At this weekend’s Summit Racing Equipment Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio, eight of the NHRA’s best Pro Stock racers will take part in the 26th annual K&N Horsepower Challenge, a special event pairing seven drivers who accumulated the most qualifying points over the last year as well as one final participant selected by the fans in a three-round, high dollar shootout with the winner taking home $50,000.
This year’s field includes four former winners accounting for nine of the wins in the Challenge’s 25-year history as well as the current and four former Full Throttle Pro Stock champions. Once qualifying was completed at the last event in Bristol, Tenn.,, the elite eight took time to answer some questions about Pro Stock’s all-star race:
Qualified No. 1: 4,270 pts.
Hometown: Broken Arrow, OK
Race Car: Penhall/K&N Filters/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP
Edwards earned the No. 1 qualifying position for the 2010 K&N Horsepower Challenge in dominating fashion. In 24 races, he was the No. 1 qualifier 18 times, with a total of 20 starts in the Top 2 positions, giving him an average starting position of 1.47. In his six previous appearances in the Challenge, Mike has runner-up finishes in 1997 & 2002.
Q: For the last year and a half, you have had the dominant car, both in qualifying and on race day How does it feel to go into this event, not only with that tremendous race car, but knowing everyone is gunning for you?
ME: “It feels really, really good. First of all, it feels great just to qualify for the Horsepower Challenge, and to be in the position we’re in with this Penhall/K&N/Interstate Pontiac makes it even better given how hard this entire team has worked to get there. We’ll be racing on a tricky racetrack up in Norwalk, which can be hard to figure out, and there are eight really good drivers and teams battling it out for that $50,000 first prize, so it’s going to be quite interesting for sure.”
Q: This year you have K&N on your race car. What would it mean to earn your first K&N Horsepower Challenge win carrying their colors?
ME: “It would be a tremendous achievement just to win the Challenge, and doing it this year would be doubly special given our association with K&N. Steve Williams and the K&N people have done a tremendous job, not only for us, but the entire Pro Stock class. They’ve given us the opportunity to go out and race in a bonus race, and the fact that Pro Stock is currently the only class with an event of this nature makes it that much bigger of a deal. I really appreciate what they’ve done, and all the time and money they’ve invested. I’d welcome the opportunity to celebrate with them in the winner’s circle on Saturday.”
Qualified No. 2: 3,520 pts.
Hometown: Concord, N.C.
Race Car: Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac GXP
Greg Anderson captured the No. 2 qualifying position for this year’s K&N Horsepower Challenge with two No. 1 qualifying performances and 15 starts in the Top 3 positions. In his seven previous appearances in the Challenge, he has five final round appearances (including one year ago), winning the event in 2004 & 2006.
Q: Looking at your record, you certainly seem to have acclimated yourself well to the format of the K&N Horsepower Challenge. How do you like your chances for 2010?
GA: “Without a doubt, the K&N Horsepower Challenge has historically been a good race for me. I’ve won it twice, and come extremely close to winning it a couple of other times. It adds a ton of excitement to the weekend, having eight Pro Stock cars going at it for fifty grand. Motivation is certainly never an issue.
“Of course, it’s not like we needed any more, seeing as it’s held during the Summit race at Summit Motorsports Park. We’ll have a lot of extra support with everyone coming down from Summit’s main office in Tallmadge, and that might be just what we need to get my third win. Our Summit Racing Pontiacs have started to come around in the last few races, so we’ll definitely have a shot at the title. We may not come into the event dominating the class, and may not be the favorite, but we’ll be in the mix.”
Q: How important is this event and K&N’s sponsorship to the Pro Stock class?
GA: “Steve Williams and his crew at K&N have done an amazing job with this K&N Horsepower Challenge. They have organized it, promoted it, and put up the bounty, helping to make our class even more popular. Steve believes in it, we certainly believe in it, and obviously so do his K&N customers, so we need to do everything we can to ensure its continued success. I believe the K&N Horsepower Challenge is extremely significant, because it shows that the Pro Stock class is as viable as any of the other professional categories.”
Q: Does having the K&N Horsepower Challenge on Saturday put more pressure on doing well during the two qualifying sessions on Friday?
GA: “It does. You had better do something right on Friday or you’ll dig yourself a big hole and go into race day cold. The last thing you want to do is go into Round 1 on Saturday scrambling and changing everything on your race car, so it’s extremely important to get off on the right foot. That’s why we stayed and tested an extra day in Bristol: to make sure our Summit Racing Pontiacs will be fast right off the trailer. There’s too much on the line to start off slow.”
Qualified No. 3: 3,405 pts.
