Three-time World Champion and reigning Northwest Division Super Gas Champ, Mike Ferderer is obviously no stranger to what it takes to put himself and his K&N Pontiac Grand Am in a final, after all he is the Winningest Super Gas Driver in NHRA history.
During Ferderer's most recent NHRA National Event in Sonoma, California, it wasn't his familiar Super Gas class that he chose to enter, but a brand new class to the NHRA National tour for 2010, Top Sportsman.
Three-time World Champion Mike Ferderer
Mike Ferderer and his NHRA Super Gas K&N Pontiac Grand Am
Top Sportsman and its close cousin, Top Dragster, are classes a little more familiar to those on the eastern side of the county and up until the current season, have never been offered at NHRA National events. The Top Sportsman class consists of "door car" only entries and a quick 32 qualified field, paired on a ladder starting with round one and providing some of the fastest bracket racing you'll see anywhere.
Up until the Sonoma event, Ferderer had not competed with his Grand Am in any other class during 2010 other than Super Gas, where his car utilizes a throttle stop to slow the car down to the high 9-second range.
"I was surprised the thing went as fast and as quick as it did," Ferderer said of his first no throttle stop passes since a Las Vegas meet last season. "I mean 186 [mph] and 7.37, that's quite good."
As a highly accomplished racer, Ferderer notes some of the differences between Top Sportsman and the Super Classes.
"Well, you don't have to be as accurate as a driver, because the cars in Top Sportsman are going so fast, it's harder to be as accurate," he explained. "Super Gas, in my opinion, is a lot harder driving-wise, because you have to be so accurate. In Top Sportsman, you are relying on the car so much more than you do in Super Gas."
Ferderer reflects on some of the more memorable rounds of the weekend that got him to the Top Sportsman final, starting with the very first match up and the remarkably high speeds for the class.
"During the first round, I go double-oh and take a four-thou stripe against a car going 197 MPH," he noted.
The next two rounds came a little easier for the multi-time champ, when a couple of cases of the "right time, right place" played into his hand with back-to-back round wins thanks to his opponent's redlights, and he sailed his way into the semi-finals.
The semi-final match-up would pair Ferderer against one of the quicker cars participating in the event. After almost dead-even reaction times, separated by just two-thousandths of a second, Ferderer was ready to play his hand at the stripe.
"I saw him coming and I knew he was going to get around me, but I didn't think it would be that close," he said of his win light over Slatten. "He broke out by five-thou and I shut mine down a little bit and there you go, off to the money round."
A character both on and off the track, Ferderer shared a light-hearted moment that took place during his final round with eventual Top Sportsman runner-up, Gary Forkner.
"We have radios in the car and Travis, our guy that works on all the cars for Steve, he was helping me back up because the smoke was just laying on the track and I couldn't get a good bearing," he said. "He said ‘right, right, OK straight' and then ‘OK you got it'. So I pulled it in a little and put her into pre-stage and I told Travis, ‘win or lose, I want a drink, a cigar and my cell phone down at the end of the track' and his reply was, '10-4'."
One might note that while other drivers are nothing but completely and utterly serious during any round and possibly even more so in a NHRA National event final, Ferderer is about as relaxed as they come. Possibly a huge secret to his unprecedented successes over the years and something other drivers should take a lesson from.
Ferderer and his K&N Pontiac Grand Am had quite a starting line advantage over Forkner and easily held on for his first Top Sportsman National Event win in his very first attempt, bringing his NHRA National win count to twenty-one.
"It was very-very neat to win at the Fram Nationals with the World's Best Air Filter, K&N in my car," smiled the newest Top Sportsman champ.
His event winning Grand Am is loaded with all the latest K&N products, from oil filters to the K&N Hood Scoop, which dons a K&N race specific high flow air filter and Ferderer had these words to share with any skeptics of K&N filters in racecars that sport large cubic inch motors.
"Well, there are some people that say that K&N doesn't have the technology to make an air filter that will allow the car to run speed," he said. "Well I ran 186 miles-an-hour with a single 1050[carburetor] on a 565 cubic inch motor in a door car and that's haulin'. And I think the K&N filter actually helps improve the speed."
Find K&N products for your vehicle using the K&N application search then use the K&N dealer search to find a K&N dealer in your part of the world.