Date published: June 24, 2011
With one race remaining at press time where Pro Stock competitors could earn points for Saturday's high-dollar K&N Horsepower Challenge, Jason Line, Allen Johnson, and Mike Edwards had the chance to earn the coveted No. 1 qualifying spot. Entering the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers in Bristol, Line's total of 2,885 points led Johnson by 60 markers, and Edwards was 130 points out in third.
Oddly, Line had claimed the pole position just twice at the qualifying events compared to the respective five and seven No. 1 positions earned by Johnson and Edwards, but Line's consistent string of top-half qualifying performances had him in the top spot. Line also had made the field at every event during that stretch; Johnson did not qualify at the 2010 Charlotte fall event, and Edwards met the same fate at this year's season opener.
This season's frantic down-to-thewire chase is in direct contrast to the 2010 program, in which Edwards had clinched the top spot early by qualifying No. 1 at the final nine races of 2009 and nine of the first 12 in 2010. Edwards' 2010 first-place finish in the qualifying order snapped an impressive six-year streak by Greg Anderson of earning the top position, though that didn't deter Anderson from winning the bonus event and doubling up with the event title the next day for a $25,000 sweep bonus.
The eighth and final position for the field was determined by fan vote as part of the K&N Horsepower Challenge Sweepstakes, in which eight lucky fans were awarded a trip to the event and the chance to win an '11 Ford Explorer.
Accordingly, there was a frantic race for the coveted No. 7 position, which Shane Gray held with 2,215 points entering Bristol. Right behind were V. Gaines at 2,170, Greg Stanfield at 2,135, and Kurt Johnson at 1,920.
Joining whoever missed the seventh spot in the battle for the fan vote were Warren Johnson, the spectators' choice last year and the driver with the most bonus-event appearances (24), Vincent Nobile, Erica Enders, Rodger Brogdon, Steve Kent, Ron Krisher, Larry Morgan, Ronnie Humphrey, and Buddy Perkinson. K&N Horsepower Challenge driver introductions are scheduled for Saturday at 11 a.m., followed by competition rounds at 11:30 a.m., 1:30, and 2:50 p.m.