After earning points over a 15-race span, the ladder of hungry drivers is now set for the largest single race payday in all of NHRA Pro Stock and 29th running of the K&N Horsepower Challenge. The event will take place at a new location for 2013, The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway during the 14th annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals on Saturday, April 6.
Allen Johnson at 2013 Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Auto-Plus Raceway
Eight elite teams make up the field for the K&N Horsepower Challenge with 2008 K&N Horsepower Challenge champion, Allen Johnson, sitting on top for the first time in his career. The driver from Greenville, Tennessee qualified number one at five events over the last fifteen races, more than any other NHRA Pro Stock driver to earn his first number one seed for what will be his tenth appearance in the bonus race.
Jeg Coughlin won the K&N Horsepower Challenge fan vote and will face Johnson in round one of the challenge.
"The highest I have ever finished in the Challenge qualifying is number two and that was last year," said the defending NHRA Pro Stock world champion. "We won't approach it any differently being number one because everybody in it is going to be tough. Your first round opponent is going to be just as tough probably as any of the rest of the rounds. You have to have your game together from the very first round."
"I like it being at Vegas because we are normally very-very good there," pointed out Team Mopar Dodge Avenger driver. "We won the event there last spring, so we have a lot of pluses going for us by having the Challenge there. We just so appreciate K&N putting this event together and promoting Pro Stock along with it. From the qualifying dollars they put up all season long to the big race itself, we just can't say enough about the folks at K&N."
The 2013 K&N Horsepower Challenge offers a total purse of $76,000 to the eight teams competing and the overall winner will grab a cool $50,000 and a chance for a double up bonus, should they also be fortunate enough to win the NHRA event the following day. The Horsepower Challenge runner-up will take away $10,000, each semifinalists will receive $3,000 and for the four drivers that make a first round exit, $2,500 apiece.
Johnson will be joined by seven other Pro Stock teams for the race-within-a-race bonus event, six of which also earned their way into the showdown by garnering qualifying points during the 15-race span that started with the 2012 Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio and wrapping up during the recent 2013 Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville in Florida. The eighth-place team was selected via a special fan vote on the K&N website. When the votes were tallied, the honors went to Johnson's new teammate, Jeg Coughlin, a three-time K&N Horsepower Challenge winner, who he will face in round one of the challenge.
On top of the outstanding payday on tap for the overall 2013 K&N Horsepower Challenge champion, throughout the season K&N handed out another $45,000, by paying a nice $3,000 to the top Pro Stock qualifier at each of the fifteen races, bringing the grand total of the 2013 K&N Horsepower Challenge purse and bonuses to $121,000.
This year's field is a half and half combination of both past winners and those who are still in search of their first crown. As mentioned earlier, those past winners include Johnson and Coughlin in addition to defending champ Vincent Nobile and four-time winner, Greg Anderson.
On the other side of the fence are Erica Enders-Stevens, making her fourth appearance and veteran driver V. Gaines with his third career start. Multi-time runner-up, K&N's Mike Edwards will start from the fourth spot and Jason Line, who has also made his way to the final on three previous occasions, will start from the number two spot.
"Starting from the number one spot in the challenge has never been good for me, so let's try from number two," joked the Summit Racing Equipment Pro Stock Camaro driver, Jason Line. "Vegas is a fun place and of course, our team's [Greg Anderson] will have a little added pressure since it's our team owner's home track."
When asked what it would mean to him to win the K&N Horsepower Challenge, Line was quick to blurt out with a big grin, "Fifty thousand."
"Hey, that kind of money is a big deal," he added. "For us, the Pro Stock class, it's sort of our Super Bowl and it's a very cool thing that K&N does for our class. I really want to make it happen and I've never won the thing. Every year I say that this will be the year I will win it and I'm not going to say it this year. I am going to go out there and do the best I can and try to make it happen."
For K&N's Mike Edwards, who is preparing to race in the Challenge for the tenth time, he's highly anticipating the new venue for 2013. "I'm all for the change and I really like running Vegas," he said. "I think it's going to be great for many reasons and one of them because of it being closer to K&N's headquarters and that will allow more of them to be able to be there and a part of the event. Vegas is just a great place to race and I am really looking forward to getting there and competing in the K&N Horsepower Challenge."
"The drivers and the teams that are a part of this year's Challenge are all very-very good," added the driver of the Interstate Battery/I Am Second/K&N Camaro. "They all have numerous championships and wins under their belts. You are just about going to have to do everything perfect and drive exceptionally well to win the thing. We have been close a few times and I sure would like to win that thing one time, that's for sure."
The 2013 K&N Horsepower Challenge will be contested as a part of the Saturday main race qualifying sessions during the annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals, at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, April 6.
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