Kurt Johnson reached a milestone with his fourth victory of the year at the Keystone Nationals in Reading, Pa., on September 17. With a final-round triumph over his father, K.J. eclipsed his personal-best record of three victories in a season, a...
Kurt Johnson reached a milestone with his fourth victory of the year at the Keystone Nationals in Reading, Pa., on September 17. With a final-round triumph over his father, K.J. eclipsed his personal-best record of three victories in a season, a mark he achieved in 1993, 1997, and 1999. Kurt is keen to add to that total in the five races remaining on the NHRA schedule.
"My goal is to win them all," Kurt said. "Nine wins has a nice ring to it. The competition's tough, but we're going to try to keep on winning."
Kurt and his ACDelco team have come on strong in the second half of the season. In the first 11 races, Johnson did not advance past the semi-final round; at midseason he was mired in sixth place in the Winston championship. Since then he's won four national events, won 20 rounds of eliminations, and climbed to second in the championship standings.
Johnson's next opportunity to add to his trophy collection will be at the Advance Auto Parts Nationals in Topeka, Kansas, on September 29-October 1. A victory at Heartland Park would indeed be an achievement for K.J. In 12 career starts at the Kansas track, he has yet to reach the final round.
"I definitely plan to do better in Topeka than I have in the past," Johnson laughed. "The best result I've had there was in 1993 when I crashed in qualifying, borrowed a car, and went to the semi-finals.
"Topeka is a track I've just never been able to get a handle on," Kurt conceded. "The new surface should be an equalizer. Last year we learned some things about weight distribution, so if the car likes the same setup this time, we should run fast right off the bat."
A FAMILY AFFAIR
The final round of the Keystone Nationals marked the 40th time in eight seasons that Kurt has raced his father. Kurt's victory raised his record against Warren to 3-9 in final rounds and 12-28 overall.
"Dad was happy to have two cars from Warren Johnson Enterprises in the final," Kurt commented. "There wasn't a lot of pressure. We just went out there and raced." <pre> KURT VS. WARREN SCORE CARD Total Races Kurt Wins Warren Wins Overall 40 12 28 Final Rounds 12 3 9 2000 Season 4 2 2
</pre> MEMPHIS MUSINGS
Kurt also squared off with Warren in the final round of the AutoZone Nationals in Memphis in 1998, losing to his famous father. The pair will return to Memphis Motorsports Park on October 6-8 for this year's edition of the AutoZone Nationals.
"The Memphis track has been very good in the last few years years," Kurt recalled. "I was the No. 1 qualifier there in '97, was runner-up to Dad in '98, and ran 6.90s there last year. As long as I don't have to race anyone named Elvis, I think we'll be all right in Memphis."
The good news is that Kurt is second in the Winston points standings. The bad news is that he's 363 points behind Jeg Coughlin Jr. That's a 19-round deficit with 20 rounds of racing remaining on the schedule.
"In Reading I took out the two drivers who were closest to me in the points race, but realistically the championship is out of reach," Kurt conceded. "If you don't win the title, it doesn't really matter where you finish. People remember who won the championship. I'm already thinking about next season and what we can do to improve our program, but we still want to win races this year for ACDelco, Chevrolet, and our other sponsors."
NEXT RACES: Advance Auto Parts Nationals, Sept. 29-Oct. 1, Topeka, Kan. TV: TNN, Oct. 1, 4:30-6 p.m. (ET) AutoZone Nationals, Oct. 6-8, Memphis, Tenn. TV: Speedvision, Oct. 8, 5-6:30 p.m. (ET)