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Mike Edwards Is Stocking Up On Hardware In 2013

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 4 2013

Pro Stock driver Mike Edwards has been collecting Wallys this spring. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Garry Eller)

Persistent rain showers and falling temperatures prompted NHRA officials to cancel qualifying Friday for the 33rd annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.

Eight Pro Stock cars posted elapsed times in Commerce, Ga., before rain returned to the track located northeast of Atlanta. Rickie Jones and his 2013 Chevy Camaro led those making quarter-mile runs at 6.596-seconds at 210.11 mph.

NHRA officials have scheduled qualifying sessions for 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. (EDT) Saturday leading into Sunday’s championship eliminations at 11 a.m. But drivers and teams likely will face another stiff weather challenge. The Weather.com forecast calls for a 90 percent chance of rain on Saturday and 100 percent chance on Sunday.

Whenever racing does resume, Mike Edwards will be among the drivers to beat in Pro Stock. Edwards admits the first quarter of the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season has brought back vivid memories of his 2009 campaign. Edwards raced to five victories in 10 final rounds, earned 16 No. 1 qualifying positions and claimed his first NHRA Pro Stock world championship four seasons ago.

Edwards, competing in his 17th full season of Pro Stock, has recorded one victory in two final rounds and a season-opening streak of five consecutive poles through the first six races of 2013. Edwards, who won his championship behind the wheel of a Pontiac GXP, is extremely proud of his team’s progress and the on- track performance of its Chevy Camaro.

“It has been an amazing start to the 2013 Pro Stock season,” said Edwards, winner of 35 national events. “I never thought that this Interstate Batteries/I Am Second/Penhall/K&N team would have enjoyed this much success in qualifying. Pro Stock is such a competitive field and nearly every car that pulls to the starting line each qualifying session is capable of going to the pole.”

A two-time winner at Atlanta Dragway, Edwards was relieved to finally earn his first victory of the season at the Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C., on April 21, putting a few disappointing semifinal and runnerup finishes behind him.

“After the first four races having a really fast car and not getting a win, it was beginning to make you think that it might not be in the cards for a victory this year,” said Edwards, a 45-year-old resident of Coweta, Okla. “But the win builds the morale of the team, which a few of the guys had never reached, and it gives you that taste and it makes you work harder to get back for some more.

“A victory gives you the confidence that you know you’re doing things right and moving in the right direction. At the same time, you don’t want to rest on your past and think you can just show up and win races. I’ve been around this sport way too long to know that you are only good as your last run down the racetrack.”

Edwards has not only been earning points during eliminations; he also leads all drivers in (3-2-1) qualifying bonus points with 46. Too, he added 40 points to his current series lead by setting the national elapsed time record twice _ in Gainesville, Fla. (6.473-seconds) and in Concord, N.C. (6.471-seconds). NHRA awards drivers a 20-point bonus for setting a national E.T. record.

“Setting the NHRA Pro Stock E.T. record for a second time this season is just a reward to all the long hours and hard work every single member of this team puts in,” said Edwards, whose wife, Lisa, runs the business end of the team’s operation. “It’s the culmination of everyone doing what they are supposed to and at the right moment. I can’t tell you how proud it made me to get that (winning) time slip and be able to enjoy the moment with my team.”

If Edwards is to increase his 67-point lead over reigning world champion Allen Johnson and his Mopar/J&J Racing Dodge Avenger he’ll have to hold off the Summit Racing Camaro pair of defending event winner Greg Anderson and Baytown, Texas, winner Jason Line. Anderson, a four-time world champion, and Line, a two-time world champ, have a history of rising to the occasion whenever their team sponsor puts its name on an NHRA event.

In Top Fuel, seven-time world champion Tony Schumacher again is a serious contender after securing victories at Chandler, Ariz., and Las Vegas in his U.S. Army dragster. Meanwhile, an extremely competitive Funny Car category is led by two-time world champion Cruz Pedregon _ already a two-time race-winner this season _ and the “No Name” crew of the Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry.

ESPN2 and ESPN2HD are scheduled to broadcast qualifying from 6-8 p.m. (EDT) Saturday, with Sunday’s eliminations program set for 8-11 p.m.

