Johnson Takes Mopar Express Lane to Victory in K&N Horsepower Challenge Win; Qualifies Second for Sunday Eliminations
• Johnson drives Mopar Express Lane to K&N Horsepower Challenge win
• Defending winner of Nationals at Las Vegas, Johnson is No.2 qualifier with Mopar teammate Coughlin third seed for Sunday’s elimination rounds
• Beckman highest Mopar qualifier in Funny Car with third place spot on score sheets
Las Vegas (Saturday, April 6) – The new look Mopar Express Lane Dodge Avenger made its debut this weekend in grand style as Allen Johnson drove it straight to victory lane in Saturday’s K&N Horsepower Challenge. The Mopar driver’s efforts also put him second in final qualifying for Sunday’s elimination rounds at the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The K&N Horsepower Challenge is an annual race-within-a-race bonus event at Las Vegas, in which all four Mopar drivers were among the eight Pro Stock entries for this year’s edition. As the top seed, Johnson faced off against his teammate and fan vote favorite, Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the first round to treat fans to an incredibly close race. Although the Jegs.com driver had the starting line advantage with a 0.019 second reaction time versus a 0.039, Johnson’s Dodge Avenger ran him down and beat him to the stripe by just 0.0031 seconds, also giving the Mopar Express Lane car the quickest pass in the third round of qualifying.
Last year’s winner of the All-Star event, HEMI-powered Vincent Nobile, lost his match-up against Erica Enders-Stevens, while Mopar driver V. Gaines fell to Jason Line. In semi-final action, Enders-Stevens disposed of Line to set up the K&N Horsepower Challenge final showdown against Johnson’s Mopar following his defeat of Greg Anderson.
Facing off on a slick track following a Top Fuel session, Johnson and Enders-Stevens found themselves in a near Funny Car style pedalfest that saw the Mopar reach the finish first with e.t. of 7.188 seconds (200.62 mph) over its rival’s 9.602 / 110.96. It is the fourth time a Dodge has won the K&N Horsepower Challenge since it was first held in 1985.
“Any time you can stack up against the eight drivers that were in that thing, just to be there is an honor, and to beat them is an even bigger honor,” said Johnson who last won the K&N Challenge in 2008. “The new Mopar Express Lane Dodge Avenger got it done today. We did everything at the track as fast as the guys working the Mopar Express Lane do changing your oil. It was a lot of fun. I appreciate K&N. Man, what an awesome company to sponsor this thing. We’ve been out here with them for many years now, and they’re quality people and a quality company.”
As the winner of the Challenge, Johnson and his Mopar Express Lane crew earned the $50,000 purse but are now eligible for the “Sweep Bonus” of $25,000 if they also make it to victory lane in the SummitRacing.com Nationals on Sunday.
After four rounds of Pro Stock qualifying, those Vegas odds look a bit better for the Johnson as the defending winner and the top Mopar seed with a second place e.t. of 6.652 seconds (207.53 mph) putting him just behind No.1 qualifier Mike Edwards with a low e.t of 6.642 seconds (208.26 mph). Coughlin was third on the score sheets on the strength of his best effort of 6.655 seconds (207.34 mph).
“Qualifying No. 3 is nice, and it took the sting out of getting nipped there in the first round of the K&N Challenge,” said Coughlin who has claimed five titles at the National in Las Vegas. “We made four good qualifying runs and got some bonus points to boot. That’s extremely exciting because it means we were one of the top three cars every session. That consistency gives myself and the rest of the team a lot of confidence going into Sunday.”
The HEMI-powered entries of Gaines and Nobile are sixth and tenth respectively heading into Sunday’s elimination rounds.
In Funny Car action, Mopar’s top qualifier was Don Schumacher Racing’s Jack Beckman who posted his best run of 4.095 seconds (306.05 mph), the second best pass of the fourth and final session, to end up third on the final qualifying sheets. Teammate Johnny Gray, who is coming off a win at the GatorNationals, qualified his Dodge Charger fourth. Matt Hagan’s Magneti Marelli offered by Mopar entry qualified well in Friday’s second session with a 4.115 sec / 306.53 mph run that was strong enough for a sixth place seed in eliminations. Tied for the lead with Gray in the Funny Car championship standings, Ron Capps put his Dodge Charger seventh.