In a season filled with numerous number one qualifiers and four NHRA Pro Stock event victories, one could safely say that Mike Edwards, driver of the Penhall/K&N Pontiac GXP, has certainly been enjoying a very successful 2010 thus far, heading into the most recent event in Topeka, Kansas.
Mike Edwards Penhall/K&N Pontiac GXP
Mike Edwards secured the number one spot for the 2010 K&N Horsepower Challenge
Edwards, of Coweta, Oklahoma, who is also securely in the number one spot for the 2010 K&N Horsepower Challenge, has achieved many accolades during his Pro Stock career, but even with all his event victories, never with his mom and dad in attendance.
That was about to change.
During the 22nd NHRA Summer Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka, Edwards found himself in the familiar number one qualifying position, but it didn't come quite as easy as other events.
Friday's qualifying sessions proved to be the best for the Pro Stock drivers, as extremely windy conditions prevailed for both sessions on Saturday along with considerable "bad" air for the naturally aspirated engines, which slowed the cars down by a tenth of a second or more.
"On Saturday and Sunday, Saturday especially, we had some big wind and luckily it was a dead-on head wind," said Edwards. "If it would have been blowing across the track, I'm not even sure we could have run because it was very-very strong.
Edwards' runs in the early sessions on Friday would be his best of the weekend and the 6.638 pass, made during the second session, would hold off number two qualifier, Allen Johnson, by almost two full hundredths.
Come race day, the Penhall/K&N team made their way through round number one, when Edwards posted a 6.713 to Justin Humphries 6.763. His horsepower packed domination continued in round two and when Ron Krisher went red in the semi-finals, he sailed to the final round, where he would find himself in a rematch from the previous year's event, Allen Johnson.
Normally professional NHRA teams have seventy-five minutes between rounds, but during this event that was shortened to forty-five, which one may think is a little tight, especially if you needed to change an engine.
"Our guys have got it down," explained Edwards. "It really doesn't take that long. We've got it down to about twenty minutes."
With as tight and competitive as NHRA Pro Stock is, one may think that changing an entire engine in the middle of race day would be a little unnerving, not so according to Edwards. "We take one engine out and the other is complete. We know a lot about each engine and are always comfortable in changing them."
The stage was set for the final, much like in 2009, when Edwards faced Johnson and his parents, A.C. and Gladys looking on.
"My parents have supported me a lot. They don't get to go very much because they are up in their years. But they keep up with it and everything that is going on, it was great having them here this weekend and it really made it all very special," he said.
Leading up to the final, Allen Johnson consistently posted the quickest E.T.'s of eliminations, staying in the 6.70 range all throughout. This would give him lane choice over Edwards in the final.
"They just have all together well-rounded team," Edwards said of his final round opponent, Johnson. "They are really making good runs and have exceptional power. They are definitely going to have a say in what's fixin' to happen the rest of the year."
But what happened in the final was all Edwards on the line and just when he needed it to take a holeshot victory by a mere three-thousandths of a second margin at the stripe, posting a 6.717 to Johnson's 6.710.
"This win was just truly extra special. This is the first race I've won with mom and dad being at the race," said an elated Edwards.
Never much downtime for a Championship winning team such as Edwards Motorsports as they spent the Monday and Tuesday following their Topeka win testing, since the upcoming schedule won't allow much time for that over the new few weeks.
The next event for Edwards and his Penhall/K&N Pro Stock team is the NHRA Route 66 Nationals in Joliet, Illinois, June 3-6.