Las Vegas: GM Racing preview

Pontiac's Mike Edwards Looks to Build on Houston Victory Young Life GTO Driver Makes a Run at First Place in Competitive Pro Stock Category LAS VEGAS, April 4, 2006 - If the results from the first two months of the NHRA POWERade season are any...

Pontiac's Mike Edwards Looks to Build on Houston Victory

Young Life GTO Driver Makes a Run at First Place in Competitive Pro Stock Category

LAS VEGAS, April 4, 2006 - If the results from the first two months of the NHRA POWERade season are any indication, it appears that a level of competitive parity may have returned to the ranks of Pro Stock, giving the fans of the factory hot rod category that much more to look forward to as the frequency of the schedule begins to quicken. With four different national-event winners in four races (three of those driving a Pontiac GTO), and a difference of only 100 points separating the first four slots of the standings, the battle for the 2006 championship will become even more interesting as the series descends upon The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the 7th annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals on April 6 - 9.

With a win this past Sunday at the NHRA Spring Nationals at Houston Raceway Park and a runner-up at the season-opening NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, Calif., Young Life Pontiac GTO driver Mike Edwards has proven to be a serious contender for the 2006 POWERade championship. With Frank Iaconio constructing Edwards' GM DRCE powerplants, the 48-year-old Oklahoma native and his Young Life team turned in a sterling performance which resulted in top speed of the meet, Edwards first victory on the tour since 2002 and his third career win at Houston Raceway Park. That put the Young Life Pontiac driver just 34 points behind first-place Greg Anderson, and with very little turnaround team before the transporter is reloaded, pointed west and traverses the 1500 mile journey to Nevada, Edwards is hoping he can continue to build upon his early season success.

"There's a lot of parity right now and there are a lot of teams that have worked really, really hard like we have over the winter and gotten closer," said the Houston champ. "It's fun to go to the races now and feel like you have a chance to win. It's good to see those guys up there that haven't won in awhile. I think Greg's (Anderson) still the guy, he's the car, he's the team to beat. He's had a couple of bad breaks happen to him, but he's still the guy to beat in the class.

"Our improved performance this season is all about (engine builder) Frank Iaconia. He changed it 180 degrees. Our motor program has really, really changed and turned around. It's awesome this year. It's all about having the power to come out here and race these guys. We may not be the best, but we're a whole lot better than we were last year, so we're just going to build on that. We're a much better team than we showed last year, and so far, we we've been pleased with the performance of the Young Life Pontiac."

Chasing Edwards into the finals at Houston was two-time NHRA champion (1996-97) Jim Yates. The driver of the Sea-Ray Boats Pontiac GTO came up a razor-thin .009 shy of his capturing his first career victory at Houston Raceway Park (he's been runner-up three times), but Yates' weekend performance moved him back into the top 10 of the Pro Stock standings and into the No. 8 position.

"Every race we go to we're getting a better handle on this Pontiac GTO," said Yates. "We're developing a level of confidence in our ability to get Grump's (Bill Jenkins) engines down the track, and a plan to make the most of what we have. Honestly, though, there have been times when we've gone left when we should have gone right, we've made some wrong decisions, but that's the only way to figure out how you're going to race this stuff. Everything we've seen though has us moving in a positive direction and I think you'll see us with some race wins.

"I've always been one who feels that you have to focus on the chore at hand, and that's qualifying and winning rounds. Our goal right now is to do that and then win a race - our performance at Houston shows that result is within our grasp. If you win rounds then eventually you're going to win race, and if you win races then you'll end up in the top five. But you have to do your job at every race, and if you qualify that gives you a position to battle from on Sunday and the opportunity to win round. Each race you have to do the best that you can, but you can also let half a season slip by staying so narrowly focused. At the end of the year when they tally the points, each round goes a long way, and that round may have come at the Winternationals, the U.S. Nationals or at the end of the season. Ultimately, at the end of the year, they tally the points and tell you where you finished, and after that, there's nothing you can do to change it. Our team has a lot of experience from that aspect and Grumpy and his program just adds to that experience."

Jason Line put a Pontiac GTO on the pole last Saturday at the Spring Nationals, his first No. 1 qualifying effort of 2006 and the fifth time in his career that he's started raceday from the lead position. This weekend's race at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a venue where he won the pole and was runner-up in October 2004, will carry a little added incentive for the Summit Racing team driver as he looks to improve on his sixth-place position in the POWERade Pro Stock standings. Line's e.t. of 6.775 seconds set in October 2004 is also the Pro Stock track record at LVMS that other competitors will be shooting for this weekend.

"It's early in the year yet, and it will take time for everything to shake out. We've been through our ups and downs before, and we'll call the start of this season a down so far. But if a down is qualifying and not winning very many rounds in each race, so be it. It could be worse. A lot of other people would be happy to be in our shoes right now."

"We always look forward to going to Vegas. Of course, it's (team owner) Ken Black's home town, but it's fun to go see his wife Judy and the rest of the extended Black family. Hopefully we'll be a little more successful than we have been to start the season. Traditionally we do pretty well there, or at least Greg (Anderson) does. Our goal's the same though every week - try to win the race. Whatever happens, happens, but we're just going to work on our shortcomings for now and work on making our Summit Racing Pontiac better."

Las Vegas Pre-race stats and facts:

. Mike Edwards victory at Houston Raceway Park last Sunday was the 162nd win by a Pontiac in NHRA Pro Stock competition and the ninth overall for the GTO since its introduction last July in Denver.

. Erica Enders' Slammers Ultimate Milk Chevrolet Cobalt currently resides in the No. 3 slot in the POWERade Pro Stock standings. With 261 points, the 22-year-old Enders is just 70 markers down from points leader Greg Anderson.

. ACDelco Chevy Cobalt driver Kurt Johnson won the last time the series visited Las Vegas in October 2005. He has also been runner-up twice for the spring event (2003 - 04) and once for the fall contest (2003). He was the No. 1 qualifier at LVMS in October 2002.

. When Summit Racing Pontiac GTO driver Greg Anderson needs a strong performance, he can usually count on The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Anderson visited the winner's circle on four consecutive occasions in 2003 - 04, was runner-up twice last season and has been No. 1 qualifier at four of the last six eliminators here. Anderson also holds the track-record top speed at 203.09 mph set in October 2004.

. With six round wins this season and zero first-round defeats, CSK Chevy Monte Carlo Funny Car driver Phil Burkart is fourth in the POWERade points standings and leads the Red Bowtie contingent in the nitro category. Joining Burkart in the top 10 are Chevy Monte Carlo drivers Tommy Johnson Jr. (6th), Del Worsham (7th), Bob Gilbertson (8th), Tony Pedregon (9th) and Cruz Pedregon (10th).

. At 2100 feet above sea level, The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is the second-highest track surface on the NHRA POWERade circuit exceeded only by the thin air of Bandimere Speedway's (Denver) 5,860 foot-high elevation. The lowest track surface on the NHRA POWERade tour is Houston Raceway Park in Baytown, Tex., which measures in at a whopping 10 feet above sea level.

-gm racing

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Bob Gilbertson , Del Worsham , Greg Anderson , Cruz Pedregon , Phil Burkart , Jason Line , Ken Black , Mike Edwards , Tommy Johnson Jr.