After a full year of grabbing all the qualifying points they could manage, the top seven NHRA Pro Stock drivers and the eighth by fan vote readied themselves for the biggest single payday shootout and the 2011 K&N Horsepower Challenge. The stage was set and the pairings were finalized during the Bristol event, just less than a week before the teams would lay their cards on the table in Norwalk, Ohio.
This victory marked Greg Anderson's fourth K&N Horsepower Challenge Championship and ties him with Kurt Johnson for the most wins.
2011 K&N Horsepower Challenge Champion Greg Anderson
Multi time K&N Challenge Champion, Greg Anderson came into the event as the number four seed, but as he put it "any one of the eight drivers could win from any position" and he didn't take a one lightly.
"You have eight great drivers, eight great cars, you really can't pick a favorite," he said. "It's not like you go in to this just overflowing with confidence just knowing you are going to win this race. You come in with what you think is about a one in eight chance of winning fifty grand."
"You just can't think you are anything special," he continued. "First round I have Ron Krisher. Of course we made our very first qualifying round on Saturday morning where Krisher and I ran within one thousandth of a second of each other. So I could see how things were going to shake out there. It was going to be a hell of a drag race and come down to who could get off the starting line first."
NHRA Pro Stock driver Greg Anderson wins the $50,000 K&N Horsepower Challenge jackpot
The first round of the K&N Horsepower Challenge was also going to be the final qualifying session for the Pro Stock drivers, thanks to the entire day prior being washed out by persistent rain.
While Anderson came out on top in round one, due to the misfortunes Krisher experienced in the other lane, it wasn't really the run they were looking for. "We didn't make a real clean run but we were able to get some more data," he explained of his 6.605 ET. "With that, we were really able to turn it around for the second round."
During the first round, Erica Enders, in the Challenge by fan vote, laid down the best pass thus far of the weekend and managed to grab the low qualifying spot on her way to meet up with Anderson for the next round in the Challenge. An elapsed time that did not go unnoticed by Anderson and his crew.
For the semi-finals, Anderson pulled out all the stops by first nailing the tree with a .008 to Enders .037 and it was all over from there. Anderson extended his starting line advantage, dominating both ends of the track and easily taking the win light with a 6.583 over Enders much slower 6.649.
The round win would send Anderson into the K&N Horsepower Challenge final for a fourth consecutive year.
"She had lane choice, but the guys just did an outstanding job on the car," said Anderson. "She would have been the favorite in that race for sure as she was quicker in first round. We stepped up to the table and she was driving great but I did a decent job, got off the starting line ahead of her and we outran her. Now we had lane choice going into the final and we were the favorite."
"Things changed in a hurry," he added of his change in confidence throughout the rounds. "It was an up and down day, but once we made that second round and learned what we did there, we felt we had a good package for the final."
Over on the other side of the ladder, K&N's Mike Edwards was making his way to meet up with Anderson and a repeat of last season's matchup.
"We knew it was going to come down to driver again," he said of the final. "Mike [Edwards] absolutely did a great job. He got me pretty good on the starting line, but my car was so good, the guys did such a great job, that I just chased him down and got that big trophy."
Edwards had Anderson by over two hundredths on the tree, but could only manage a 6.632 while Anderson nearly duplicated his earlier ET with a 6.587 and took nearly six feet at the stripe.
"I'm glad I didn't look over 'cause I would have been scared to death with Mike ahead of me all the way down the race track," he confessed. "I stay focused and stayed forward and never looked over until the end of the race track and when that win light came on. I was a little bit surprised and a little bit shocked."
"Happy as hell to be honest," he exclaimed of his winning moment. "I got very excited inside the race car. The Challenge is just a neat-neat deal, neat race and I love K&N and what they do for the sport. It's the most fun event to race and win all year long."
The victory marked Greg Anderson's fourth K&N Horsepower Challenge Championship and with the feat is now tied with Kurt Johnson for the most wins. In the history of the Challenge, Anderson's back to back victory makes it the fifth time that a driver has won two consecutive seasons.
In addition to Anderson grabbing the highly coveted trophy, the championship ring and the $50,000 K&N Horsepower Challenge jackpot, he also had one very excited K&N Horsepower Challenge Sweepstake contestant, who was paired with him earlier in the weekend.
"When I came around that corner [at the top end of the track] and you see that fan and how excited he is that I won, so he won, too," he said. "It's the neatest thing in the world to be able to do something for someone else. You feel a little guilty when they first pick your name out of the hat, thinking boy what if I let them down and I'm the only one that didn't let their person down. It was very exciting and just the coolest thing ever."
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