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Edwards Looking Dynastic In NHRA Pro Stock

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, September 4 2010

Mike Edwards could be speeding toward a second straight Pro Stock championship. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Clermont, Ind. – Mike Edwards has been pedaling Pro Stock cars down drag strips for a while now. He’s seen enough of the sport to know that success in that division of the NHRA Full Throttle series can be contageous.

Pro Stock, he’s observed, tends to be the division which produces mini-dynasties.

“Yeah,” Edwards said Friday, “I know it and I don’t know why that is. It does work out that way and I can’t explain it. I hope that it works out for me that way.”

Could happen.

In the latter part of the first decade of the 21st Century, Edwards is the man ruling Pro Stock. He’s winning races, poles and rounds. If he can put together a good showing in this weekend’s Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, he would be well on his to extending his rule.

Edwards is the defending Pro Stock champion. His 2009 season was as impressive as it was surprising to some observers of the sport.

Good since going pro in the NHRA in 1982, the native of Broken Arrow, Okla. who turned 53 on Friday, became great in 2009. He tied the NHRA record for most No. 1 qualifying positions in a season with 16. He won two races in the Countdown to 1 and earned 53 round wins.

This year, there has been more of the same. Edwards has 11 No. 1 qualifying positions and was the provisional pole-winner Friday night in the Countdown to 1 kickoff event at O’Reilly Raceway Park.

He’s won eight races this year and was top points man in the regular-season portion of the schedule.

Is Edwards at the point where he can put together one of those mini-Pro Stock dynasties the way drivers like Jeg Coughlin and Greg Anderson have in recent seasons?

Edwards politely waves the question aside.

“I’m still in awe of last year,” he said. “It was dream come true for me last year. I’ve told everybody that. It’s 25 years of work and I finally reached my dream. It’s just an awesome feeling to have the success we had last year and win. You know how competitive Pro Stock is and it would be a tremendous feat if we could do it again.”

His chances of winning a second straight championship, Edwards said, depend on one thing – his ability to be as fast as the cars his team is putting under him over the next six races.

“There’s a lot of pressure on me because I know we’re going to go as far as I takes us with my driving,” he said. “I got to get better. I’ve got to work at that, and I have been working at it. I feel our car is as good as anybody’s.”

At times last year, when Edwards was winning poles like crazy but only occasional races, he could be found in media sessions beating himself up pretty good for not being as good as his cars. It hurt him and his team.

This year, though, qualifying has taken on an increased importance as points are awarded for doing well on Fridays and Saturdays. Edwards said his ability to qualify well and earn those bonus points figures into his game plan in this year’s Countdown.

“Those points are valuable,” he said. “Last year we really, really capitalized on that (in the Countdown as the points-for-qualifying change was implemented for the final six races of the season). I’m not sure we’re going to be able to do that this year because there are some really fast cars real close to us but, yes, all those points you can get add up.

“Like right here (at the U.S. Nationals this weekend) there are five qualifying rounds and that’s almost a full round of points. There’s no coming out here and trying something out (in qualifying). It’s show time and you better bring out what you think’s the best.”

Edwards insists that it’s going to be tougher for him to keep the championship that it was to get it.

Dang it.

“Absolutely it’s a stronger field” this year than last in the Countdown, Edwards said. “You got probably 10 quality cars in the Countdown. Robert Hight proved last year (in Funny Car) even 10th place can win the championship. But, I like our starting point. I like the way we got started here this weekend and hopefully we can build on that.”

If so, Edwards could be dynasty bound.

He looked, however, uncomfortable with that suggestion.

“Well,” he said, “I just hope I can do it one more time.”

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

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, September 4 2010
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