Mark Christopher Auto Center Chevrolet Cobalt
KJ has a lot on the line
Pomona, pre-race: The 2008 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing season will come to a close this weekend with the running of the Auto Club of Southern California Finals in Pomona, Calif. Although much of the attention will naturally be focused on the championship tilts where two of the four titles remain undecided, there is plenty of motivation for racers in all the professional categories to do well.
For example, Kurt Johnson and the ACDelco Cobalt Racing team are currently involved in two separate battles beyond that of scoring their fourth win of the season. On one hand, they are looking to secure as high a finishing position in the points standings as possible. In addition, they seek to capture this year’s Full Throttle Pit Crew championship, a prestigious award given to the team that produced the highest and most consistent qualifying performance throughout the 24-race schedule.
“We have a lot of things to accomplish in Pomona, so we’re looking to have a huge weekend with the ACDelco Cobalt,” said Johnson. “Going into the Finals, we’re looking to win the race, finish second in the point standings, and win the Full Throttle Pit Crew Championship. Although it certainly won’t be easy, all three are within our reach, and if we can get the job done, it would be the perfect way to cap off a solid season, and give us a little extra momentum heading into the off-season.
“But to do it, we will have to be on top of our game. It’s been a while since we won in Brainerd, and in that time, we’ve had a couple inopportune issues. On one hand, we’ve had a car that we felt could win, and I was off a little on my driving, and at other times when I drove well, the car didn’t always perform. You can’t have that and expect to win in Pro Stock, where we’ve had different winners in each of the first five races of the Countdown. Everything just has to be perfect, and that’s what we’re planning to be.”
Fortunately, Johnson is no stranger to success at the NHRA’s season-ender. Of his four career titles at the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, three have come at the Finals, most notably in 2002, when the second-generation racer needed to win to extend his streak of consecutive years with at least one national event victory. Armed with volumes of tuning notes on the venerable surface, KJ and his “blue crew” will arrive in the Golden State ready to attack the track and the competition. However, having not seen their race car since Las Vegas, there is a lot of work to be done before the first qualifying session on Thursday afternoon.
“The name of the game is consistency, and we have to be consistently fast in order to win,” said Johnson. “We have areas to address in our ACDelco Cobalt after Las Vegas, most notably in the first 60 feet, which we’ll have to do before Thursday so we can go after that Full Throttle award. We’ll go back to a proven, fast set-up and go from there. Normally, we would have done that before we left the shop, but since our transporter has been on the West Coast since last week, we’ll have to wait until we get to the track on Wednesday to get started. I’m pretty confident we can be among the best all weekend.“Pomona’s been a pretty good track for us. The run-off area is pretty short, as we found out last year, so we’ll definitely have to check our DuraStop brakes and our parachutes to make sure we stop in time. This is a big weekend for us, so we’ll need to take everything it will give us. We want to make sure to leave a good impression on everyone heading into the off-season.”
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