With the odds all leaning in his favor, reigning NHRA Pro Stock champion Allen Johnson should have stopped by one of the numerous casinos during his latest trip to Las Vegas, walked to the nearest roulette table and ‘put it all’ on number one, as the number seems to be very fitting for him as of late. Carrying the number one on his new Mopar Express Lane Dodge Avenger, he not only started from the number one spot in the 2013 K&N Horsepower Challenge showdown event, he ended up there. Johnson won the 29th running of the prestigious race-within-a-race for the second time in his career and went on to win the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals on Sunday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
NHRA racer Allen Johnson defeats Erica Enders-Stevens for K&N Horsepower Challenge Win
The $121,000 K&N Horsepower Challenge showcases eight Pro Stock teams in the special bonus event. Seven of the teams qualified during a 15-race span from the 2012 Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk through the 2013 Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville. The eighth-place team was selected again this year with a special fan vote that was conducted on the K&N website.
K&N Horsepower Challenge Champion Allen Johnson
The double win paid huge for the Greenville, Tennessee driver, first pocketing the $50,000 K&N Horsepower Challenge championship check on Saturday after a fierce three rounds taking against some of the best in the business. Right out of the gate, Johnson faced off against teammate and K&N HPC fan vote competitor, Jeg Coughlin, Jr.
“Up to that point, he had out qualified us so he was faster than we were,” explained Johnson of his thoughts going into the first round of the Challenge. “We knew we just had to do the job. The only thing that I really had in my favor was lane choice. At Vegas all weekend, that really proved to be the winning deal for almost everybody was having lane choice and the right lane was where it was at.”
Coughlin managed to grab two hundredths at the tree, but Johnson made up for it all the way down the quarter-mile and when the pair crossed the stripe, the margin of victory for the Mopar Express Lane team was just .003, or mere inches.
That would set Allen Johnson up for a run against multi-time K&N Horsepower Challenge champ, Greg Anderson. Anderson had made his way by Mike Edwards in a close holeshot round win. But Anderson’s ET during that first round would cost him the all-important lane choice and Johnson would take full advantage and put Anderson over in the left lane. Anderson took the starting line lead, but Johnson quickly powered by him for the 6.687 to 6.773 win.
“The track changed from run to run,” Johnson pointed out of his slower second round ET. “Another thing that worked to our advantage, we [HPC competitors] were in the back of the pack [following field of Pro Stock qualifying] every run, so we would have one of our cars go out and down the track in front of us and with that information, it would help us determine which lane was the best.”
For the final in the K&N Horsepower Challenge, Johnson would face Erica Enders-Stevens for the first of two times during the exciting weekend. Enders-Stevens was looking for her first HPC win and she had advanced to her first final by defeating last year’s champ, Vincent Nobile in round one and Jason Line in the semifinals.
Again, it all came down to lane choice and Johnson took the right. Johnson gave it his all on the line and had a nice .010 reaction time to Enders-Stevens .041 and then they both experienced tire shake shortly after the launch. Enders-Stevens car was much more violent, causing her to make a move to the center and quickly aborted her run. Johnson, however, was able to recover and drive on down the quarter-mile to a 7.188. Not exactly the kind of number that Johnson’s team was looking for, but it was more than enough to grab the stipe and his second career K&N Horsepower Challenge championship.
“Even my lane gave me quite a fit during the final, since we had to run right in there with the fuel car rounds,” he said of the track conditions. “So with no track prep, we knew the track would just be junk but just did what we could to make it happen.”
Allen Johnson was not only a big winner but so was the K&N Horsepower Challenge Sweepstakes finalist who was lucky to be paired with him for the event. Vincent Jardine of Rockland, Illinois won a very special edition K&N 2013 Toyota Tundra pickup.
“He was a hoot,” said Johnson of Jardine. “Just everything about him was great. He stayed at our trailer all weekend and just rooted us on. It was really gratifying to be able to win and even more so to be able to win for someone else at the same time. Vince was going crazy when I came around the corner at the top end after the final, so it just made it all much more exciting. He was very thankful to K&N, as am I for dong the whole deal.”
“Steve Williams and all the folks from K&N are just quality people with quality products,” added Johnson. “The opportunity for the Pro Stock class to have an event like that to shoot for means a lot and K&N is just a class operation.”
Now with a cool $50,000 check from K&N, along with the coveted K&N HOC trophy and championship ring, Johnson needed to turn his attention to Sunday’s eliminations, both for a shot to win the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals and in doing so, grab the $25,000 double up bonus.
“I’m glad the thought of a shot at a double gave me a little extra adrenaline the next day, because I was wore out after everything the day before,” Johnson laughed. “Coming off of a high like that two days in a row just killed me.”
Like Saturday, Johnson used lane choice to his full advantage and slashed his way through the Pro Stock rounds only to meet up with Erica Enders-Stevens in the final for the second time of the weekend. This time it was Enders-Stevens with a big starting line advantage only to again have to push the clutch back in after the car got loose shortly after the tree. Johnson went down the track for the win and picked up the double-up bonus for winning the K&N Horsepower Challenge the day before.
That made it a $100,000 weekend for Allen Johnson, $25,000 for the event win, $25,000 for the NHRA bonus and $50,000 from the K&N Horsepower Challenge victory win. Johnson became the seventh driver to earn the double-up bonus and this is just the ninth time that it has happened over the last three decades the bonus event has taken place.
“It’s still a little behind Denver, but it’s getting really close,” joked Johnson about Vegas being his new favorite track. “Really I can’t thank all the crew enough, there’s not one person that is more important or that stands out more that another. They all made this incredible weekend and the K&N win possible.”
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Related K&N News Articles about Allen Johnson:Current 2013 K&N Horsepower Challenge Point Leader Allen Johnson Picks Up Another Pro Stock Pole; NHRA Pro Stock Racer Allen Johnson Takes Early Point Lead in 2013 K&N Horsepower Challenge; Allen Johnson Sets Pace for the 2013 K&N Horsepower Challenge