Hometown: Greeneville, TN
Race Car: Team Mopar/J&J Racing Dodge Avenger
Allen Johnson, the 2008 Challenge champion, comes into this event as the most recent No. 1 qualifier, having captured the pole last weekend at his home track in Bristol, TN, one of two posted during the past year. This will be Allen’s seventh start in the Challenge, where he once again will be the standard-bearer for the Mopar fans.
Q: Your car has really come alive in the last few races: how do you like your chances for this year’s K&N Horsepower Challenge?
AJ: “I feel like our chances are very, very good. We just have to make the right decisions at the right time. If our Mopar Avenger is not the best car, it’s equal to the best, so I feel like we’re going up to Norwalk with a very good chance of winning.”
Q: Both you and your father Roy are obvious gearheads. What does K&N’s involvement mean to you?
AJ: “K&N is vital to Pro Stock. Their program has been re-energized with the changes they made for 2010, and Steve Williams has said he would like to make it the best promotion of any category in the NHRA. We’re really happy with their involvement. Their design work on the hood scoop has been awesome, as well as other areas they’ve been working on. We just love K&N.”
Q: What would a second Challenge win mean to you?
AJ: “Probably about the same as the first one - $50,000! (laughs) Actually, I felt like I had a shot to double up (winning the national event the day after, which would earn a “Sweep Bonus” of $25,000) when I won in 2008, but was a little late on the tree, so I’d sure like to have a second chance. But first, I need to win my second K&N Horsepower Challenge.”
Qualified No. 4 (tied): 3,350 pts.
Hometown: Troutman, N.C.
Race Car: Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac GXP
Jason Line earned his spot in this year’s K&N Horsepower Challenge by qualifying in the top half of the field in 18 of the 24 races. He will be making his sixth consecutive start in the Challenge in 2010, where he hopes to better his runner-up finishes from 2005 & 2006 and become the 12th different winner in the history of this event.
Q: What does it mean for Pro Stock to have K&N sponsor the Horsepower Challenge?
JL: “We really appreciate what K&N does for our sport and Pro Stock in particular, putting up the money for the No. 1 qualifier award, as well as the Horsepower Challenge. They make superior products for both our Summit Racing Pontiacs and our personal vehicles. Best of all, those guys are real racers, so they know what we want, and work with us to make sure we get what we need. Steve Williams and his group have made a tremendous commitment to motorsports including Pro Stock, which means a lot to every team in this pit area, and I think it’s pretty cool that they were able to get the fans involved this year. Hopefully, I can help someone take home a new Harley.”
Q: This will be your sixth appearance in the K&N Horsepower Challenge, where you were the runner-up in 2005 & 2006. What would it mean to you to win?
JL: “It would be huge. After coming so close in previous years, I am more than ready to win the K&N Horsepower Challenge, and feel like we have a legitimate shot at getting the job done. It’s held at Summit’s home track, which gives us extra motivation to win, and we’re excited to be going there. It’s a big deal to all the racers, and not only because of the $50,000 payday. As our version of an all-star race, every round you now you’ll be matched up against the very best in our category, so if you end the day in the winner’s circle, you’ve accomplished something. A lot of great racers have won it in the past, and I’d certainly like to add my name to that list.”
Qualified No. 4 (tied) : 3,350 pts.
Hometown: Delaware, Ohio
Race Car: JEGS.com Chevrolet Cobalt
As the defending champion Jeg Coughlin is the only driver in this year’s field with the opportunity to win the K&N Horsepower Challenge in consecutive years, a feat he has already accomplished once before, having won his first two starts in 1999 & 2000 (one of only four in the event’s history to do so). Making his ninth start, he looks to tie Pro Stock stalwart Kurt Johnson for the most wins in the event’s history at four.
Q: You come into the event as the defending champion and a three-time Challenge winner. What would it mean to win No. 4 and tie for the most all-time?
JC: “It would be huge for us. Being in Ohio, Norwalk is one of our home tracks even though it is sponsored by one of our largest competitors. We’ll have a lot of family, friends and fans from the Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia and Indiana areas that will come out and really enjoy seeing us run well so it’s always fun to race there, and to challenge for our fourth K&N Horsepower Challenge would be extremely exciting. We’ve had a great Jegs.com Cobalt this year that’s been a little hot and cold, but one place where we’re usually pretty strong is Norwalk, so we’re looking forward to going there.”
Q: What will it take to defend your title?
JC: “It’s the eight best Pro Stock drivers from the previous calendar year, so there are no easy rounds. Several of them have won world championships and several have won K&N Horsepower Challenges over the years, so to defend our title it’s going to take some masterful skill in the pit area, some great driving, and some good old Lady Luck. I feel our Jegs.com team has been progressing in that direction, and if we have some luck, we should be in good shape.”
Qualified No. 6: 3,205 pts.
