Sonoma: Kurt Johnson defending champion

While there is undeniably no place like home, there is also no better place for Kurt Johnson to wrap up NHRA's three-week western swing than Sears Point Raceway. Johnson is the defending Pro Stock champion in this weekend's Fram Autolite ...

While there is undeniably no place like home, there is also no better place for Kurt Johnson to wrap up NHRA's three-week western swing than Sears Point Raceway. Johnson is the defending Pro Stock champion in this weekend's Fram Autolite Nationals at the Northern California track. In 1999, he was the No. 1 qualifier and finished as runner-up to Jim Yates.

Johnson has already racked up a runner-up finish on this year's western trek, losing to his father Warren in Denver on July 22. He was waylaid by Seattle International Raceway's inconsistent track surface last weekend, suffering a first-round loss and remaining seventh in the Winston championship standings. Now he is ready to reprise last year's race-winning performance in Sonoma.

"We have a notebook with eight good runs in it," Johnson said. "The first hurdle is to get down the track on Friday afternoon and then put down a number on Friday night.

"You definitely don't want to be on the outside looking in on Saturday," K.J. continued. "Typically on race day we have good air and awesome power, so adapting to the track is the key."

Johnson overestimated the grip of Seattle's track surface last weekend and paid the price - but the intensity of this season's high-pressure points race makes conservatism equally risky.

"Seattle is an old race track that bit us" K.J. commented. "Maybe we could have been less aggressive in the first round, but you can't afford to be conservative in this game or you'll lose by a thousandth of a second.

"We'll be tiptoeing down the track at Sears Point," he continued. "The concrete pad is short, the asphalt is old and direct sunlight can really make it slick. But we may have a trick or two in store for the boys if our secret weapon works out as well as we hope it does."

K.J. will test his "secret weapon" on his ACDelco Cavalier in Woodburn, Ore., en route to Sonoma. If it performs to his satisfaction, the impact will be felt throughout the Pro Stock pits.

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KURT JOHNSON'S SEARS POINT RACEWAY RECORD

Year  Qual.  Result
1993    8    First Round
1994    5    Semifinal
1995    1    Semifinal
1996    1    Second Round
1997    5    Second Round
1998    3    First Round
1999    1    Runner-up (to Yates)
2000    4    Winner (over Allen Johnson)

-GM Racing

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Allen Johnson