Championship Drag Racing

Mac Tools U.S. Nationals
Indianapolis, Ind.
(August 27-September 1)

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Driver Profile
Kurt Johnson
Mark Christopher Auto Center Chevrolet Cobalt

KJ is cool, calm and collected heading into Indy

Indianapolis, pre-race: This weekend, the drag racing world will convene in Indianapolis, IN for the sports biggest race, the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals.  Of the 24 stops on the POWERade Drag Racing Schedule, this single event is second only to the championship in terms of importance to the racers, with most agreeing that any straight-liner’s resume is incomplete without a win at the “Big Go.” 

As if this were not enough, this year the pressure on competitors will be even greater, as this event also marks the end of the NHRA’s regular season, the Countdown to Ten, with the fields for the six-race, championship playoff to be set at the end of final eliminations on Monday night. 

Despite this heightened atmosphere, ACDelco Cobalt racer Kurt Johnson is approaching this race like any other.  Having secured his spot in the post-season two races ago and with consecutive U.S. Nationals victories to his credit in 1996 & 1997, the second-generation racer prefers to simply concentrate on maintaining the consistently strong performance he has displayed in the past few weeks.

“We’re going to Indy just ready to do our job, focusing on that first qualifying run on Friday night, seeing if we can knock it out of the park,” said Johnson.  “Our ACDelco Cobalt has been absolutely flying lately, and we’re going to try to make it go even faster.  It’s definitely a tool that is well polished, sitting there in our tool box waiting to be used.

“Although we are treating this as just another race, we’re fully aware it’s the U.S. Nationals, where all eyes are on your every move, from the fans and sponsors to your fellow competitors.  It’s our biggest race and it pays a little more, making it a good one to win, and we’re pretty pumped about our chances for this weekend.”

However, before any team entertains any thoughts of winning in the Hoosier State quarter-mile classic, they must first qualify, and with a larger-than average Pro Stock field expected, this could prove to be a stiff test for even the series regulars.  The racer’s first challenge will be finding the right set-up for venerable O’Reilly Raceway Park, site of this weekend’s event.

“The track at ORP has been pretty decent over the years, but recently, it has been a one-lane racetrack, with the left side being clearly superior,” said Johnson.  “If they haven’t done anything to address that, we’ll have to make sure and compensate any time we’re in that right hand lane.  The issues are mostly at the starting line, where these Pro Stock cars typically make a big move, so we will have to see what we have to work with when we get there and adjust our ACDelco Cobalt accordingly.”

Finally, in addition to pursuing their third U.S. Nationals win, the blue crew is also after the No. 1 seed for the Countdown to One title chase and the 30-point bonus that comes with it.  Coming into this final event, they are less than two rounds behind current leader Greg Anderson, making it an achievable objective.  

“We’re certainly after that No.1 position for the Countdown and the thirty point bonus that goes with it,” said Johnson.  “After all, as tight as the competition is in Pro Stock, those extra points could be crucial by the end of the season.  However, we’re not going to get obsessed with it and get away from our normal game plan, because that is what put us in this position.

“We’re going to go out there, do the best job we can with our ACDelco Cobalt, and let the cards fall where they may.  We’re going to do what we can to go two rounds further than he does, while he’ll be doing his best to stay ahead of us.  It’s going to be interesting, and the fun is only starting.”


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