As the NHRA teams continue their trek crisscrossing the country from not only one venue to the next, but also the sometimes greatly varying air and track conditions they encounter from event to event, Pro Stock teams continue to keep their eye on the elite prize of putting their name on the list for the 2013 K&N Horsepower Challenge. After fairly decent temperatures the week before in North Carolina, racers were greeted with a little more heat for their next event and the 27th annual AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals in Ennis, Texas.
Allen Johnson was unstoppable during the Fall Finals in Ennis Texas
Every team seems to have their weather, where their tune-ups just seem to shine, and for Allen Johnson and his Mopar Dodge Avenger, the hotter the better. The weather and track conditions served up to teams during qualifying, for the NHRA event outside of Dallas, played right into Johnson's logbook and they came out swinging.
During the first lap down the track, surface temperatures were just a tick over one-hundred thirty degrees and air temps soaring into the low nineties. Just three teams were able to put their rides into the 6.50 range, Vincent Nobile, Erica Enders and Allen Johnson. It would be Johnson's 6.585 at 211.86 that would grab the top spot and set pace for the event.
While temps remained high for the second session on Friday, the track had cooled ever-so-slightly, giving teams a little more to work with on the completely concrete surface. Again Johnson was not only the quickest Pro Stock of the session, he even managed to improve nearly two-hundredths of a second when he posted a 6.568 and distanced himself quite a bit from the rest of the field.
"Our game plan with the Mopar Dodge Avenger is consistency," said Johnson following the first day of qualifying. "We've done that so far after two runs. We won both runs and that's what we were shooting for."
"It's a great track and great surface," he continued. "There's a lot of traction out there and that's what we were banking on."
With the 2013 K&N Horsepower Challenge around the corner, points are a big deal to future contestants like Allen Johnson
When it was noted to Johnson that the track he was on the prior weekend was also all concrete and he hadn't managed the same success, he explained the some of the reasons that are not so obvious to the naked eye. "The difference between Charlotte and here is Charlotte (is like) a ski ramp. Flat on the starting line and ground downward," Johnson pointed out. "It's really, really finicky for Pro Stock cars because as your rear tires go through the staging beams, they start dropping and the reared starts trying to kick the rear of the car out. This means you really have to keep the front end of the car down. It makes it a little tricky and the car wants to spin the tires."
"We never really got a great handle on it there. It was decent on race day but Jason [Line] and Greg [Anderson], have a handle on that track. They test there all of the time."
If anyone was showing they had a handle on the track at Texas Motorplex early in the game it was Johnson.
"This track is great, it is flat, and without the ski slope," Johnson explained. "It's a more narrow groove. If you stay in the groove, you're going to be okay. It's smooth."
Come the next day and session number three, teams started to make things a little more interesting and as the pairs went down the strip, they shook the field up a little. This was partially thanks to the much cooler conditions with temps in the mid-eighties, less humidity for the naturally aspirated combinations to contend with and a much more favorable track temp of 107.
First, 2012 K&N Horsepower Challenge champion, Vincent Nobile took his turn at the proverbial top spot with a 6.564, but as most know things can change pretty quick in the world of drag racing and in just the very next pair to take the track, Erica Enders bumped him off with a nice 6.557. Allen Johnson had been the quickest of the first two sessions and he would make it a third to better himself one last time when he made a smooth 6.550 to wrap up the session.
The teams knew that if they wanted to make any kind of move, the third session was going to be their best chance to get it done and following unsuccessful attempts to improve during the final qualifying session, Johnson's 6.550 remained the number one pass going into Sunday's eliminations. It would mark the tenth number one of the season, the twenty-eighth of his career and the fifth K&N Low Qualifier bonus for the team from Greenville, Tennessee since the points were reset back in July for the 2013 K&N Horsepower Challenge.
"I can remember my first like it was yesterday," said Johnson, whose first number one came in Columbus, Ohio in 2006. "I wondered if I would get another one after that. It's been a great year for the Mopar Dodge Avenger; qualifying number one 10 times and four wins. Hopefully we can add a few more here this season. We're hitting on all cylinders. We have a very consistent strategy right now. We are just trying to make good, clean and safe runs. We're not pushing it and it is still coming out right."
With just seven events left to gain points and position for the 2013 K&N HPC, that will be held during the spring Las Vegas NHRA national event, Johnson continues stay right where he started the current chase and holds down the number one spot. Even with so few chances to gain qualifying points remaining, not one driver has locked in their chance to compete for the $50,000 championship bonus from K&N and anything could happen.
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