After a slow start to the 2011 season for Mike Edwards, the former NHRA Pro Stock Champion and his Penhall/K&N/Interstate Batteries Pontiac team rolled into the most recent NHRA National Event at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Georgia poised to get back to their class leader ways. Although the team picked up the Pro Stock Wally just two events ago, things had not quite fallen their way since.
NHRA Pro Stock Champion Mike Edwards
Mike Edwards and his Penhall/K&N/Interstate Batteries Pontiac
"The last two races have not unfolded as we had hoped coming off the win in Las Vegas," admitted Edwards. "We were fast during the four-wide racing in Charlotte, but it did not translate into a win. Then in Houston, we were close to where we needed to be, but came up short in the semifinals."
As most teams know, it all starts in qualifying and although he qualified very well over the last two events, sitting at number three for race day for both, he had not grabbed a pole since the Las Vegas event.
One thing teams can count on for the Atlanta event each season is that they cannot count on the weather staying consistent. With many of the drivers in Pro Stock also being the tuners and crew chiefs for their team, it can put a lot one one's shoulders.
"Seems like we always have weather issues at this event and somehow or another we get the race in," he noted.
During the first session on Friday, it was a rather warm one. With a temperature of 88 degrees, and an adjusted altitude 3,678 feet Edwards managed to post a 6.641 @ 207.56 and right to the top of the heap.
By the time the teams rolled to the line for the second session, both the air and track conditions were much improved, allowing teams to give it a little more where it counted and Edwards' team was right on the money.
Not only did Edwards and his Penhall/K&N Pontiac improve, they continued to outrun the field with a 6.605 @ 208.55, just enough to hold off Jason Line who was just three-thousandths behind.
"If we get the cooler weather tomorrow, this run won't hold," Edwards said that Friday after session two. "If it cools off tomorrow just look how it changed between sessions. We ran a 6.64 and then stepped up to a 6.60. We only picked up 400 or 500 feet. If we come out here in the morning and the air is 1000 feet better we will run a lot faster."
While weather conditions never got any worse for the two qualifying sessions on Saturday, they didn't necessarily improve. Edwards managed to make the third quickest pass of session three and second quickest of the final session. What was most important was the fact that he continued to earn a few precious championship bonus points during qualifying, which help him make up for the DNQ at Pomona and that he held on tight to the pole position for race day. With just a small handful of events remaining to garner qualifying points for the 2011 K&N Horsepower Challenge, Edwards was pleased to gain some ground in the standings and the $3,000 #1 qualifier bonus from K&N Engineering.
"It's all about points right now," he confessed after holding on to number one. "We're looking to get all we can get. I think we got the most out of the last two days; we haven't been doing that. That is a step in the right direction.
"You have to get in the Countdown to play the Countdown," he added.
"You never want to make a mistake, but [being qualified at the top] gives you the opportunity to try some things, not off the wall or out of the box things. You don't want to try something to far off because there are three points to gain."
Mike Edwards and his Penhall/K&N Pontiac have made it a little tighter in the top three of the 2011 K&N Horsepower Challenge, just seventy points out of first. There are just three remaining events, Topeka, Englishtown and Bristol before the $50,000 shootout unfolds in Norwalk, Ohio in mid-June.
As the biggest single payday in all of NHRA Pro Stock, the K&N Horsepower Challenge pits the top seven qualified teams along with one fan voted favorite for the coveted crown and bragging rights.
For more information on placing you vote and a chance to win in the 2011 K&N Horsepower Challenge Sweepstakes visit. Time is running out! Deadline for entry is May 27, 2011.
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