After being a very familiar face to the Pro Stock pole position for numerous races, former K&N Horsepower Challenge Champion, Allen Johnson returned to the top spot in grand style after waiting twelve long events to do so with a career best E.T. of 6.486, the nineteenth career No. 1 and his first at the prestigious 2012 GatorNationals in Gainesville, Florida.
Former K&N Horsepower Challenge Champion Allen Johnson
Allen Johnson at the 2012 GatorNationals in Gainesville, Florida
As Pro Stock qualifying progressed, for the 43rd annual Tire Kingdom NHRA GatorNationals at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville, it could have been any number of drivers heading into Sunday's eliminations sitting on top of the ladder. The sought after top spot and $3,000 bonus from K&N changed hands several times starting with Erica Enders and her 6.555 out of the gate during session number one on Friday only to be bumped by the 6.545 at 211.46 MPH, that current L&N Horsepower Challenge leader, Jason Line laid down later in the day.
Not to be counted out was eventual number one qualifier, Allen Johnson from Greeneville, Tennessee. Johnson also made a move during the second session on Friday, matching Line's 6.545 only to land at number two due to being just a little behind in the mile-per-hour department, which is used as a tiebreaker for identical qualifying E.T.'s.
With a much cooler track temperature than the afternoon pass the previous day, teams were ready to see some quicker numbers for Saturday's first session and Johnson was calling for some 6.48's to come up on the board before the cars ever went down the track. And not only was he correct in his prediction, he nailed one himself with his 2012 Mopar Dodge Avenger.
All professional, as well as some sportsman classes, are assigned lanes for qualifying sessions, alternating from one side to the other. Johnson was quite happy to be going into the right lane for Saturday's first session. "The right lane was better and we happened to have it for the best session on Saturday morning," explained Johnson. "That 6.486 was my personal best."
When the afternoon and final session was in the books, Johnson was able to hold on to his number one and remain as one of only two teams that were able to muster E.T.'s dipping down into the 6.40-range, which included Jason Line's 6.490.
With all of the varying weather conditions that teams are thrown from one session to the next, let alone tracks such as Gainesville where teams noted that they needed to make extra adjustments depending on which lane they were going to run, Johnson points out the numerous changes that they can make on their Pro Stock entries. "It's unbelievable, just within the clutch, the gear ratio and the transmission," he said. "Right there, well there's ten to fifteen different decisions to make and then you have your tire size and four-link positions, leave RPM, your carb jetting and so on. You can kind of overcome a bad lane by using less clutch and changing your leave RPM. The left lane at Gainesville was a little "balder" which you would lose more of your initial traction, so you had to be really careful or you would blow the tires off."
Johnson is hoping to add another K&N Horsepower Challenge Championship later this summer to the one he won in 2009. With his latest number one qualifier, which not only earned him the $3,000 Low Qualifier check from K&N Engineering, but it also added the maximum one hundred seventy-five points to his total for the 2012 shootout, he remains solidly in the standings for a shot to race for the biggest single payday in all of NHRA Pro Stock and a shot at the $50,000 championship check that will go to the winner of the K&N Horsepower Challenge in July.
"You know we just appreciate K&N and all that they do for us," said Johnson, who still proudly wears and shows off his 2009 K&N Champion Ring. "From the qualifying bonuses they pay and the whole very special program in itself for the Pro Stock class. K&N and the people behind it are just awesome and we just can't thank them enough."
From the lower lands and moister air of Florida the teams will regroup and make many of those changes Johnson spoke of to their hot rods, for the next event on the 2012 NHRA schedule, when they head to drier air at "The Strip" at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the 13th annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals March 30-April 1. The Las Vegas event will start the home stretch of just eight events left to gain points for the 2012 K&N Horsepower Challenge set to be held during the NHRA national event at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio, July 5-8.
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