It certainly wasn't easy and didn't come right out of the box, but NHRA Pro Stock Driver Allen Johnson showed during the second day of qualifying during the Mopar NHRA Mile High Nationals, that he and his team have got what it takes for high-altitude tuning when they grabbed their second pole in a row at the event.
Allen Johnson grabbed his second pole in a row at Bandimere Speedway
NHRA Pro Stock Driver Allen Johnson at Mopar NHRA Mile High Nationals
Pro Stock qualifying for the Bandimere Speedway event was dominated during the first day of activities by eventual event champion, K&N's Mike Edwards after he made the quickest passes of both sessions one and two to hang on to the number one position, at least overnight. Johnson struggled during the first session, pushing the clutch in early and coasted to a 9.249. In session two, Johnson and his team looked more like themselves when they made a serious threat to steal away the number one from Edwards, but they would have to wait until Saturday to make that happen.
Saturday was a whole new ballgame for the driver from Tennessee. During the third session, Johnson jumped up to grab the number one spot, just edging Edwards by five thousandths of a second, with his 6.983. And he and his Mopar sponsored Dodge Avenger weren't finished just yet.
With an adjusted altitude of nearly ten thousand feet, these naturally aspirated Pro Stock engines don't have a whole lot of 'air' to work with and their performance is affected much more than the nitro classes. Johnson and his team still had a few tricks up their sleeve thanks to the extensive testing they have conducted in these conditions and it truly showed in the fourth and final session.
As the pairings go in professional qualifying, Johnson and Edwards were one and two on the sheet coming into the final session and would run each other as the final pair. Edwards made a good run and picked up another two-thousandths, but it would be Johnson making the biggest leap and jockeyed back to the back to the pole that V. Gaines tried to take away in the pair just prior.
"We've tested a lot at this track the last few years and have built up a lot of very valuable data that has contributed to our success," he noted after qualifying was completed on Saturday. "We feel that this is our race, and we do everything we can to perform at our very best level. Tomorrow's conditions should be very similar to what we had today, and we actually left a little bit on the table on that 6.97 run. So there's a chance that we could improve slightly during Sunday's eliminations."
While the number one qualifier was the first for Johnson since the points were reset for the 2012 K&N Horsepower Challenge just three races ago at Norwalk, it was his second of the season, seventeenth of his career, not to mention his third at this very event. With the Denver number one, Johnson acquired the maximum qualifying points of one-hundred and seventy-five, along with the widely appreciated $3,000 low-qualifier bonus check from K&N Engineering.
"You get better with every run. Hopefully you improve with every run. Dad tunes these Hemi engines better with every run. It's a progression. It isn't that we are pulling a rabbit out of the hat, we're just getting better," said Johnson.
It's still anyone's game for the 2012 K&N Horsepower Challenge, but each driver takes each and every race as serious as the next. With a $50,000 payday for the Challenge Champion, the biggest single day payout for any NHRA professional category, each qualifying point is precious to guarantee one's spot in the elite eight. Currently, Erica Enders sits at number one with Jason Line behind fifteen points at number two and Mike Edwards, Greg Anderson and Allen Johnson wrapping up the top five.
The Bandimere event kicked off the "Western Swing", a three race in a row portion of the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle schedule. Next the team's head to Infineon Raceway, in Sonoma, California before wrapping up the "Swing" the following week in Seattle, Washington.
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