It was quite a lot of shuffling at the top during the four sessions of Pro Stock qualifying during the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway and the final chance for drivers to secure their position in the 2011 K&N Horsepower Challenge.
K&N Horsepower Challenge Champion Allen Johnson
Allen Johnson's Mopar Dodge Avenger
The teams were just coming off very good air conditions, especially for the naturally aspirated cars at the last NHRA event in Englishtown, but for Bristol they were going to have to dig into their data and go back to some higher altitude settings. During the first session on Friday, Rodger Brogdon sailed to the top of the heap, posting a 6.696 and managed to be the only team to make it into the sixties during the hot late afternoon session, where the adjusted altitude was well over four thousand feet.
Brogdon would only enjoy his position for a few short hours because when the teams hit the track for session two, many teams were able to take advantage of late evening conditions, where the track had cooled nearly thirty degrees and there was just a little more 'air' for the tuners to work with. K&N's Mike Edwards was able to capitalize the most during the session to move past Brodgon when he posted a 6.679 and took over the number one spot.
Edwards would hold on to the number one spot through the heat of the third session on Saturday. A rain delay postponed the fourth and final session until much later in the day and also brought in cooler, although still quite moist, conditions.
Sitting almost like a tiger in the shadows ready to pounce, local favorite and former K&N Horsepower Challenge Champion, Allen Johnson had been steadily making runs "A to B" and sitting at number three, seemed poised to take over the top spot, should conditions come his way.
"We pretty much just hoped it would quit raining," said Johnson, when asked his thoughts about the last qualifying session. "We were hoping the sun would hang in there and it all worked right toward us. So we got after it a little bit and [laughs] showed off a little."
During the final session, Johnson and Edwards made the final pair of Pro Stock an exciting one. While Edwards bettered his earlier effort, it was all for not when Johnson stole away his thunder, along with the number one spot for Sunday's eliminations, by a whole hundredth of a second. And in NHRA Pro Stock, a hundredth is more like a mile.
Johnson's 6.668 pass also earned him another one hundred seventy five points for the final qualifier of the 2011 K&N Horsepower Challenge, plus the $3,000 event qualifier bonus and solidified his number two spot for the $50,000 shootout to take place in Norwalk in a matter of days.
While the competition is quite fierce among the Pro Stock competitors, many of them enjoy the chance to get in a little razzing and Mike Edwards did so just after the drivers exited the cars at the top end.
"He said 'You stole my K&N money'," Johnson explained the friendly top end ribbing between he and Edwards. "You know I did that at the end of the year last year about four times in a row, so I told him to look forward to more of that."
Johnson is quite proud of the K&N Horsepower Challenge Championship ring he wears earned and continues to tease other drivers such as Jason Line and Greg Anderson, "I always walk up to the both of them and lay my hand over their shoulder [the hand with ring], but I would really like to have another one of those. K&N is great for doing this Horsepower Challenge and they are great for doing the extra qualifying money. You just can't beat them."
Jason Line held onto the number one seed position, by the skin of his teeth and the smallest margin possible a mere five points over Allen Johnson.
"This year it's really tightened up lately," Johnson said of his fellow competitors and qualifiers in the Horsepower Challenge. "You know just here lately, any one of six, eight, ten cars that could win the race."
Johnson stresses how much he is looking forward to the shootout to be held at Summit Racing Motorsports Park in less than a week, "You are just really going to have to be on your game. I just really take it all as a challenge. You are racing against the best of the best and I'm one of them, you know and I try to step my game up there and really get serious about it."
"I just thank K&N for all of this, they are just the best," added Johnson.
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