As one of the most coveted events in NHRA Pro Stock for fans and teams alike with its $50,000 check to the winner, the 2012 running of the K&N Horsepower Challenge was filled with tremendous excitement from start to finish with several upsets along the way to crowning this year's champion, first time Challenge Qualifier, Vincent Nobile.
NHRA Pro Stock Racer Vincent Noble wins 2012 K&N Horsepower Challenge at Summit Racing Equipment Nationals
The 2012 K&N Horsepower Challenge field featured three former winners along with five drivers who were looking for their first victory in the special event. The winners included four-time and defending champ Greg Anderson, third place qualifier and 2008 winner Allen Johnson as well as the Fan Vote winner and three-time K&N HPC victor, Jeg Coughlin. Sitting among the five who were looking for their first win were K&N's Mike Edwards had reached the final four previous times and Jason Line who had just missed the championship crown twice.
2012 K&N Horsepower Challenge Champion Vincent Noble
While many eyes were on this year's number one qualifier Jason Line, who along with Allen Johnson, had racked up the majority of the number one qualifying positions as of late, most would admit that Vincent Nobile may not have been their pick to come out on top when the race-within-a-race bonus event was held during the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio.
"Last season, because it was my first full year racing and with the way the points start in the middle of one season to the middle of the next for the K&N Challenge, I couldn't get enough races in and qualifying points to make the 2011 event," said the driver of the MountainView Tire 2012 Dodge Avenger . "I came very close to getting in the fan voted eighth spot last year and was beat out by Erica Enders by something like just sixteen votes. We ended up winning the race at Norwalk last year and I really wanted to get into the K&N Horsepower Challenge this year, because Norwalk has always been so good to us."
"You know I pretty much grew up at Norwalk with all the racing my dad did there over the years," he explained.
Drivers earn points for the K&N Horsepower Challenge based on how they qualify for each NHRA National Event, with the number one qualifier earning the maximum 175 points. Although Nobile has run very well over the past year in qualifying, he has yet to reach the pole in his young career.
"I've never qualified number one in my career," he admitted. "My best qualifying position is three and we have a bunch of those. What helped us get our position for the Challenge this year was some of the other guys in the show. Some guys kind of fell off a little bit when we were doing really well, so we were able to really gain a lot of points on everybody and that's kind of how we worked our way in."
Nobile came into the three round race qualified in the sixth position and would have to face 2009 K&N Horsepower Challenge Champion, Allen Johnson in round one. "We're pretty much team cars," he said of his first round opponent. "I get my motors from Allen and we share a lot of information. Having to run him, kinda stunk a little bit and he's been running really great, so it was a little intimidating. But we just went out there and ran our race."
The young driver, who hails from Dix Hills, New York, used a better .048 reaction time paired with a 6.714 to Johnson's .059 and 6.731 to move out of round one and on to the semifinals where he would face another giant in the NHRA Pro Stock class, K&N's Mike Edwards.
"I go to every lap telling myself I am going to win," he said of the next round match up with Edwards. "Me and my team, we were just really confident in ourselves. My team has been supplying me with a really great car and they told me just don't worry about it and go up there and do your deal and that we should get this round win. The round with Mike was probably the closest round all weekend. When I was coming up on the finish line, I wasn't really sure who was winning until my win light came on."
Nobile took his .006 starting line advantage and held on to it all the way through the stripe for just that amount as the margin of victory and a holeshot round win as a pair of 6.733 times came up on the boards for both he and Edwards.
Not only were each of Nobile's matchups throughout the K&N Horsepower Challenge race brutal, so was the heat and humidity at the north central Ohio facility. Air temperatures soared to near 100 during the rounds and water grains hung at unbearable levels of upper 140's and lower 150's. "Having to wear that fire suit all day was really rough," he pointed out. "But when you are winning rounds in an event like this, it just makes everything that much better and you really don't even pay much attention to how hot you really are."
After a year of extremely competitive qualifying, it was now down to the final pair and in a matter of moments the 2012 K&N Horsepower Challenge Champion would emerge. Nobile would face Jason Line, who on his way to the final stopped Jeg Coughlin in round one and teammate Greg Anderson in the semifinals.
"Going into the final against Jason was definitely a little intimidating," admitted Nobile. "Just because he's a World Champion and he's been in the final several times before. He kind of knows what to expect and all that, but I just did my normal deal and blocked all that information out of my head. When I went up there, I staged as shallow as possible, because I did not want to red-light."
Nobile went on to deny Jason Line his first K&N HOC win by becoming the youngest driver to ever be crowned champion with his second holeshot win of the event. With a blistering track temperature of 145 degrees, Nobile put a whopping .029 starting line advantage on Line and shut down Line's quicker 6.732 by a 0.0112 margin or nearly three feet even though he only managed to post a 6.750.
"When I got down there and my win light came on, I was just in shock," he confessed. "And while that was great to win the best part about it was winning that truck for Peggy."
As part of the annual festivities for the K&N Horsepower Challenge, Joplin, Missouri's Peggy Coleman was one of eight lucky finalists who entered online for the K&N Horsepower Challenge Sweepstakes. Coleman was paired with Nobile before the start of the race and if Nobile won, so did she.
"On Friday the eight sweepstakes contestants got paired with a driver and actually, I was the last person picked or paired," he laughed. "So when I got to meet Peggy I told her that they always save the best for last. We agreed that we were going to win together."
"I actually didn't know her whole story until before first round," he continued. "My mother actually came over to me with tears after she just learned Peggy's whole story about her house being destroyed and all her belongings. She told me she just had this feeling that I was going to win and it was just meant to be."
"Considering that she lost her house and all her belongings and all that was destroyed in the Joplin tornado, just being able to give back was truly awesome," he pointed out.
In addition to becoming the youngest driver to win the race-within-a-race, very few drivers have won the K&N Horsepower Challenge in their very first appearance and Nobile not only added his name to an elite group, but he also went on to double up on Sunday when he once again found himself lined up to take on Jason Line and again denied him the win light. The feat netted Nobile and his team a weekend they won't soon forget by acquiring the $50,000 championship check, ring and ultra-cool K&N Horsepower Challenge trophy, the $25,000 double up bonus along with the $25,000 for winning the main NHRA Pro Stock event.
"I have been dreaming of just making it into the K&N Horsepower Challenge for as long as I can remember," said Nobile who got his drag racing start in the Jr. ranks. "To make it in, to win is just amazing. I watched my idols growing up taking that trophy home and the K&N trophy is probably the coolest one out there. What K&N does for us, for Pro Stock and for the fans who get to participate in the event with us is unparalleled. K&N is a total class act and we are very grateful to everyone there who make this event possible for us to shoot for every year. They continue to make it bigger, better and more exciting for all of us."
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