Mike Edwards' Young Life Pontiac GTO Prepared for Mile-High Nationals First Leg of Demanding Three-Race Western Swing DENVER, Colo., July 7, 2006 Mike Edwards is the NHRA POWERade series' most - recent Pro Stock winner, but with years of ...
Mike Edwards' Young Life Pontiac GTO Prepared for Mile-High Nationals
First Leg of Demanding Three-Race Western Swing
DENVER, Colo., July 7, 2006 Mike Edwards is the NHRA POWERade series' most - recent Pro Stock winner, but with years of experience as a drag racing veteran he knows it will take a little extra effort to fully prepare his Young Life Pontiac GTO for the unique racing conditions and extreme altitude (5,860 feet) that will be encountered at the 27th annual Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway on July 14 - 16. That's why the 48-year-old Oklahoma native joined a large group of Pro Stock competitors for a pre-race test session at Bandimere Speedway the week following his impressive victory at St. Louis on June 25.
"The test session in Denver went pretty well for us," said Edwards. "We tried a lot of things on the Young Life Pontiac GTO, which is what you have to do to get ready for a race like the Mile-High Nationals, and we ran right around the middle of the pack. Because of the unique conditions we face racing at Bandimere, it's important for us to get a good read on the kind of gearing to use and the tune-up on the motor we're going to need. For us, gearing is everything there, and you can't afford waiting until the first Friday qualifying session to figure out what will work and what won't. We have to run so much different stuff there, and after the race we won't use any of it the rest of the year."
If Edwards has a special fondness for the scenic mountainside facility nestled in the foothills of the Rockies, it should come as no surprise. He won the Modified crown at Bandimere Speedway in 1981 and captured the Pro Stock eliminator in 2002. The headquarters for Young Life are located just a couple of hours south of the racetrack in Colorado Springs, and that provides a little extra motivation when competing at the Mile-High Nationals.
"I think all the drivers enjoy coming to Bandimere Speedway," said Edwards. "The Bandimere family know how to take care of the racers, and at the same time, we've had some success there over the years. Even though it does require a little more preparation on the racecar, the racetrack itself is outstanding and it's a beautiful venue we always enjoy visiting. With Young Life located nearby, we'd like to make a good showing for them and for everyone who supports our program. After the test session, we have a pretty good idea on what we need to do, and like everyone else, our goal is to start out the Western Swing on the right foot."
With two wins and three final-round appearances already tallied this year, the 48-year-old Oklahoma native is off to his best start since his Rookie of the Year campaign in 1996. Edwards also knows that a strong showing at the next three races, held on consecutive weekends, will go a long way toward keeping his team in the overall championship picture.
"The Western Swing is here, so you'd better be ready," said Edwards. "It's going to be a long three weeks. After testing in Denver, we spent the rest of our time at the shop just getting everything ready. We have a lot of high expectations, and we're hoping to build on our recent momentum - we'll head to Denver hoping for the best. The main focus is to qualify as good as we can and then see what happens on Sunday. As we have seen, anything can happen and that's especially true this year. It's fun for the racers and it's fun for the fans as well."
As the season moves beyond the halfway mark and makes the long turn toward home, Edwards considers his performance at St. Louis as a nice shot in the arm for the Young Life Pontiac team. It bolstered the program with four round wins, solidified Edwards' spot in sixth place in the standings and moved him to within 120 points of first-place Greg Anderson.
"Winning those four rounds couldn't have come at a better time for us, and it gives us a lot of confidence heading into the second half of the season. There really is nothing like it, especially in NHRA Pro Stock. The class is so competitive, with so many good teams and to do that kind of takes everybody's morale up to the next level. We've been struggling with some issues with the car and it was nice to bounce back the way we did. We certainly weren't he fastest car, but we kept getting down the track, making the right adjustments and by the end we had a pretty good handle on it."
As an NHRA Pro Stock competitor, Edwards is widely recognized for his overall racing aptitude and dual-role talents as a crew chief and driver. In his 10th full season as a professional competitor, Edwards has tallied 13 career victories in 26 final-round appearances, including a win at the 1998 U.S. Nationals. He has three top-five, and six top-10 finishes with his best year coming in 1996 when he finished third in the points standings. His best showing this decade was a fourth-place effort in 2001 and his other strong career performances on the three-race Western Swing (in addition to his win at Denver in 2002) include two victories at Seattle (1996-97) and two runners-up at Sonoma (1996, 2001).
"The motor program has been an awesome turnaround from last year," said Edwards. "Frank Iaconio and Ernie Topping have been great, and have more ideas that I think will make us even better. Josh Robinson, Alan Lindsey, and Josh Thornhill - my guys put up with so much and they do such a good job that I'm just so proud of them. I couldn't do this alone, you need good help and I think I have three of the best guys out there.
"Two wins in one season, that's pretty awesome for us, and especially considering how we did last year. You can understand why we're real excited. This is probably the best I've been in the points this late in the year since my rookie season in 1996, and I had a real good West-Coast swing that year. We're going to keep working hard all the way up to that final race and you never know - I'm not predicting anything. We'll do all we can and see where things sort out in November. But right now, we're just looking to finish out the year strong and see where we stack up."
Denver Pre-Race Stats & Facts
. Pontiac leads the NHRA Manufacturer's Cup standings with 2,200 points. Chevrolet is in second place with 1,520 points and Dodge is third with 1,160 points.
. Mike Edwards' win at St Louis was the seventh this season for the GTO in NHRA Pro Stock competition and the 166th all time for Pontiac in the factory hot rod category.
. Among active Pro Stock drivers, Warren Johnson has the most wins at Bandimere Speedway with five (1984, 1991, 2001, 2003, 2005)
. Other drivers in GM-branded cars with wins at Bandimere Speedway include Team Chevy's Kurt Johnson (1995, 2000), and Pontiac's Jim Yates (1996-97), Greg Anderson (2004) and Mike Edwards (2002).
. Greg Anderson leads the Pro Stock standings in a Pontiac GTO with 801 points
. Jason Line is in second place in a Pontiac with 799 (-2) points, Dave Connolly is in third place in a Chevy Cobalt with 730 points (-71), Jim Yates is fourth in a Pontiac with 708 points (-93), Kurt Johnson is fifth in a Chevrolet with 696 points (-105) and Mike Edwards is sixth in a Pontiac with 681 points (-120).
. Greg Anderson holds the Pro Stock elapsed time record at Bandimere Speedway set last year in a Pontiac GTO at 7.106 seconds
. Warren Johnson holds the top speed record, also set in a Pontiac last year at 194.24 mph.
. Tony Pedregon's third Funny Car win of the season at St Louis was the fifth this year for a driver in a Chevy Monte Carlo and the 80th all time for a Chevrolet in NHRA Funny Car competition
. In addition to Pedregon, other Chevy Monte Carlo Funny Car drivers to win a national event in 2006 include Tommy Johnson Jr (Phoenix) and Cruz Pedregon (Las Vegas)
. Tony Pedregon's other two victories came at Atlanta and Columbus.
. In the Funny Car standings, Tony Pedregon is in fourth place in a Chevy Monte Carlo with 728 points
. Tommy Johnson Jr is in sixth place in a Monte Carlo with 684 points, Del Worsham is in ninth place in a Monte Carlo with 536 points and Cruz Pedregon is in 10th place in a Monte Carlo with 530 points
. Ron Capps is in first place with 975 points.