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NHRA: Race is on for Second Place in Winston Pro Stock Standings

4 October 1998

MILLINGTON, Tenn. -- The figures aren't official just yet, but as far as Kurt Johnson is concerned, his father Warren can start clearing a spot on the mantle for a fourth NHRA Winston Pro Stock championship trophy.

He's officially thrown in the towel and raised the white flag on his pursuit of a Pro Stock title, at least for this season. His father's outstanding year-long performance has been simply too powerful for anyone to mount a late rally with four races remaining on the NHRA schedule.

With that little bit of business settled and out of the way, Kurt can begin to focus on his task at hand: holding on to the No. 2 position.

With tough competition from Jeg Coughlin, defending Winston champion Jim Yates, and distant threats Mark Osborne and Mike Edwards, the younger Johnson's claim to the title of second-best won't come easy. Johnson, driver of the AC Delco Chevrolet Camaro, moved into second place for the first time this season following his victory at the Pioneer Keystone Nationals in Reading, Pa.

A victory at the 11th annual Pennzoil Nationals presented by AutoZone, Oct. 8-11 at Memphis Motorsports Park could go a long way in putting some much needed distance between Johnson's hold on the second spot and his host of challengers. The $1.5 million race is the 19th of 22 events in the $30- million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

"It's a pressure situation all the way," said Johnson, who holds the Pro Stock track elapsed time record of 6.967 seconds at Memphis Motorsports Park. "It might go down to the final round in the final race, side-by-side -- who knows?

"Taking over second place at the Keystone Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway was a good start to holding on to it. That was an important victory for us and we got to beat our closest competition for second place, Jeg Coughlin. That means a lot."

Johnson, of Lawrenceville, Ga., admits that he's put in a lot of time this season to be competitive in a category that has at times featured nearly 50 cars trying to qualify for 16 starting spots.

"It's a lot of hard work," Johnson said. "It's just a combination from front bumper to back bumper on one of these things. Every inch counts these days. If you don't have your car completely ready to race when you go to the starting line, you're going home. It's that simple. Pro Stock is just so tough."

Johnson, who also earned a victory at Madison, Ill.'s Sears Craftsman Nationals this season, says he's looking forward to competing at another race track that sits along the fabled Mississippi River.

"We feel pretty good about our chances at Memphis," Johnson said. "We enjoyed running there last fall. It's a completely different track now that we race there later in the year. I think you're going to see some really great performances. Hopefully, one of them will be a winning performance by our AC Delco Chevrolet Camaro."

Interestingly, the younger Johnson has only raced his dear old dad two times this season. Both times he came up on the losing end. He wouldn't mind getting a couple of shots in the closing races to even that score, too.

"I want to race him head-to-head to see what we can do against him," Johnson said. "He's obviously the one to beat right now. He's going to win the Winston championship."