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Mike Edwards Top Act In Vegas

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 31 2009
Larry Dixon lights up the night during qualifying at Las Vegas on Friday. (Photo courtesy the NHRA)

Larry Dixon lights up the night during qualifying at Las Vegas on Friday. (Photo courtesy the NHRA)

Convinced that no lead is safe, Mike Edwards continued pursuit of his first NHRA Pro Stock world championship Friday at a blistering pace.

Edwards moved into position to earn his 15th No. 1 qualifying award of the season – and trimmed his magic number for clinching the title to 19 points – following the opening two rounds of time trials for the ninth annual NHRA Las Vegas Nationals. Edwards posted a quarter-mile track-record performance of 6.623-seconds at 207.75 mph on The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to lead the category.

Driver of the A.R.T./Young Life Pontiac GXP, Edwards now is less than one round of racing (worth 20 points) from ending the 2009 title hopes of three-time champion Greg Anderson. But true to his self-effacing personality, Edwards isn’t chest-bumping anyone just yet.

“Our lead isn’t very big – this is Pro Stock,” said Edwards, a 52-year-old resident of Broken Arrow, Okla. “There’s no quit in these guys out here. It’s not over. I promise you Greg Anderson and Jason Line and Jeggie (Jeg Coughlin Jr.)  – they’re still after this, so we’ve just got to keep focused and try to do our best. We’ll come out here (Saturday) and race the track and race the conditions and hopefully we can stay in front.”

The Vegas event is Round 5 of the NHRA’s six-race Countdown to 1 playoff, and 23rd of 24 stops in the Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. Edwards, who began the weekend with a 128-point lead over Anderson, could clinch his first “Factory Hot Rod” crown on Sunday if he holds a 151-point (or greater) advantage at the conclusion of the event.

“It’s been quite a season, and to come here and run like this tonight – hats off to my guys,” said Edwards, whose car is tuned by crew chief Terry Adams. “They’re doing a really great job here. Ever since Richmond, my guys at the shop have been fired-up and they’ve been nonstop and they found some more (horsepower) for us. It’s just unbelievable what those guys are doing right now. This car is extremely fast, and I’m just so proud of my whole team. It’s a great feeling to work with a bunch of great guys. Like I’ve (said before), I’m living my dream, and it’s close to coming true.”

Meanwhile, Larry Dixon (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Hector Arana (Pro Stock Motorcycle) grabbed provisional poles in their respective pro classes.

Dixon, currently second to six-time and reigning champion Tony Schumacher in the Top Fuel standings, powered his Al-Anabi Racing Dragster to a 1,000-foot performance of 3.805-seconds at a track-record speed of 318.24 mph. If his time holds through Saturday’s two qualifying sessions, it will be Dixon’s ninth No. 1 of the season and 40th of his career.

“That’s a great run for the Al-Anabi team,” said Dixon, a two-time champion who now trails Schumacher by 45 points. “His Highness Sheik Kalid is in the house this week. There’s a lot on the line the next two weeks, so we’re out there trying to do our best.

“Without the qualifying bonus points, being more than two rounds of racing out against a car like Schumacher’s, you couldn’t make up the points in two races. I know there was one race where we made up 12 points, there was one where we made up seven points, and they obviously start adding up. It would be tough to make up ground if we didn’t have that. Alan [Johnson, team-owner] and Jason [McCulloch, crew chief] and everybody on the Al-Anabi team are really trying to do everything we can. We’re trying to not leave anything on the table because it’s not going to do any good to talk in the wintertime about what-ifs.”

Schumacher, of Don Schumacher Racing, stands third overall at 3.893-seconds at 313.07 mph in his U.S. Army Dragster.

Rookie Hagan paced the Funny Car order with a track-record performance of 4.030-seconds at 313.88 mph in the Shelor.com Dodge Charger.

“This track has always been good to me,” said Hagan, who also drives for DSR. “Hopefully, we can take a Wally home this weekend. We’ve got a great race car. Tommy [DeLago, crew chief] is doing his job tuning the car. Hopefully, I can do my job driving the car, and when we put two-and-two together, it ought to add up. I know we’ve got a fast hot rod, and we’ve got a lot of good data from when we were here at the beginning of the year. So hopefully we can go out there and run some good numbers.”

Hagan – one of four finalists for the NHRA’s prestigious Auto Club Road to the Future Award – said he knew the car was on a solid run.

“I didn’t have to drive it around a whole lot,” said Hagan, a 26-year-old resident of Christiansburg, Va. “It just went out there and did what it was supposed to do; it went right down the track. I drove it a little bit far, but when it feels that good, it’s hard to pull your foot out of it. Tommy DeLago, I can’t say enough about that guy. I got the easy job. I just hang onto this thing. Sometimes it can be more difficult than you think, but other times, it just runs right down through there, and that’s what it did tonight.”

Series leader Robert Hight is third at 4.065-seconds and 308.71 mph in his Auto Club Ford Mustang fielded by John Force Racing. Teammate Ashley Force Hood, who began the weekend 13 points behind brother-in-law Hight, was 13th in her Castrol GTX Mustang at 4.163-seconds and 303.23 mph.

Series leader Arana topped Pro Stock Motorcycle after a pass at 6.979-seconds and 192.03 mph on his Lucas Oil Buell.

