St. Louis: Kurt Johnson final report

Kurt Johnson Scores a Decisive Win in St. Louis May 4, 2008, Madison, IL -- Kurt Johnson and the ACDelco Cobalt Racing team made a dramatic return to the NHRA winner's circle on Sunday, capturing the Pro Stock title at the O'Reilly ...

Kurt Johnson Scores a Decisive Win in St. Louis

May 4, 2008, Madison, IL -- Kurt Johnson and the ACDelco Cobalt Racing team made a dramatic return to the NHRA winner's circle on Sunday, capturing the Pro Stock title at the O'Reilly Midwest Nationals in Madison, IL. Starting from the fifth position, Johnson was the class of the field throughout eliminations, methodically posting the quickest time in each round to defeat Todd Hoerner, Jeg Coughlin and V. Gaines. This set the stage for a final-round encounter with David Connolly, who was racing in his second race since returning to the POWERade Drag Racing Series in Atlanta a week ago.

Knowing he would need an almost flawless performance to capture his third win at Gateway International Raceway, Johnson took control from the start, leaving the starting line ahead of his opponent and never looked back, using a 6.631-second, 209.30 mph pass to easily outdistance his rival's 6.651-second, 208.78 mph effort and score his first national event win since February 2007. It was the 37th national event win of Johnson's career, first of the 2008 season and third at Gateway International Raceway.

"It was a great day at Gateway for the ACDelco Cobalt Racing team," said Johnson. "You never know what to expect at one of these races. Everybody in Pro Stock is hungry, and everyone we faced today ran pretty well, so if we had made one little slip-up, someone else might have won.

"Going into the final, we knew David (Connolly) is a good driver with a good team and that we would have to be on our game to get by him. Fortunately, the crew did an outstanding job, we made the right calls on the tune-up, and I did my job behind the wheel. It just feels good to win for everyone on this team, our great sponsors including ACDelco and Chevrolet as well as all the people who support us."

After setting career bests in elapsed time and top speed in qualifying fifth, Johnson quickly established himself as a contender on Sunday, with his 6.581-second, 209.36 mph pass in the first round against rookie Todd Hoerner lowering his personal best by another hundredth of second and setting the standard for the Pro Stock class in eliminations.

However, Johnson's next opponent would prove to be his toughest of the day, as he took on defending Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin. In the closest race of the day of any of the professional categories, KJ combined a stout .014 reaction time with a 6.620, 209.33 mph pass to edge Coughlin by one ten-thousandth of a second, as he posted a 6.623-second, 208.01 mph in the losing effort.

"We knew we really had to dig down for the run against Jeg," stated Johnson. "He is always so tough on the starting line, and looking at the numbers from the first round, we ran a 6.58, while he ran a 6.61, so he knew if he had a good light, he would be there, and it ended up being really close. It was probably the race of the day, and fortunately we were able to come out on top, which was a big lift for the entire team. However, at that point we had to remind ourselves that we were only halfway home."

The ACDelco crew's solid performance continued in the semifinals. Even though V. Gaines' red-light start awarded him the automatic win, Johnson put himself in good shape.for the final round by posting a 6.619-second, 208.78 mph pass to earn lane choice against Connolly, in what proved to be the first step towards ending his 28-race winless streak.

"We made some big changes coming in to today, and our ACDelco Cobalt went down the track on every run, which is what you have to do in this category," said Johnson. "Everyone on both my ACDelco and Dad's (six-time champion Warren Johnson) GM Performance Parts crew have been working extremely hard, doing what they can to help, and it makes a big difference all the way around when one of our cars makes it to the winner's circle.

"This was a big win for us, because once you know you can do it, it makes it a little easier to do it again. But I've been around long enough to realize how hard these are to get and to appreciate every win. After all, it starts all over again in two weeks when we get to Bristol, and we're going to do our very best to do this all over again."

-credit: j2r

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Todd Hoerner