Topeka: Kurt Johnson preview

Kurt Johnson Aims to have a Memorable Memorial Day Weekend ACDelco crew looks to park their Cavalier in the Topeka winner's circle Sugar Hill, Ga., May 21, 2003 - Throughout his ten-year Pro Stock career, Kurt Johnson has been a threat to win...

Kurt Johnson Aims to have a Memorable Memorial Day Weekend

ACDelco crew looks to park their Cavalier in the Topeka winner's circle

Sugar Hill, Ga., May 21, 2003 - Throughout his ten-year Pro Stock career, Kurt Johnson has been a threat to win every time he takes to the track. With 26 national event wins in 44 final round appearances, the ACDelco driver has made it to the championship round at 18 of the 20 tracks on which the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series will compete in 2003, visiting the winner's circle at fourteen.

One name currently missing from KJ's list of accomplishments is that of Heartland Park Topeka, site of this weekend's O'Reilly Summer Nationals. In fact, the multipurpose motorsports facility has historically offered the younger Johnson a stiff challenge, particularly in the last two years, where he has been a reluctant spectator on Sunday.

However, armed with his lightning-fast 2003 ACDelco Cavalier, Johnson returns to Kansas for this year's event determined to reverse this trend and score his first win in Topeka, much like he did earlier this season in Gainesville, FL and Bristol, TN.

"Before we even get to the track in Topeka, we'll be looking at our notes to see why we've struggled there recently," detailed Johnson. "We may even look as far back as when we were the No.1 qualifier there in 1995 to see what information we can gather.

"Obviously, as well as our ACDelco Cavalier has been performing, we'll be taking a different approach this year. We'll look at the track and the air, pick a gear and set the clutch where we think it needs to be. After that, we'll take it to the line, let the clutch out and let the motor do its job. We're pretty confident of qualifying near the top and being in contention on Sunday"

One of the biggest tests facing all competitors this weekend will be adapting to the conditions at the Kansas quarter-mile. At the last event in Englishtown, the combination of unseasonably cool temperatures, below sea level elevation and a fast racing surface produced the quickest field in the history of the Pro Stock division, with a 6.741-second elapsed time required just to qualify.

Although the track at Heartland Park Topeka is certainly capable of handling such performances, it is located at a much higher elevation, which, combined with the forecast higher temperatures, will slow the normally aspirated "factory hot rods" by almost a tenth of a second. Therefore, the challenge will be in changing the set-up to minimize the reduction in performance.

"We're going to put Englishtown behind us, and approach this as a completely different race," detailed Johnson. "When we get to Topeka, we'll go over the track to see what changes Mother Nature has created in the last year, such as what cracks may have developed, or how porous the asphalt may have gotten. We anticipate running in the low to mid 6.80's, but as long as our ACDelco Cavalier is faster than everyone else, that's all that matters."

Facts on Kurt Johnson and the ACDelco Racing Team entering the O'Reilly Summer Nationals:

* KJ at Topeka: This will be Kurt's sixteenth appearance at Heartland Park Topeka, where he has four semi-final finishes. In addition, he was the No.1 qualifier in 1995.

* Traveling in Elite Company: Kurt's 26 national event victories tie him with legendary Pro Stock driver Lee Shepherd for 15th on the all-time NHRA professional win list, and fifth in the Pro Stock Career Victories. Kurt's most recent win came at last month's Mac Tools NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol, TN.

* POWERade Points standings: After the eighth of 23 events, Kurt is in second place with 682 points, ten behind current leader Greg Anderson, and 78 ahead of his father, Warren Johnson, who is in third. Kurt finished sixth in 2002, his tenth consecutive Top 10 finish.

* Winning percentage: Kurt's .639 elimination round winning percentage (318-180) ranks 11th among all active NHRA professional drivers.

* Career best elapsed time: 6.716 seconds, Englishtown, NJ, 2003

* Career best top speed: 206.61 mph, Englishtown, NJ, 2003

Event schedule: Qualifying: Friday, May 23: Two sessions at 4:30 & 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 24: Two sessions at 12:00 noon & 3:00 p.m. Eliminations: Sunday, May 25: Pre-race ceremonies - 10 a.m. First round of eliminations - 11:00 a.m. TV Schedule: Qualifying Highlights: Saturday, May 24: 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. (ESPN) Final Eliminations Coverage: Sunday, May 25: 3:30 - 6:00 p.m. (ESPN2) NHRA2Day: Sunday, May 25: 11:00 - 11:30 a.m. (ESPN2) (Note: All TV times are Eastern. Please check your local listings for updated air times.)


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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Greg Anderson