Topeka: GM Racing Saturday summary

Steve Johns Puts Chevy Cavalier On Top in Pro Stock at Heartland Park - Greg Anderson Wins $50,000 King Demon Crown TOPEKA, Kan., May 29, 2004 - Steve Johns earned his first career No. 1 qualifying spot in Pro Stock today at the NHRA Summer...

Steve Johns Puts Chevy Cavalier On Top in Pro Stock at Heartland Park - Greg Anderson Wins $50,000 King Demon Crown

TOPEKA, Kan., May 29, 2004 - Steve Johns earned his first career No. 1 qualifying spot in Pro Stock today at the NHRA Summer Nationals at Heartland Park after driving his Chevy Cavalier to a 6.853 elapsed time at 201.10 mph. Johns made his run during the Friday night session of time trials and managed to survive an additional two rounds of qualifying held this afternoon. Johns becomes just the 27th different Pro Stock driver since 1990 to start a race from the No. 1 position.

"Between Bill (Jenkins), the guys at the shop and myself, this was a tremendous accomplishment," said Johns. "We've really been working on the GM DRCE 500 cubic-inch powerplant for the last two years and our progress showed itself this weekend. We shipped this motor in from the shop on Wednesday, popped it in there and it proved to be exactly what we needed. After Chicago we felt if we could get home and put our heads together, we could come back here with another 15 horsepower, and that's what we did. Our run on Friday night was perfect, my Chevy Cavalier was beautiful to drive, easy to shift and we put it right down the groove."

The 42-year-old Johns is a former NHRA Competition eliminator national champion (1992) and Pro Stock Truck racer, and a member of the technical staff at Bill Jenkins Performance engines. Coming into this event, the Chevy Cavalier driver was 15th in the Pro Stock points standings, but had qualified a previous season-best of eighth at the Summit Racing Nationals in Las Vegas, and was coming off a starting position of ninth last week at Joliet (Ill.). Although it is Johns' first No. 1 qualifying spot as a Pro Stock driver, the Lancaster, Pa. native captured two poles in the discontinued Pro Stock Truck series.

"Just staying in the field this year has been a struggle for everybody so I was happy knowing that the run would keep us qualified," said Johns. "This makes six races in a row that we've qualified. Victor Cagnazzi (team owner) has a long-term plan for this program, and that racecar has been a science project to a lot of people. It may have looked bad in the beginning of the season, but by constantly gathering data and keeping at it, we know that we have a good racecar and why we have a good racecar. It's built in-house at Victor Cagnazzi's shop."

Greg Anderson's Pontiac is the quickest Grand Am in the Pro Stock field and is qualified in the No. 2 position. It is the ninth time this season that the defending NHRA POWERade champion has started a race third or better and the eighth time the Vegas General Construction Pontiac has placed second or better. Anderson won this event in 2003, is the current points leader and will take a 29-2 season round-win record into tomorrow's eliminator.

"We've got a great organization here and I feel fortunate to be a part of it," said Anderson. "We're just living right. Rob (Downing) and Jeff (Perley) make all the calls on the Vegas General Construction Pontiac and very seldom do they miss on the tune up of the car. Jason (Line) does such a great job with the engine that they all make this Grand Am a pleasure to race."

Anderson also defeated Dave Connolly in the all-GM final round of the King Demon Crown Pro Stock special event, rescheduled from last week at Route 66 Raceway because of rain. Anderson will collect $50,000 for today's win after his Grand Am crossed the finish line in 6.907 seconds at 198.93 mph. Connolly's Cavalier followed with a 6.964 e.t. at 198.64 mph. The margin of victory was .0001 of a second with approximately one inch separating the two cars at the finish line. With the $3,000 awarded for each Pro Stock pole, Anderson has now laid claim to $104,000 in King Demon bonus prize money during the last year.

"What a drag race!," said Anderson. "I was afraid to look over. The car seemed to shake in every gear and it didn't feel like a smooth run at all. I took a glance over at a thousand feet and it looked like David's Cavalier had a couple of inches on me. I thought it was over. I couldn't believe it when the yellow win light came on. What a feeling to finally win this. Barry Grant and King Demon have been good to me. We've won a lot of their money and a lot of low-qualifier bonus, and now the $50,000 payout makes it feel like I'm on his payroll.

