O'Reilly NHRA Fall Nationals
KJ battles to a semifinal finish
Dallas, Sunday: After qualifying fifth for Sunday’s final eliminations of the O’Reilly Fall Nationals in Ennis, TX, Kurt Johnson looked to score his fourth win of the 2006 POWERade Drag Racing season, and fourth of his career at the Texas Motorplex. He got off to a good start in the first round by combining a .023 reaction time with a 6.685-second, 206.29 mph pass to defeat David Howard on a holeshot, who posted a quicker 6.678-second time in the losing effort.
Johnson’s chances for victory looked even better in the quarterfinals, as he left the line with a .020 reaction time and recorded the quickest pass of the round at 6.673-seconds to trailer No. 4 qualifier Tommy Lee. However, damage suffered during the run sent the crew scrambling to effect emergency repairs, using some creative engineering in order to make it to their semifinal match-up against good friend Richie Stevens.
Arriving at the starting line with only moments to spare, the team had another scare when the engine backfired as Johnson initially attempted to start his race car. He was able to get it fired on his second attempt, and launched with a solid .041 reaction time, but slowed to a 6.706-second, 205.91 mph run. Unfortunately, the drop-off cost him, as he fell shy of overcoming his opponent’s starting line advantage, who used a .022 reaction time and a slightly slower 6.714-second pass to score the win.
“That was ugly. For a reason we have yet to identify, the engine had been backfiring throughout the day, and even caught fire in the pits twice. However our ACDelco Cobalt kept running well, and we were going rounds.
“As if that wasn’t enough, when I got out of the car at the top end after the second round, I noticed a quarter-inch stream of what appeared to be oil behind the car, which turned into a puddle after the car sat for a few seconds. Apparently when I hit the chutes and the car bounced. Looking back, maybe we should have changed engines, but we had just run low elapsed time of the round with that motor, so we decided to repair it instead.
“We used a combination of some UltraWeld (an instant sealing epoxy), a piece of an aluminum Hawaiian Punch can and some tape, and managed to patch it up in time for the semis. We also replaced the starter, since we weren’t sure if it played a role in the engine backfiring. I have to commend my crew, because they never gave up, working through our problems and making sure we made it to the line in time.
“Unfortunately, it backfired again under the tower and blew the gasket out of the intake manifold, which certainly didn’t help our run. I let the clutch out and it spun the tires a little bit, which might have hurt the reaction time. But even so, it still felt good. Unfortunately, we slowed by three hundredths from the last round and it cost us.
“Since you can’t really see the win light here, I turned off the top end thinking I had won. When the camera crew started heading to Richie’s car, I realized we had lost. What can you say – it was a drag race. I guess you could say it was a good day making it to the semifinals, but we’re here to win. Even so, we’ll take today’s results and go on to Reading next weekend and see if we can get this ACDelco Cobalt back to the winner’s circle.”
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