K&N's Mike Edwards Makes It Three NHRA Pro Stock Wins in a Row at Thunder Valley National Event

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Mike Edwards on the podium at the Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol
Mike Edwards on the podium at the Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol
2009 NHRA Pro Stock Champion Mike Edwards came very close to taking it all in the extremely tough class at the most recent event NHRA National event in Bristol, Tennessee and while he just missed being number one in qualifying, he and his Penhall/K&N/Interstate Battery team saved the best for last.
Penhall/K&N/Interstate Battery Pontiac
Penhall/K&N/Interstate Battery Pontiac

During the second session of qualifying for the Thunder Valley Nationals, Edwards moved up into his familiar territory of number one when he easily bumped Rodger Brogdon from the number one spot with his 6.679 ET, more than a whopping two-hundredths quicker that Brogdon's earlier pass.

"The starting line got so much better in the evening session than in the first," Edwards said of his second qualifying run. "We ran later than what we expected and when this track cools off, this track gets really, really good."

Edwards wasn't ready to begin any type of celebration on his potential pole as he quickly pointed out the turn of events during the same race in 2010. "I was sitting here on a Friday as the No. 1 qualifier and some guy named Allen Johnson came along and kicked me," Edwards said with a smile.
2009 NHRA Pro Stock Champion Mike Edwards
2009 NHRA Pro Stock Champion Mike Edwards

Saturday's two qualifying sessions would be separated by the first of two rain delays that plagued the weekend. The air earlier in the day for session three was pretty thick and not very friendly to the naturally aspirated Pro Stock combinations. Edwards, like most other teams, was unable to improve on the previous evening's session, although he did manage to remain on top. And then the first rain came.

The air was still very heavy with moisture by the time the NHRA Safety Safari had the track back in shape for the fourth and final session on Saturday evening, but the track temp was certainly much more favorable. Unfortunately for Edwards, it was a little too favorable for other teams, namely one Allen Johnson. Just like during the same event in 2010, Johnson swooped in during the final session and stole the pole position away from Edwards with his 6.668, a full hundredth of a second quicker than Edwards prior day run.

Come Sunday, teams were wondering if they would even get to see a round of competition when the skies opened up around 9AM and didn't let up until midafternoon.

As a side note, Edwards had been dealing with a knot in his back and while the heavy rains came down, he decided to have it looked at by the onsite doctor, not expecting for the event to be run until Monday. The doctor cut him open and he was reportedly in a lot of pain during the rest of the day.

Much to the surprise of many, the show would go on after all and for all the fans who stuck it out, by shortly after 4PM the first pairs of professional teams were making their first rounds of eliminations down the track.

Qualified number two, Edwards met up with Richard Freeman in round one. He took a small starting line advantage and never looked back, putting up a 6.701 for the round win and picking up lane choice in round two over Vincent Nobile.

With the best reaction time pair of the round, Nobile and Edwards made it a great drag race from the hit with their .012 and .010 respective lights. Edwards came out on top and took a little over one hundredth at the stripe with his better 6.697 to Nobile's very respectable 6.708.

That would move Edwards to the semi-finals where he would pair up with Greg Anderson. Edwards once again treed his competition, and although it got a little hairy for him shortly after the launch when his car made a few little moves, he still managed to out ET Anderson by two thousandths to make his way to the final round.

On the other side of the ladder, 2011 K&N Horsepower Challenge Fan Vote Winner Erica Enders had used a holeshot advantage to take out hometown driver and number one qualifier, Allen Johnson. While she had been in a Pro Stock final before, she was looking to make history with her first win and a first for any female in NHRA Pro Stock.

Enders' car had been like a bracket car through the rounds leading up to the final, posting three 6.69 passes in a row, it was going to make what should be an exciting match up in the final with former champion Edwards, who was looking to make it back-to-back National event victories.

When the two lined up and the tree came down, it looked like Edwards might be in trouble when Enders took a huge five hundredths advantage. But sometimes it's just your race to win, and Edwards was able to take his Penhall/K&N Pontiac right down Broadway for the win when Enders car had major trouble shortly after the launch.

"Me and my team fought through it," he said about the weekend. "We made some ugly runs. Somehow we were able to turn on the win light. Some days you pull up there it seems like no matter how bad you do, you win. That's the kind of day we had. Congratulations to my team. This car has given us some headaches."

The Pro Stock win put him on a very special list joining only Top Fuel's Tony Schumacher as competitors to grab three victories in a row at Bristol, "Winning three times straight at anything is really hard to do. And then spread it over three seasons, that makes it seem almost impossible," Edwards said.

"I praise The Lord, just thank Him for my blessings. It's all about Him. It's just a great day, anytime you can win one of these things, especially here at Bristol. It's an awesome place. It means so much to me," Edwards said.

"I want to dedicate this win to my good friend, Jeff Byrd," he added. "The people, fans, and everybody here, I want them to know he's got a special place in my heart and in my team's heart."

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