Hometown: Warren, Ohio
Race Car: Valvoline Chevrolet Cobalt
Krisher used 17 Top Five qualifying performances to secure the sixth position for this year’s Challenge, moving up two positions from where he started one year ago. This marks the Ohio native’s sixth appearance in Pro Stock’s All-Star race, where, with the benefit of Mike Edwards horsepower, he looks to score his first Challenge win.
Q: This will be your sixth start in the K&N Horsepower Challenge. Would you consider this the best race car you’ve had going into the event?
RK: “It’s actually the same Valvoline Cobalt as we used last year, but it was new then, and we have a much better idea of what we’re doing with it at this point. It was a little touchy on the tree last week in Bristol, but we’ll get that fixed by Norwalk. The car is definitely fast. I can’t say enough about Mike Edwards and the motors he’s given me. He’s been more than fair, more than helpful, accommodating us in every way possible. This is the best deal I have ever had, which makes me feel good going into the K&N Horsepower Challenge. As a home race, we’ll have a lot of people there supporting us, so it would be pretty exciting to win.”
Q: Talk a little about K&N and their support of the Pro Stock class.
RK: “The people at K&N are great to deal with. Any help you need, whether it’s air filters, oil filters or whatever, they are right on top of things. They’ve been super to us: we’ve been working with their hood scoops, and our set-up is a little different, so it’s taken a little time. Still, if we have any questions or issues, they get you another one right away. It’s the best thing that’s happened to Pro Stock, and we need to do everything we can to take care of them so they’ll stay involved.”
Qualified No. 7: 2,925 pts.
Hometown: Tomball, TX
Race Car: Attitude Apparel Pontiac GXP
Brogdon holds the distinction of being the only K&N Challenge rookie in this year’s field, having used three Top Four qualifying performances in his last seven races to claim the last guaranteed starting spot, including qualifying fourth in Joliet, IL only three races after a serious crash during eliminations at Gateway Raceway which required extensive repairs to his race car.
Q: What does it mean to qualify for your first K&N Horsepower Challenge?
RB: “It means a lot to every one on this Attitude Apparel team. As anyone who keeps up with us knows, we had that crash in St. Louis, and didn’t qualify for the next race, so it was total chaos for two to three weeks. On top of that, we changed crew chiefs, and we’re now running the car completely differently than we did before. There were a lot of long hours put in by the people on this team, so to have that hard work pay off by making the K&N Horsepower Challenge was very special.”
Q: As the only Challenge rookie, you’ll probably be the most relaxed driver in the field.
RB: “Absolutely. We’re just going to go in there and let it rip, because we have nothing to lose. If what we’re going to try works, we’ll win, and we’re going to do everything we can to win the whole thing. I want to buy Bob Frey a new Harley - I’ll make him donate it to DRAW, but I want to get it for him.”
Q: What would it mean to win in your very first outing?
RB: “After the year we’ve had, being out here for two years, to win something like the K&N Horsepower Challenge would mean everything to us, and would do a lot for this team. We plan on being out here for a long time, and racing in a lot of these things, but we’re going to make the best of the first one, I tell you that.”
Qualified No. 8: Fan Vote Winner
Hometown: Buford, GA
Race Car: K&N Engineering Pontiac GXP
Warren Johnson will be making a record 24th appearance in the K&N Horsepower Challenge, having only missed the 2005 & 2007 editions. His seven final round appearances lead all competitors and include one in each of the three decades the event has been held, with a total of three wins coming into this event. This year, “The Professor” carries the distinction of being the winner of the fan vote, having edged Erica Enders on the final day of balloting.
Q: It must be a tremendous feeling to know you were voted in by the fans.
WJ: “Absolutely. As I’ve always said, the fans are really the most important part out here. Sanctioning bodies and racers can be replaced, but without fans and sponsors, we have nothing. To be chosen for the eighth starting spot in this year’s K&N Horsepower Challenge is extremely gratifying, and I want to thank all the fans who voted, not just for me, but for all the racers.”
Q: I guess you’re also pleased that K&N added the fan vote in 2010.
WJ: “Regardless of the fact that I was the one fortunate enough to win, I want to thank Steve Williams and the entire crew at K&N for including the fans in the program this year. I think it was a tremendous idea, and bodes well for the popularity of Pro Stock, given the nearly 14,000 votes submitted. I believe it proves that Pro Stock is a viable category, and more importantly, that this program is a viable promotion for K&N. Hopefully, they will get the return on investment they are looking for, giving us something to build on in future years.”
Q: You’ve won the Challenge three times in the past, but open your pursuit of a fourth win against the baddest guy in the category, Mike Edwards: what’s it going to take to win?
WJ: “Well, he’s the baddest guy in the class…..for now (laughs)”