LAS VEGAS – As the Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle teams prepare for the Big O Tires NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Oct. 25-28, world championship titles are on the line in both classes at the next to last playoff race in the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship.
With five wins and 10 No. 1 qualifying positions in Pro Stock, Allen Johnson and his Team Mopar/J&J Racing Dodge Avenger team have been on a hot streak since the start of the Countdown playoffs. He also has been atop the points standings since the start of the Western Swing in Denver, and now has an 82-point lead over second place Jason Line and a 125-point lead over third place Erica Enders going into Las Vegas.
Despite having a four round lead over Line with eight rounds of racing remaining, Johnson is approaching this event as if that points lead doesn’t exist.
“You know, I’m looking at it as there’s no lead at all, the way Jason and Erica both are running,” Johnson said. “I’m taking it one round at a time qualifying and racing, just trying to get every single point I can get, as they are, I’m sure. But I think it’s just like I heard Antron say, you go out there and stub your toe first round and those guys can leave Vegas ahead of you. I’m looking at it as I’ve got to go to the semis at least to win this thing, both races.”
Defending world champ Line, driver of the Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro, has had a successful season so far, racing to two victories and seven No. 1 qualifying positions. He started off on the right foot in the Countdown playoffs with a win at Charlotte and sits second in the standings. Line feels there is still a chance to chase down Johnson for the championship.
“Obviously with the Countdown format, the playoff style format, it’s all about peaking at the right time,” Line said. “We still haven’t quite hit our peak yet, but I don’t think it’s too late. We’re definitely getting faster each week, and right now we’ve got a pretty bad, fast Camaro. Definitely it’s not over yet. We’re definitely going to give Allen a tough time the next couple weeks.”
GK Motorsports driver Enders has been tearing up the track after earning her first career victory at Seattle. She now has a total of four victories and two No. 1 qualifying positions on the season. Enders will try to keep making things happen in Las Vegas.
“It’s always a challenge to be hot, but we’ve certainly had some momentum the past few races,” Enders said. “You know, unfortunately we started off on the wrong foot in Charlotte, and it’s been hard to catch up. But my guys have been doing a great job, and we’ve got a really fast Cobalt. We’ve just got to continue to carry the momentum. We’re not out yet.”
In Pro Stock Motorcycle competition, it has been the Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines show all season long. The Screamin’ Eagle/Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson duo has racked up 12 victories and seven No. 1 qualifying positions. Heading to Las Vegas, Hines sits 17 points behind Krawiec in the Countdown to the Championship points standings and is ready to gain ground on his teammate.
“I was the runner-up there last year to Eddie and then went on to Pomona and was able to win the final against Eddie there,” Hines said. “We’re still riding that wave from this time last year, and each one of us needs to do everything we can to try and take out the other guy.”
The points leader may change pending the result of the rain-delayed Reading final round, which will be contested between the two riders during the final qualifying session on Saturday. With a 40-point swing on the table, the winner of that round will take the series points lead into Sunday’s eliminations at Las Vegas.
“It’s going to be some serious competition,” Hines said. “Eddie mentioned last week when we were on our radio show that the pit area is probably going to be a little quiet come time between Q3 and Q4 in Vegas, and odds are that’s going to be the case.”
Defending world champ Krawiec has led the points since Atlanta back in early May and hopes to continue his momentum by taking home the Wally for the second year in a row in Las Vegas and possibly a third championship down the road at Pomona.
“We’re looking forward to it,” Krawiec said. “I am thinking these last two races are going to be really interesting, and it would be awesome to be in two more all Harley-Davidson finals.”