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Mike Edwards Shows He Can Seal The Deal

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Tuesday, September 22 2009
Mike Edwards went on a demon-killing mission last weekend. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA)

Mike Edwards went on a demon-killing mission last weekend. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Concord, N.C. – In auto racing, mea culpas have pretty much given way to somebodyelsea culpas. Especially when it comes to drivers. The only problems they have these days tend to be those created by others.

Then there was Pro Stock driver Mike Edwards. He of the U-shaped pointing finger. Justly and happily, he had no need to issue any culpas of any kind after the first event of the NHRA’s Countdown to 1.

Edwards won Sunday’s Carolinas Nationals and zoomed straight to the top of the Pro Stock point standings and perhaps to the role of favorite to win this year’s championship.

As stoic in victory as in defeat, Edwards celebrated his victory at zMAX Dragway by dead-panning, “It does feel a little bit better” at the post-race press conference.

Edwards knows a little bit about feeling worse.

Heading into the Countdown, the rap on him and his team was that they had the fastest cars in the division. However, the rap was, they could not close the deal.

Edwards and his Penhall/Younglife Pontiac team ruled Fridays and Saturdays at drag strips in 2009. They earned No. 1 qualifying spots in 10 of the 18 pre-Countdown events.

But on Sundays, they became the ruled. They had only three victories in 2009 and none since Seattle in mid July.

After earning pole No. 11 on the year Saturday at the Carolinas Nationals at zMAX, Edwards was delicately asked if his team had a plan to step things up on Sunday for the elimination rounds.

It wasn’t a matter of his team stepping things up, Edwards said. It was a matter of Edwards stepping things up.

“We haven’t struggled performance-wise, the only part we’ve struggled with is the driving part,” Edwards said. “You can’t change nothing, you pull up there and you try to focus on your job and do the best you can do.

“It’s time for me to step up and do a better job,” he said.

And, yes, Edwards admitted, not being able to have consistent runs when they mattered most had gotten into his head.

Top Fuel driver Larry Dixon empathized with Edwards after qualifying at zMAX.

“Absolutely,” Dixon said when asked if the troubles like Edwards had been having can become habit-forming.

And, Dixon says, there is only one way to reverse the situation.

“He’s a past world champion,” Dixon said of Edwards. “It’s a matter of putting it all together on the track on the same runs on race days and close the deal. It’s like a fighter. You lose a fight, you dust yourself off, you train hard and you get back in the ring. The good ones can flush it and move on.”

Edwards flushed it at the perfect time.

On Sunday afternoon, with 20,000 race fans looking on, he staged his car against veteran Greg Stanfield and blew a fastball right down the middle.

In getting the victory, Edwards took advantage of the new scoring format which pays points for successful qualifying rounds. He won 128 of the 130 available points at zMAX and jumped past Jason Line and Jeg Coughlin in the standings.

“I’ve been the weak link all year long,” was the first thing Edwards said.

Then he added, “We’ve got five more to go, I like our position. We’re battling every race, every qualifying run with the new points system, that’s huge. you never know what that could be. It could be one or two points here and there that might win the thing.”

Next up is the coming weekend’s O’Reilly Super Start Batteries Fall Nationals in Dallas. Edwards will arrive sans guilty feelings.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Tuesday, September 22 2009
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