Now that the 2010 NHRA Full Throttle champions have been crowned, drivers and team members get only a small break in the action before preparations for 2011 continue. While the slates may be wiped clean and all teams start off as equals when the new NHRA season begins next February, the points battle in Pro Stock for the 2011 K&N Horsepower challenge is really starting to heat up and tighten up.
NHRA Pro Stock Driver Allen Johnson
Allen Johnson and the Mopar Dodge Avenger
As the most prestigious race each season in all of Pro Stock, the K&N Horsepower Challenge provides eight teams the opportunity to earn the largest single day purse, a whopping $50,000 to the event champion and all the action takes place at the Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio. The runner-up will earn $10,000 and two semifinalists will earn $3,000. The four first-round finishes will receive $2,500 each.
With the championship purse directly in their sites, Pro Stock teams vie for the top qualifying spot during each NHRA Full Throttle event along with the $3,000 bonus awarded by K&N Engineering for their effort.
Tennessee based competitor, Allen Johnson is quite familiar with the bonus as of late. Johnson and his Team Mopar Avenger team have pocketed all possible points in the Challenge along with the cash award for the last four consecutive NHRA events, with the most recent at the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals, in Pomona, California.
It certainly wasn't a given that Johnson would easily grab the pole during the NHRA Finals after the first qualifying session, when he had uncharacteristic problems and unable to make a clean run.
Having a single session on Thursday, gave Johnson's team all the time they needed to correct any gremlins they had the day before. When they came back on Friday to make their first pass in the left lane, Johnson blasted to the number two spot, tucking in behind then current leader, V. Gaines, buy a mere two-thousandths of a second by laying down a solid 6.553 at 211.39.
The right lane continued wreaking havoc for Johnson during session number three on Saturday morning and Johnson's Avenger immediately lost traction at the hit. Thanks to his faster mile-per-hour during his earlier effort on Friday, it would keep him in the number two spot when Jason Line tied his 6.553 elapsed time.
"The right lane here just does not like Pro Stock cars. It's really, really critical to keep lane choice. When you get out there first run and don't get down, you get a little nervous," said Johnson.
In the final session at the NHRA Finals and back in the left lane, Johnson made it to the top of the pack after sailing down the southern California track in 6.551 seconds at 211.43 and once again taking the higher position from another competitor he was tied in E.T. with, thanks to his higher mile-per-hour.
"We were able to get back in that left lane tonight and make a pretty near-perfect run. That's what it's been the last four races, we've had one really, really good run and three okay runs," confessed Johnson.
One would note the almost astonishing competitiveness in the NHRA Pro Stock Ranks, with the top four qualified positions for the final event of 2010 only separated by a minute four thousandths of a second, just less than half a blink of the eye.
The pole at the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals would be the eighth for Allen Johnson during the 2010 season and the sixth since the 2011 K&N Horsepower Challenge season began in June at Norwalk.
Johnson, now forty points in first place over K&N's Mike Edwards, will get to briefly enjoy his lead in the K&N Challenge for a few months, before hitting the trail again in February when the 2011 NHRA season kicks off with the Kragen O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals.
There are only nine events remaining in which Pro Stock teams can earn qualifying points for the 2011 K&N Horsepower Challenge and a very tight race at the top with Johnson, Edwards and Jason Line all just fifty points apart.
2011 K&N Horsepower Challenge Point Standings are as follows:
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