Keeping Pace

Kurt Johnson edges closer to Countdown

Kurt Johnson's AC Delco Chevrolet jumps off the line. (Photo courtesy of NHRA) (The Spokesman-Review)
Kurt Johnson's AC Delco Chevrolet jumps off the line. (Photo courtesy of NHRA) (The Spokesman-Review)

The ACDelco driver is a three-time winner at Maple Grove Raceway scoring his second career victory there in 1993, and then again in '98 and 2000.

Courtesy: NHRA Media Relations

Reading, PA–Kurt Johnson heads to the Keystone State for this weekend's 25th annual Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway more resolute than ever to put his ACDelco Chevrolet on a winning pace. With two events remaining before the Countdown to 1 for the top 10 in the standings, the veteran driver is leaving no stone unturned. 

"Everyone on this race team is working hard to put this ACDelco Chevrolet in the winner's circle," Johnson said. "We're going over the entire car with a fine-toothed comb and making the necessary changes to make that happen."

The ACDelco driver is in eighth place in the Full Throttle standings and edging closer to clinching a spot in the three-year-old playoff format. Johnson could do so with a strong performance at Maple Grove where he needs to leave the Toyo NHRA Nationals with a 139-point margin over the 11th-place driver. Right now his current lead over 11th-place Johnny Gray is exactly 139 points.

"We want to earn our spot in the Countdown, but right now we're also looking ahead," Johnson said. "We're not satisfied with eighth-place. We need to move up in the standings, start winning some rounds and some races, and then we'll be a legitimate contender. If we can make that happen over the next couple of weeks then anything is possible when the Countdown starts."

If Johnson goes on to claim a spot in the Countdown, either at Reading, or two weeks later at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, it would lock in the 17th consecutive top-10 finish for the veteran driver. That is the longest top-10 streak among active Pro Stock drivers and second only to John Force (25 straight years) among all professional competitors.

"The top-10 streak is certainly something we want to keep alive," Johnson said. "We also have a winning streak of 14 years going that is just as important – if not more so. All we need to do is go out there, do our job and win a race, and the rest will fall into a place. If we can put some round wins together, the streak will continue, and then hopefully we'll have a shot at this championship. We're positive, that's for sure."

The ACDelco driver is a three-time winner at Maple Grove Raceway scoring his second career victory there in 1993, and then again in '98 and 2000. Johnson was runner-up to Dave Connolly in '07 at a rain-soaked contest that was postponed for three days, and at last year's race he qualified the ACDelco Chevrolet in the No. 2 position, advanced to the semifinal round and set top speed of the meet at 208.91 mph.

"It seems like we always run pretty good at Maple Grove," Johnson said. "Before the race was moved to the middle of August there was always the chance that someone might set either a national-record time or speed, and that added some excitement to the event. You probably won't see those kind of record runs now, but with so much on the line as far as getting into the Countdown, there's still that added drama – it's just a different kind.

"There's a lot of history at this event and a lot of great racers in this part of the country. Drag racing fans come out in full force from just about every state in the Middle Atlantic, and from up and down the Eastern Seaboard to support this event. The stands are always packed, and to see all those race fans lining the fence for every single run, whether it's a Pro or a Sportsman pair on the track, that just adds to the excitement of being a competitor at Maple Grove Raceway."




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Keeping Pace

Motorsports correspondent Doug Pace keeps up with motorsports news and notes from around the region.






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