"It's been a long time coming for us to win this deal. We've been so strong all year that I couldn't wait to get to Heartland Park. It's the biggest paycheck we compete for all year and I couldn't wait to race for it. We arrived last week in Joliet ready to go, didn't run real good, but got rained out in the finals. We had to wait an extra week and then we came here and struggled. We haven't been at the top of our game, but right now it doesn't matter. We certainly have work to do to come back and win this race tomorrow."

Anderson's KB Racing teammate Jason Line has a Pontiac Grand Am qualified in the No. 3 position. Kurt Johnson, currently second in the points standings, has the quickest Cavalier in the field in the No. 5. position The ACDelco Chevrolet driver, and runner-up participant at last year's event, posted a 6.871 e.t. at 200.56 mph.

"We're pretty pleased with the way the ACDelco Chevrolet has run so far," said Kurt Johnson. "I feel we've picked it up the whole weekend. We ran consistent yesterday with the 6.88 and the 6.87, and then came back today and ran 6.90 and 6.92. Everybody slows down a little bit or picks up depending on the conditions, and we were able to ride right along with the pack. We made some changes on that last run tonight and I think it picked it up even more. The car wanted to shake just a little bit going into second gear and that knocked maybe a hundredth out of it. Keeping that in mind, I feel that we could have gone a 6.91. You always hope for the best, but if I can clean up the run I think I can go 6.91 out there. And if we can get within a hundredth of the fast cars, we have a shot at winning this thing."

Jerry Haas will start tomorrow's eliminator from the seventh spot, Dave Connolly is eighth, Rickie Smith is ninth and JR Carr is 10th, all in Chevy Cavaliers. Bruce Allen is 12th, Jim Yates is 13th, Warren Johnson is 14th and Mike Edwards in 15th, all in Pontiac Grand Ams. Troy Coughlin finished in the 16th position with a 6.909 e.t. at 199.35 mph. The field was separated by .056 of a second.

After a recent pair of consecutive No.1 qualifying efforts at Atlanta and Joliet, Quaker State Chevy Monte Carlo driver Tony Pedregon had to settle for the second spot of the Funny Car ladder for tomorrow's race. Pedregon, the defending NHRA POWERade champion, and the winner of the last three events at Heartland Park, drove his 2004 Chevrolet to a 4.798 e.t at 320.66 mph.

"We've been very consistent in the performance area," said Pedregon. "You get a little spoiled and get used to being on the pole. One of the key priorities for us is to be able to put a good string of runs together on Sunday. We had a couple of unfortunate instances, that really don't happen that frequently, so hopefully through the process of elimination that's behind us. I think one of our disadvantages is that we're still a relatively new team, and not to use that as an excuse, but we continue to learn. There are so many different variables and components with these cars that have to work at the same time. But the nucleus is there, and it's very strong, with the support from Quaker State and everything the Chevy Monte Carlo body has provided.

"We have a tremendous headwind here, so we're dropping the spoiler and the Monte Carlo has been pretty amazing. Because of the low drag we've been able to get up to 315 mph and that's not easy given the 30 - 40 mph headwind. I'm very encouraged about going in to raceday tomorrow."

Other Chevy Monte Carlo Funny Cars qualified for tomorrow's race include Del Worsham in the fifth spot, Cruz Pedregon is seventh, Tommy Johnson Jr. is 10th, Tim Wilkerson is 11th and Ron Capps is 12th.

Qualifying for the NHRA Summer Nationals can be seen on ESPN2 on Saturday, May 29, beginning at 8 p.m. (ET). Final eliminations will be broadcast on ESPN2 on Sunday, May 30, starting at 8 p.m. (ET).

-gm racing-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , Greg Anderson , Cruz Pedregon , Bruce Allen , Tim Wilkerson , Barry Grant , Jason Line , Rickie Smith , Jerry Haas , Dave Connolly , Mike Edwards , Steve J