Returning to his familiar spot atop the NHRA Pro Stock ladder, K&N's Mike Edwards snagged both the number one qualifying spot and the Pro Stock Wally during the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals in Commerce, Georgia. It was Edwards' sixth number one qualifier and second victory of the 2013 season.
Pro Stock Wally for Mike Edwards at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals
Interstate Batteries/K&N Chevy Camaro ran 210.57 to fully stamp his mark on the top qualifying spot
After NHRA's first attempt to compete the event during its originally schedule weekend, Mother Nature forced officials to scrap those plans and return the following week, and because of Mother's Day do so with a shortened qualifying schedule.
Edwards used that format fully to his advantage and went straight to the top in his opening lap by posting a 6.590 at 210.57. During the second and final session of qualifying, Jeg Coughlin, the only other driver to qualify number one this year, did his best to threaten Edwards' pole position. But his equally quick 6.590 would only land him at number two, due to his tie-breaking mile-per-hour being a tick slower than Edwards. Even so, Edwards had yet to run this final session and in his Interstate Batteries/K&N Chevy Camaro, he bettered his earlier run with a 6.583 at 210.57 to fully stamp his mark on the top qualifying spot.
"We definitely stumbled there in Houston, but we came out and made two good runs. We were being conservative," Edwards said, noting his concern for the shortened qualifying schedule. "You've got to get down the racetrack to get qualified."
Mike Edwards strengthens his lead in the 2014 K&N Horsepower Challenge Standings
"You pretty much know what to do," he continued. "But you just never know. When you get two runs, you don't want to go over the edge. And it's so easy to do. It's nerve-wracking, I can tell you that. It leaves no room for error. No matter how fast you think you can run, you've still got to qualify and get your name above that line."
With qualifying behind him, and now acquiring his sixth top spot of the season during the first seven events, the Coweta, Oklahoma driver strengthened his lead in the 2014 K&N Horsepower Challenge Standings. With every NHRA Pro Stock number one, drivers earn the maximum 175 bonus points and the nice $3,000 K&N Low Qualifier bonus check.
"We did good. The Interstate Batteries/K&N Camaro is running flawlessly," he said, taking a moment following qualifying to enjoy his team's hard work. "Step one is complete, to make sure we qualified. You do not know how nerve-wracking this situation is where you only have two chances to qualify."
Edwards went on to add that he and his team "feel real good about how we ran. We feel like we can run a little bit better. So that makes us feel even better. If we run like we know we can, we hope to help strengthen that lead and give us the nice boost we need before the summer months."
The 2009 NHRA Pro Stock champ would face Warren Johnson in the opening round where he would start the race with a hundredth in the bank and easily carry that to the finish line with change to spare for the win. Edwards posted a 6.612, the quickest lap of the round, to Johnson's losing 6.706.
After another short rain delay, Edwards returned for round two to face V. Gaines. Again Edwards had the starting line advantage and never looked back. Gaines had trouble early in the run and was forced to click it off although it would have been tough to gain any ground on Edwards with his 6.601 effort, turning on the win light for his 400th NHRA Pro Stock round win.
The career milestone would move Edwards on to the semifinals and a match up with multi-time K&N Horsepower Challenge champ, Greg Anderson. While Anderson may hold the win-loss record of the pair, it was not going to be added to on his side of the count for this event. In one of the closest stripes of Pro Stock eliminations, Edwards used a better light and a slightly better 6.707 to edge out Anderson and his 6.709 for a .009 margin at the finish line and the win.
Edwards saved his best E.T of the day for the final and he would need it for his pairing with Shane Gray. When the pair left the line, Gray was ahead by .027 thanks to his too-close-to-a-red-light, .001 reaction time. But with the killer tune-up Edwards and his team put on the Interstate Batteries/K&N Camaro, Edwards had it and then some, made up by the 330' mark. It was Edwards and his best lap of the day for the win, 6.595 at 209.14 to Gray's 6.643 at 208.17.
"The competition is amazing. Pro Stock is just a great class and it's just fun to be part of. It's tough and those guys are so good. They just pull up and pop those double-.00s on you, but, man, we made a nice run in the finals. I was a little nervous, but it was a sweet run," Edwards explained.
The Pro Stock win during the NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway marked Edwards second of the season and the thirty-sixth of career. Now winning two of the last three events by taking some of his dominate performance in qualifying and carrying it into race day, Edwards also builds on his NHRA Championship points lead.
When asked to describe how he's been able to turn qualifying successes into wins, he pointed out how being consistent was very important.
"And knowing if I can do a halfway decent job, I have a chance to win," Edwards noted. "When I pull in, I just have to concentrate on what I have to do. It's tough, but you have to clear everything out and do your job. Hopefully I can keep it up. We're getting stronger and we're getting better, and anytime you can win it's good."
Edwards actually joked that he wasn't sure how many near-perfect reaction times he had left in him and that he just may not need them at this point.
"I just thank God for a fast car. Shane was on today. He did a phenomenal job and they're definitely catching fire and running good. We just have to keep digging and keep getting better, and hopefully we can keep it up," Edwards said after the final.
With a very strong program going for him and his 2013 Interstate Batteries/K&N Camaro, he was glad the effort was paying off with enough to stay on top throughout eliminations no matter what was thrown at him from the other lane.
"We made some good runs, but it seemed like we couldn't make any great runs. We tried all day, we just couldn't make it go any faster. But it feels good to come out with a win. We've been here a couple weeks now, but it's a great win for my guys," Edwards pointed out.