After a semi-final round exit at the NHRA Spring Nationals event just the weekend before in Houston, Mike Edwards, driver of the Penhall/Interstate Batteries/K&N Pontiac GXP, rolled into The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway ready to play a Pro Stock hand that was going to be hard to beat.
Mike Edwards takes NHRA Pro Stock victory in Las Vegas
K&N Horsepower Challenge points leader Mike Edwards
During the first qualifying pass for the Summitracing.com NHRA Nationals, K&N Horsepower Challenge points leader Edwards didn't make quite his usual straight-to-the-top lap down the track and found himself a few hundredths shy of the leader.
"We had some issues with engine and had to make some changes with that," he says of the first shot at the track. "We worked on it and got it to come around a little better for the next pass."
Edwards's car had already had several planned changes made to it and its setup after the NHRA event in Houston, due to the major differences in air conditions that would be present during the Las Vegas race.
"Going from I would say, one extreme to the other when you have conditions in Houston where it's sea level and a thirty inch barometer to the altitude you have in Vegas and a twenty-seven inch barometer, you know several of the changes you are going to make going in," commented Edwards. "We have run there a lot so we pretty much know, but you always have to make your first run and see how it all laid out for you."
Results from the Friday night session would show that the changes the team made were certainly in the right direction as Edwards would bounce back up to the familiar territory of the number one spot, which Edwards even managed to better come session number three.
"Saturday morning we made a pretty nice run," Edwards said of his run that would claim both top E.T. and speed for the event.
That "pretty nice run" was also enough for Edwards to have almost a full three-hundredths of a second on the number two qualifier and a full eight hundredths heading into race day over his first round competitor, number sixteen qualifier, Rickie Jones.
Based on Edwards's average reaction times, one may have thought his oh-sixty-one light in round number one may have been by him wanting to play it safe on the tree.
"I don't know if I would say I was taking it easy, we were just trying to be conservative about everything and make a good run and just try not to do anything really wrong the first round," explained Edwards. "You never really know what the track is going to hold first round but it helped us to know what adjustments we needed to make for second round."
Edwards continued on past Warren Johnson in round two and local resident Greg Anderson in the semi-finals before making his way to pair up with Greg Stanfield in his first Pro Stock final at the Las Vegas venue.
Stanfield, who was the number eleven qualifier, needed to go for all he could on the line during final, knowing Edwards had slightly more than six-hundreds in E.T. over him in the previous round and hadn't run numbers anywhere near that of Edwards throughout the entire event.
While Stanfield managed to pull out a little on the tree, Edwards had it more than made up by the time they reached the three-thirty foot mark and was no match for the Penhall/K&N GXP of Edwards who went on to take the stripe by almost fourteen feet, safely sailing into his fourth victory of the season, twenty-fourth overall and his very first in Las Vegas.
The K&N Horsepower Challenge Points leader, thanks to his phenomenal amount of number one qualifiers since the 2010 points began accumulating last June, also not only holds the current lead in NHRA Pro Stock Championship Points chase, but is doing so by a whopping two-hundred sixty-one points over number two, 2008 K&N Horsepower Challenge Champion, Allen Johnson.
Next the NHRA Full Throttle series heads to Madison, IL, just outside of St. Louis, MO for the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, April 30 - May 2.
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