Sonoma: GM Racing Saturday summary

Kurt Johnson Captures Pole At Infineon Raceway ACDelco Chevy Cobalt Sets Track E.T. Record SONOMA, Calif., July 30, 2005 - Since debuting the new Chevy Cobalt at Bristol (Tenn.) on April 29, Kurt Johnson has won more eliminator rounds (20) than...

Kurt Johnson Captures Pole At Infineon Raceway ACDelco Chevy Cobalt Sets Track E.T. Record

SONOMA, Calif., July 30, 2005 - Since debuting the new Chevy Cobalt at Bristol (Tenn.) on April 29, Kurt Johnson has won more eliminator rounds (20) than any driver in the Pro Stock category, and has battled his way back into the POWERade points chase. Today the 42-year-old Georgia resident continued to apply pressure on the frontrunners by capturing his third No. 1 qualifying position of the year at the Fram Autolite Nationals at Infineon Raceway. During morning time trials Johnson drove the ACDelco Chevrolet to a track-record elapsed time of 6.676 seconds at 206.80 mph.

"It was just barely good enough," said Johnson. "We were trying to beat Mike Thomas' 6.679, and it was like, 'holy smoke!' We were soft on the first run here. We left the car like it was at Seattle and thought it would be fine. This morning we changed the carburetors around, the gearing and then actually changed the suspension - we haven't done that since before we went to St. Louis. We ended up making four pretty big changes that we thought were necessary to go fast. We knew we were hurting at 60-foot and we were able to improve there. Last year here we were trying to be conservative to make sure we qualified. This year I said, 'to heck with it! We're going to go for it and try to be No. 1.' It couldn't have ended up any better."

It is the fourth career pole position at Infineon Raceway (1995-96, 1999, 2005), the 26th all-time, and the third in the last four races for Johnson. In the 10 races since climbing into the Chevy Cobalt at Thunder Valley, Johnson has scored two national-event victories, advanced to three final rounds and qualified third or better eight times. His deficit with first-place Warren Johnson is now only 108 points.

"You know when you've won the last race that you have a good racecar," said Johnson. "But everyone else is making changes trying to beat you, so you have to adjust as well trying to keep up with the pack. It's tough to make changes because sometimes you make calculations and sometimes you make calculated guesses. But this Chevy Cobalt seems to respond to what we want to do. It's at the point now that as long as we stay within our parameters then we seem to be okay."

"You have to look at a change and examine how it will affect the rest of the program. When you make another change the question then is how will they work together? That's the key. Today we took four pieces of the puzzle, scrambled them up, stuffed them together and they stuck - we found a slot for them all to go into. We were the No. 2 qualifier last week, came back and we're No. 1 this week. We've obviously made some gains."

After leaving Infineon Raceway on Friday night as the No. 1 qualifier, GM Performance Parts Pontiac driver Warren Johnson settled for the No. 5 qualifying spot, posting a 6.689 e.t. at 205.13 mph.

"We wanted to be conservative today to the point that we could make a good run," explained Johnson. "We were just a little over conservative - we slipped the clutch too much and probably gave up somewhere around two-hundredths of a second. We were slow on the incremental times except for the last half of the track, and it was sliding over 50 rpm going through the lights so I was giving up at least one mile an hour. I didn't expect the track to get as good as it did and it was apparently a lot better than we anticipated. We should have a pretty good handle on it tomorrow as compared to this morning."

Jason Line will start Sunday's race with his Summit Racing Pontiac qualified in the No. 6 position with a run of 6.690 seconds at 205.04 mph. Teammate Greg Anderson has his new Pontiac GTO qualified in the No. 7 spot with an e.t. of 6.693 seconds. Anderson also posted a track-record top speed of 206.95 mph during the morning session of time trials.

"The car has shook every lap we've made since leaving Denver, at the sea-level tracks," said Anderson. "It will run great if we can ever get it down the track, we just can't get it to stop shaking. The backhalf numbers though tell you just how good this Pontiac GTO body style is. We're not going to give up. It's still a new car and we'll get it figured out. When we do it's going to be great."

Erica Enders used Friday night's qualifying session to record her career-best elapsed time as an NHRA Pro Stock driver - an accomplishment that lasted about 15 hours. The Slammers Chevrolet driver took advantage of the improved racing conditions during today's first round of time trials to once again record a career-best e.t., driving her Cobalt to the No. 8 spot on the ladder with a run of 6.696 seconds at 205.91 mph. It the best qualifying position by a woman in the history of NHRA Pro Stock and the first time a woman has qualified in the top half of the Pro Stock field.

"We're extremely excited, as a team, with the way this program is headed," said Enders. "Having come from qualifying only five times this season, 15th being our best, and then to run fourth and fifth yesterday, and to be eighth today, we're pretty happy. This is the first piece from our in-house engine development program so hopefully this is just the tip of the iceberg. We're really, really excited. It feels good in the car knowing the team's behind you, that the car is going to work properly beneath you and the motor is going to be fast."

"We have our own in-house chassis program too, so for the guys working on the chassis and the guys working on the motors, to bring everything together and have the Slammers Chevy Cobalt go 6.69 is phenomenal. As soon as you drop the clutch on one of these cars you have a pretty good idea if it's going to be a pretty good run or not. This morning was a hard-core leave - we went .984 to 60-foot and then going through the gears I could feel only the slightest bit of tire shake. I was excited the whole way down the track and wanted to make sure I hit my shifts."

Greg Stanfield is qualified No. 3, Ron Krisher is 11th, Dave Connolly is 12th and Bob Panella Jr. is 14th - all in Chevrolets. Jim Yates is qualified 15th in a Pontiac. Seven cars recorded times on or below Greg Anderson's 2004 track e.t. record of 6.693 seconds.

In Funny Car, Tony Pedregon drove a Chevy Monte to his 31st career pole, his third No. 1 qualifying spot of the season and his second at Infineon Raceway (his first was in 1997). Pedregon's Q Racing/Madagascar-themed Chevrolet set the track record with an elapsed time of 4.759 seconds at 321.12 mph. He will race brother Cruz in round one of eliminations on Sunday.

"It's a little bit of a drag that I have to race my brother," said Pedregon. "Sometimes it's a shame that you can't control that. I want to win and he wants to win, so we probably won't be talking much until after tomorrow. It's going to be a tough race, but we'll make the right adjustments and hopefully we can take him out. We've both done this long enough, we're professionals and we're expected to do the best that we can regardless of who we're racing."

Del Worsham is qualified in the No. 3 spot in the Checker Schuck's Kragen Chevy Monte with an elapsed time of 4.897 seconds at a track-record top speed of 325.69 mph. Tim Wilkerson is qualified sixth, Jeff Arend is eighth, Tony Bartone is ninth, Gary Denham is 14th, Tommy Johnson Jr. is 15th and Cruz Pedregon is 16th - all in Chevy Monte Carlos.

-gm racing

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas , Bob Panella , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Tony Bartone , Del Worsham , Greg Anderson , Ron Krisher , Cruz Pedregon , Greg Stanfield , Tim Wilkerson , Jason Line , Jeff Arend , Dave Connolly , Tommy Johnson Jr.