The final round of the 2016 K&N Horsepower Challenge at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was a stunner – but not quite in the way that one would expect.
Greg Anderson and Jason Line have been remarkable in the new era of Pro Stock, showing that strenuous efforts in the off-season to get a handle on the new rules – including newly mandated electronic fuel injection (EFI) and the 10,500 rev limiter – were worth it. Ken Black’s Summit Racing-branded Pro Stock team have been low qualifiers and had at least one car in every final round this season, so seeing their red and blue Chevrolet Camaros in the K&N Horsepower Challenge final was not a huge surprise.
The stunning moment, though, happened when Line’s Camaro began to leak fluid on the starting line before he was even able to stage in the final. Line was forced to shut off, and Anderson’s win light was illuminated, thereby guaranteeing him the K&N Horsepower Challenge win. His victory lap was not pretty, however, as Anderson stuttered into a bout of nasty tire shake and coasted to a non-stellar 12.336-second pass.
The course of events in the final made little sense to observers as Anderson came into the special bonus race as the No. 1 seed based on qualifying performances over the past year, and Line, the incoming points leader, was clearing a path to earn the 43rd low qualifier award of his career at the DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals.
“I feel horrible for Jason, but it happens sometimes,” said Anderson. “Thank the Lord it didn’t happen in one of the earlier rounds because we were able to get an all-KB Racing final. The Summit Racing team was a winner before we even got to the final round. Jason definitely got the short end of the stick there, but he’ll have his chance tomorrow and going forward. He’s got a great, great car.
“These things are very hard to win; you have to take them any way you can. I’ll accept this with gratitude. I feel like I just won big on the ol’ craps table.”
Anderson wasn’t the only winner on Saturday: a 2016 K&N Horsepower Challenge special edition Toyota Tacoma was presented to Eva Mack, of New Hope, Pa., who was the fortunate fan paired with Anderson after winning K&N’s online contest.
“I can’t thank K&N enough,” said Anderson. “This is a fantastic program, and for Toyota to give that cool Tacoma to a lucky fan is just icing on the cake. It felt great handing the keys to that lucky lady. I can’t wait for next year.”
In round one, Harlow Sammons Racing driver Chris McGaha advanced on a red-lighting Drew Skillman, and when Shane Gray could not keep his Valvoline/Nova Services Camaro fired, he was forced to give up the run and send Line ahead for a first-round win.
Elite Motorsports Dodge Dart driver Erica Enders knocked out fellow Mopar contender Allen Johnson in his Marathon Petroleum Dart, 6.755, 204.60 to 6.789, 204.73. Anderson squared off with Jeg Coughlin Jr. in a classic battle of mail-order parts houses, and this time it was Summit Racing getting the nod, 6.692, 206.35 to 6.807, 203.52.
In the semifinals, Line sent Enders away with a 6.720, 205.94 to defeat her 6.810, 204.39, and Anderson raced ahead of a tire-shaking McGaha for a 6.744, 206.16 to 20.720, 32.38 win.
The all-Summit Racing final round was the second in the history of the special bonus race that singles out the top seven qualifiers for the year, as well as an eighth driver selected by fan vote. Anderson also won the event over Line in 2006.
The final round was odd, for certain, but it does not change the fact that it is a new page in history: Anderson will always be the first driver to have won the K&N Horsepower Challenge with EFI. In addition, he moved into the position of driver to have won the most Pro Stock shootout trophies, passing Kurt Johnson.
“That’s definitely cool,” said Anderson. “Kurt and I have a great history, and we go back a long way. Between Kurt and Warren, his father, I owe so much of what I’m doing today to them. They got me started in this game and taught me so much, and I have a lot of respect for them. Any time you can beat one of their records, it’s great. I hope to add to it, come back next year and shoot for No. 6.”