Indianapolis Pontiac Racing Review

EDWARDS WINS HIS FIRST U.S. NATIONALS INDIANAPOLIS (September 7, 1998) -- Mike Edwards scored an emotional victory today and did it the hard way by beating three of the best Pro Stock drivers in the sport at the 44th Annual U.S. Nationals at ...

EDWARDS WINS HIS FIRST U.S. NATIONALS

INDIANAPOLIS (September 7, 1998) -- Mike Edwards scored an emotional victory today and did it the hard way by beating three of the best Pro Stock drivers in the sport at the 44th Annual U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

After qualifying 10th on Saturday for today's eliminations, Edwards defeated Robert Patrick in round one, Kurt Johnson in round two, Jim Yates in round three and five-time U.S. Nationals champion Warren Johnson in the finals.

It was the second win of the year for the 1996 NHRA Rookie of the Year and moves him into sixth place in the Winston Standings with just six races remaining in the 1998 race season. Edwards' car owner John Kight died last December after battling a long illness.

"This is everything John and I worked for when we started our partnership in 1996," said Edwards. "All of the hard work has now led to this. It's just unfortunate that he couldn't be here with us today to share in this moment. This is the one race we always dreamed of winning. I'm surprised that a big rainbow doesn't break out over in the horizon with John's smile looking down upon us.

"Hopefully, we can take this race, go to Reading and build on it. This Pro Stock is the toughest class there ever was. We just have to build on this win and keep going. We have a great engine program with Reher-Morrison. Those guys have been really good to us. We just need to move this Pontiac Firebird up in the points and see how high we can finish."

Edwards failed to make the race during the all important Friday night qualifying session but was one of only two cars that managed to break into the 16-car field during the first session on Saturday. After struggling to find a race day setup, co-crew chiefs Mike Elliott and Barry Forester hit upon a combination that made the JK Racing Firebird a tough matchup during Monday's action. For their efforts, Elliott and Forester were named crew chiefs of the race.

Edwrads' performance numbers were 7.098ET/194.25MPH, 7.071ET/193.92MPH, 7.073ET/193.71MPH and 7.034ET/194.46MPH. Edwards final-round opponent, Warren Johnson, ran 7.045ET/196.46MPH.

"Last night we made a move that if we hadn't have made it, we probably would have lost in the first round," explained Edwards. "Mike and Barry are so dedicated to me and have meant more to this program than I can say. We knew which way we wanted to go and we whipped some pretty good cars today.

"I can honestly say that I've never outrun Warren Johnson. I've beat him before, but not too many people can, actually say that they outran him. I don't know if he had problems, he must have. But a wins a win and that's the way I look at it right now. We didn't get any breaks and we deserved what we got."

With just 24 potential rounds of competition remaining, Warren Johnson's performance this weekend moved him even closer to his fourth Winston championship, but wasn't good enough to grab a sixth U.S. Nationals victory.

"In the final we slipped the clutch too much in second gear and then our Pontiac Firebird got loose in the middle of the track," said Johnson. "We picked up another 43 points on Coughlin. That makes it a 20-round lead. If El Nino doesn't stick around and the temperature cools off, the remaining tracks should favor our cars."

Jim Yates lost in round three to Edwards. George Marnell, Steve Schmidt and Mike Thomas lost in round one; Marnell to Terry Adams, Schmidt to Jeg Coughlin and Thomas to John Nobile. Bruce Allen, Mark Pawuk and Tom Martino did not qualify. Warren Johnson was the No. 1 qualifier with an elapsed time of 6.977 seconds and had top speed of the meet at 197.67 mph.

After 16 races, Warren Johnson holds a commanding lead on the Winston title chase with 1391 points, Jeg Coughlin is second in an Oldsmobile with 1009, Kurt Johnson is third in a Chevrolet with 1005, Jim Yates is fourth in a Firebird with 960, Mark Osborne is fifth in a Firebird with 833, Mike Edwards is sixth with 747, Mike Thomas is seventh in a Firebird with 741, Tom Martino is eighth in a Firebird with 671, Richie Stevens is ninth in a Firebird with 570 and Mark Pawuk is tenth in a Firebird with 557.

Parts America Pontiac Firebird Funny Car driver Randy Anderson advanced to his first final round of the year before losing to two-time U.S. Nationals champion John Force. Anderson defeated Dean Skuza in round one, Chuck Etchells in round two and Tim Wilkerson in round three before losing to Force. Anderson ran a 5.041ET/ 290.13 MPH to Force's 4.992ET/306.43MPH in the final.

"We knew we'd have to come out there and step it up against Force," said Anderson. "Unfortunately our motor gave up on us at 800 feet. The crew did a great job on this Pontiac Firebird team. We're a little disappointed, but there is a lot of racing left in the season, and we finally feel like we've started finding our way. Jim Dunn and our crew did a great job this weekend, and we'll go to Reading with more optimism than we've had all year."

Tim Wilkerson and Del Worsham lost in round three. Wilkerson to Randy Anderson and Worsham to John Force. Dale Creasy and Cruz Pedregon lost in round one; Creasy to Wilkerson and Pedregon to Worsham. Al Hofmann did not qualify. Wilkerson was the No. 1 qualifier with an e.t. of 4.961 seconds and set low e.t. of the meet with a quarter-mile pass of 4.916 seconds.

John Force moves back into first place in the Winston standings in a Ford with 1187 points, Ron Capps is second in a Chevrolet with 1162, Chuck Etchells is third in a Chevrolet with 1044, Cruz Pedregon is fourth in a Firebird with 982 and Tim Wilkerson is fifth in a Firebird with 921. Del Worsham is ninth in a Firebird with 695 points and Al Hofmann is tenth in a Firebird with 688.

In Top Fuel, Cory McClenathan lost in round three to Mike Dunn and Shelly Anderson did not qualify. The race was won by Gary Scelzi.

McClenathan is still in first place with 1197 points, Scelzi is second with 1177, Joe Amato is third with 1151, Mike Dunn is fourth with 979 and Kenny Bernstein is fifth with 943.

In Competition Eliminator, David Cook, Jr., of Houston, Tex., won in a 1991 Pontiac Firebird.

The next race on the tour is the Pioneer Keystone Nationals in Reading, Pa., on September 17-20. Same-day television coverage can be seen on TNN on Sunday, September 20, beginning at 5 p.m. Eastern.

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas , John Nobile , Jeg Coughlin , Robert Patrick , Mike Dunn , Kenny Bernstein , Mark Pawuk , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Al Hofmann , Dean Skuza , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , John Force , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Chuck Etchells , Cruz Pedregon , Cory McClenathan , Bruce Allen , Tom Martino , Tim Wilkerson , George Marnell , Terry Adams , Mike Edwards , Shelly Anderson