Sonoma: Mike Edwards Sears Point preview

Mike Edwards' Chevy Cavalier Continues On Winning Track SONOMA, Calif., August 1, 2001 -Young Life Chevy Cavalier driver Mike Edwards is hoping to score his second Pro Stock win of the season this weekend at the Fram-Autolite Nationals at Sears...

Mike Edwards' Chevy Cavalier Continues On Winning Track

SONOMA, Calif., August 1, 2001 -Young Life Chevy Cavalier driver Mike Edwards is hoping to score his second Pro Stock win of the season this weekend at the Fram-Autolite Nationals at Sears Point Raceway. After 15 races, the 43-year-old Oklahoma native has already experienced his share of success this year but is looking to accomplish much more. He's been the No. 1 qualifier at four events, driven his Chevy Cavalier to the finals twice, won at Joliet and set new career-bests in elapsed time (6.819 seconds) and top speed (201.52 mph). Edwards, who was runner-up to Warren Johnson at Sears Point in '96, has also been in the top-10 of the Pro Stock standings throughout '01. He currently sits in the No. 5 position just 34 points behind fourth-place Mark Pawuk and less than four rounds behind third-place Jeg Coughlin Jr.

Edwards started his drag-racing career in '76 bracket racing at local tracks throughout Oklahoma. In '81 he was NHRA Winston Modified champion and made his debut in Pro Stock a year later competing in two national events. In '96 he defeated Ray Franks in the finals at Houston to win his first Pro Stock event and then later that season was named co-Rookie of the Year. Edwards has nine victories over the course of his professional career and has raced in 18 final rounds.

The Fram-Autolite Nationals is the 16th race on the 24-event NHRA Winston Drag Racing tour. ESPN2 will televise two hours of qualifying highlights on Saturday, August 4, starting at 10 p.m. Eastern. Final eliminations will be broadcast on ESPN2 on Sunday, August 5, beginning at 4 p.m. Eastern.

How satisfied are you with the new 2001 Chevy Cavalier? "I'm real happy with the Cavalier. We got our car pretty late in the season, but I'm real happy with it and it seems like it's going to be an awesome racecar. I tell you what, I'm way ahead of where I thought I'd be with this new car. We're extremely happy with it. I've got four No. 1 qualifying positions with it and I'm tickled to death with that. The Cavalier has turned out better then I ever thought it would be at this time in the year. I'm looking for bigger and better things out of it. It's a great car. It's got the wheelbase and it has tremendous aerodynamic features. It's a great car that works well for me."

What accomplishments have you made this season? "The main thing we're trying to do is promote Young Life. Racing is secondary. Don't get me wrong, I love racing, but I feel that I'm out here to help kids in need first. While I was in Denver last week I went to the Young Life headquarters and met with them. They are real happy with how things are going and taking place. They feel that everything we're doing is positive for the kids. The program has really taken off and I think it's been good for us. As far as racing goes, like everybody else, we've had our ups and downs. I feel real good that I have my own team now and my own operation. My driving hasn't been as good as I would like it to be. I've been very pleased with the performance of our new Chevy Cavalier so far this year. Everything is going okay. We've had a good season up to this point. I've qualified for every race and that has been my main goal. It's something I have never done. Last year when I was working on (Ron) Krisher's car, that was the first time of being a part of a team that qualified for every race. I want to do it this year as a driver. I think it's a big accomplishment if you can say that you've qualified for every race. Overall I'm pretty happy with how everything has shaped up. Hopefully we can make a strong finish."

What do you have planned for Sonoma? "We're going to have some kids out at the track on Thursday to show them the car and give them a testimony. I wish Reggie Showers could be there, but I will talk about him and express how he was able to accomplish great things along with my experiences in racing. I will answer any questions they may have, and just visit with them and hope they have a good day."

How would you compare the track in Sonoma to the rest of the western-swing tracks? "The track in Sonoma is pretty close to Denver and Seattle. We'll have awesome air there, and the engines will make a lot of power because of the atmospheric conditions. There's a lot of strategy involved and we'll have to make changes to accommodate to that track. I think we will see good numbers up on the board and should see another amazing race in Pro Stock."

How would you rate yourself as a driver? "This year, not very good. I'm pretty disappointed really. I want to improve. Jeg (Coughlin) is probably the best Pro Stock driver out there in my opinion. I need to try and totally just clear my mind when I go up to the starting line. It's nothing but concentration. You can't go up there thinking about anything else. You've got to be totally focused on your driving. I've lost the last two races on holeshots, and that's not good, so I'm trying to get that better."

How about as a crew chief? "Okay. I want to learn more. Every time you make a run you've got to learn something from it. I've been out here a long time doing this but you can never learn too much. I just try to take every run, put that information in the computer and use it down the road. I'd say I'm okay at being a crew chief. I'm not the best, but I'm not the worst either. I guess you can rate a crew chief by where in the field they qualify and by how many times they've qualified."

Is it hard to juggle between the two? - "You do have to change your frame of mind a little bit. I've always been my own crew chief and I enjoy it. It comes natural to me. I like the challenge of figuring out the right combination, and I like the challenge of trying to beat my competitor. I love the competition and being a part of it."

Which do you like better? "I like driving, but I also like the hands-on experience too. I like to get involved in all parts of it. If I had to lose one or the other it would be the driving and continue being a crew chief."

Are you enjoying being a team owner? "Very much. I've got a great team, Mike Elliott, and everyone else is just great. Lisa, my wife, is the backbone of this team, they are all a real good group of people and we're having fun together. We have our times of troubles but we work through them together."

Is it important to have that kind of relationship with your team? "The chemistry of a team is very important. I know full hand about all that. Everybody has to get along. This is too tough of a sport and too tough of a class to not get along. It helps the team when everything is going well. You can celebrate together but you also have to dig down deep during those tough times too. Right now my team is great."

How do you feel about a two-car team now that you have your own operation? "I think it can be an advantage, but I think it's got to be two separate teams, as far as a truck and trailer. You can share knowledge better that way and it works better that way. Warren and Kurt have the perfect setup. They each have there own operation but share information. It can work that way. That's the way to do it."

What are your goals for the rest of the season? "I don't really have too many goals. I would like to qualify for every race though. That's important to me. I can't win the championship this year, but that would be an ultimate goal. I would like to win a couple of more races this year too. It's been a good year so far, we'll just have to wait and see what the future brings us. We feel really good about the rest of the year. We're looking forward to racing and staying competitive. The engine program is just amazing. Reher-Morrison has given us a great motor with lots of power. We're hoping to continue our success and try and win a couple of more races."

What are your long-term goals? "I need to race for probably another five or six years. It's basically all I've done for the past 15 years. I want to stay a part of the industry for a long time. I love the sport and hope to be able to be a part of it for several years."

How about the level of competition this season and its development? "The competition this year is just amazing. Seven or eight years ago, if you were qualified in the 16th spot, you had no chance of winning. This year you can win the race from the 16th spot. It's amazing. It's great for the sport and for the teams. I think it's going to go right down to Pomona in determining the Winston champion. I could be wrong, but the way everyone is running, someone could have a bad day, and then three or four guys could catch up. It's nerve-racking but fun. I know I'm not in contention for the championship, but I am fighting for a top-five finish, and that in itself will make you feel like a champion."

-J. Romack

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Mark Pawuk , Warren Johnson , Reggie Showers , Mike Edwards