Jack Beckman will sport a Hall of Fame look at the NHRA Southern Nationals this weekend, as his Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car carries a paint scheme honoring team-owner Don Schumacher’s induction into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.

The “Don Schumacher Hall of Fame Tribute Car” replicates the look of the Plymouth Funny Car Schumacher campaigned in 1970, when he won the prestigious NHRA U.S. Nationals.

“That was my favorite car because it had independent front suspension,” said Schumacher, who won five NHRA event titles as an owner/driver/crew chief between 1970 and 1974. He since has added 198 titles and 11 NHRA world championships as one of drag racing’s most influential team owners.

The reigning NHRA Funny Car champion, “Fast Jack” will wear a fire suit and helmet that matches the race car during the Southern Nationals in Commerce, Ga. “When I went to my first race when I was 7, Don was one of the toughest Funny Cars in the country at the point,” Beckman said. “The car that we are replicating is the one that he won Indy with in 1970. I’ve got lots of magazines from when I was a kid that had photos of that car.

“I’ve always thought that was one of the coolest-looking cars out there. It represents a milestone victory for him and with the timing being that DSR just got their 200th race win and his induction I just think it’s awesome. It’s a humbling experience for me to get to pilot that car.”

Joining Schumacher in the Hall’s Class of 2013 Thursday night in Talladega, Ala., were 1989 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Rusty Wallace, NASCAR championship-winning team-owner Rick Hendrick and legendary crew chief Dale Inman.

Schumacher is the 11th member of the drag racing community to be enshrined in the Hall since it opened in 1990 at Talladega Superspeedway: NHRA founder Wally Parks (1992), “Big Daddy” Don Garlits (1997), Don “The Snake” Prudhomme (2000), Shirley Muldowney (2004), Bob Glidden and Joe Amato (2005), Warren “The Professor” Johnson (2007), Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins (2008), and John “Brut” Force and Kenny Bernstein (2012).

“This is such a great honor,” said Schumacher, 68. “I was overwhelmed just to be nominated.”

Schumacher was a 2007 inductee into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame after compiling an unequaled record in special events that saw him win approximately 70 percent of 560 match races from 1968 to 1974. He also won the 1972 Coca-Cola Cavalcade of Stars Championship for Funny Cars, nine International Hot Rod Association event titles and the 1973 American Hot Rod Association World Championship.

Friday’s partial results after the first round of qualifying for the 33rd annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway. Qualifying is scheduled to continue Saturday:

Pro Stock _ 1. Rickie Jones, Chevy Camaro, 6.596, 210.11; 2. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.619, 209.10; 3. Chris McGaha, Dodge Avenger, 6.635, 209.07; 4. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 6.641, 208.97; 5. Kurt Johnson, Pontiac GXP, 6.660, 206.89; 6. JR Carr, Mustang, 7.646, 127.01; 7. Warren Johnson, GXP, 7.927, 170.60; 8. Steve Kent, GXP, 16.497, 43.25.

Professional point standings (top-10) among classes competing at Atlanta Dragway:

Top Fuel _ 1. Tony Schumacher, 510; 2. Antron Brown, 440; 3. Shawn Langdon, 423; 4. Spencer Massey, 413; 5. Morgan Lucas, 347; 6. (tie) Khalid alBalooshi, 333; Doug Kalitta, 333; 8. Bob Vandergriff Jr., 295; 9. Brandon Bernstein, 281; 10. David Grubnic, 250.

Funny Car _ 1. Cruz Pedregon, 470; 2. Matt Hagan, 433; 3. Courtney Force, 384; 4. Ron Capps, 381; 5. Johnny Gray, 362; 6. Tim Wilkerson, 348; 7. Jack Beckman, 318; 8. Robert Hight, 308; 9. Alexis DeJoria, 295; 10. Bob Tasca III, 293.

Pro Stock _ 1. Mike Edwards, 532; 2. Allen Johnson, 465; 3. (tie) Jeg Coughlin Jr., 450; Erica Enders-Stevens, 450; 5. Jason Line, 419; 6. Vincent Nobile, 361; 7. Shane Gray, 327; 8. V. Gaines, 317; 9. Greg Anderson, 304; 10. Greg Stanfield, 270.

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 4 2013
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