt) is sixth with 703 points. Jim Yates (Pontiac) is in ninth place with 650 points and Greg Stanfield (Chevrolet) is 10th with 648.
. Warren Johnson's win at Denver was the 153rd all-time by a Pontiac in NHRA Pro Stock competition, the most by any manufacturer in the history of the sport. Of the 153 wins in a Pontiac by a Pro Stock driver Warren Johnson leads the pack with 43, Greg Anderson is second with 32 and Jim Yates is third with 24.
. The GTO made an auspicious debut at Denver when Greg Anderson drove his new Pontiac to the No. 1 qualifying spot and a new track-record elapsed time of 7.106 seconds. Anderson's Summit Racing Pontiac also ran top speed of the meet at Seattle, the first time ever by a GTO in NHRA Pro Stock competition.
. Since the inception of the Fram Autolite Nationals at Infineon Raceway in 1988, Pontiac drivers Warren Johnson and Jim Yates leads the Pro Stock category for the most wins by an active driver. Johnson victories came in 1992, '96 and '98. Yates' wins occurred in 1995, '97 and '99. Greg Anderson is the defending Pro Stock champion at Infineon Raceway and Kurt Johnson won in 2000.
. Anderson holds the Infineon Raceway track-record elapsed time set last year at 6.693 seconds. Teammate Jason Line holds the top speed record, also set last year at 206.42 mph.
. Chevy Monte Carlo Funny Car driver Tim Wilkerson is the defending champion at Infineon Raceway. Other current Chevy Monte Carlo funny car drivers who have previously won at Infineon Raceway include Del Worsham (2001) and Cruz Pedregon (1996, 1998).
Qualifying for the Fram Autolite Nationals can be seen on ESPN2 on Saturday, July 30, beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern. A three-hour telecast of final eliminations will be telecast on ESPN2 on Sunday, July 31, starting at 9 p.m. Eastern.