“(That run) released a lot of pressure off my shoulders,” said Arana, who added four more points to his series lead. “For 20 years, I’ve been working at this and wanting this. I’ve wanted to do well and have the fans love me and to know who Hector Arana is, and I am accomplishing those things. It’s an awesome feeling. I’m not going to worry about [the championship] too much because I don’t want to lose my concentration. I just want to keep my focus.”

Reigning world champ and current points runnerup Eddie Krawiec was fourth after two rounds, posting a 7.029-second run at 190.97 mph on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson V-Rod.

Results Friday after the first two of four rounds of qualifying for the Ninth annual NHRA Las Vegas Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, 23rd of 24 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations.

Top Fuel — 1. Larry Dixon, 3.805 seconds, 318.24 mph; 2. Steve Torrence, 3.831, 314.17; 3. Tony Schumacher, 3.839, 313.07; 4. Shawn Langdon, 3.855, 313.29; 5. Thomas Nataas, 3.859, 307.65; 6. Cory McClenathan, 3.860, 315.86; 7. Antron Brown, 3.860, 314.09; 8. Brandon Bernstein, 3.863, 315.27; 9. Doug Kalitta, 3.863, 311.34; 10. Bob Vandergriff, 3.881, 304.60; 11. Spencer Massey, 3.884, 309.84; 12. Urs Erbacher, 3.927, 301.33. Not Qualified: 13. Lex Joon, 3.933, 270.16; 14. David Grubnic, 3.978, 301.74; 15. Mike Strasburg, 3.996, 305.91; 16. Steven Chrisman, 3.998, 291.95; 17. Del Cox Jr, 4.032, 252.61; 18. Troy Buff, 4.043, 262.23; 19. Terry McMillen, 4.097, 276.52; 20. Morgan Lucas, 4.389, 276.29; 21. Scott Palmer, 4.998, 147.02; 22. Stig Neergaard, 5.494, 121.56; 23. Rob Passey, 6.132, 109.10; 24. Tim Cullinan, 6.582, 100.10; 25. Chris Karamesines, 11.805, 44.72; 26. Ron August, 15.323, 49.30.

Funny Car — 1. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.030, 313.88; 2. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.041, 310.55; 3. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.065, 308.71; 4. Tony Pedregon, Chevy Impala, 4.098, 309.20; 5. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.107, 307.02; 6. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Solara, 4.114, 305.98; 7. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.116, 297.22; 8. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.118, 305.01; 9. Mike Neff, Mustang, 4.128, 302.62; 10. Jim Head, Solara, 4.132, 305.84; 11. John Force, Mustang, 4.144, 302.28; 12. Del Worsham, Solara, 4.155, 306.12. Not Qualified: 13. Ashley Force Hood, 4.163, 303.23; 14. Gary Densham, 4.167, 290.76; 15. Jerry Toliver, 4.241, 279.15; 16. Grant Downing, 4.323, 245.32; 17. Jeff Diehl, 4.439, 221.13; 18. Bob Bode, 5.621, 126.74; 19. Jeff Arend, 7.608, 87.49.

Pro Stock — 1. Mike Edwards, Pontiac GXP, 6.623, 207.75; 2. Vinnie Deceglie, Dodge Stratus, 6.660, 206.23; 3. Ron Krisher, Chevy Cobalt, 6.668, 206.92; 4. Greg Anderson, GXP, 6.670, 207.56; 5. Johnny Gray, Stratus, 6.677, 206.20; 6. Allen Johnson, Stratus, 6.679, 206.61; 7. Rodger Brogdon, GXP, 6.680, 206.10; 8. Larry Morgan, Stratus, 6.681, 205.72; 9. Jason Line, GXP, 6.683, 206.86; 10. Warren Johnson, GXP, 6.685, 206.23; 11. Jeg Coughlin, Cobalt, 6.688, 206.35; 12. Greg Stanfield, GXP, 6.693, 206.07. Not Qualified: 13. Kurt Johnson, 6.695, 206.45; 14. Matt Hartford, 6.699, 205.54; 15. Ronnie Humphrey, 6.708, 206.54; 16. Rickie Jones, 6.720, 204.98; 17. Ryan Ondrejko, 6.726, 204.29; 18. Steve Spiess, 6.729, 204.35; 19. V. Gaines, 6.750, 203.68; 20. Danny Gruninger, 6.815, 203.06; 21. Gordie Rivera, 6.824, 202.39.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.979, 192.03; 2. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.990, 192.25; 3. Matt Smith, Suzuki, 7.000, 190.48; 4. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 7.029, 190.97; 5. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.035, 190.43; 6. Junior Pippin, Buell, 7.043, 187.96; 7. Michael Phillips, Suzuki, 7.051, 189.47; 8. David Hope, Buell, 7.061, 189.76; 9. Craig Treble, Suzuki, 7.075, 190.06; 10. Douglas Horne, Buell, 7.075, 188.86; 11. Shawn Gann, Buell, 7.076, 188.33; 12. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.106, 186.38. Not Qualified: 13. Freddie Camarena, 7.111, 190.30; 14. Larry Cook, 7.127, 186.36; 15. Jim Underdahl, 7.132, 188.75; 16. Mike Berry, 7.165, 186.05; 17. GT Tonglet, 7.239, 184.12; 18. Bailey Whitaker, 7.252, 182.26; 19. Redell Harris, 7.286, 182.77; 20. Joe DeSantis, 7.291, 184.57; 21. Katie Sullivan, 7.452, 176.74; 22. James Surber, 7.457, 180.55.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 31 2009
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