BRISTOL — Call Mike Edwards the grinch who stole Bristol.
Edwards beat home track favorite Allen Johnson in the closest final in NHRA history Sunday to capture his fourth straight Pro Stock crown at the Ford Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway.
Johnson, who hails from Greeneville, was nearly flawless at the starting line, but it wasn’t good enough.
His Dodge Avenger had a .018 reaction time at the start, and ran an elapsed time of 6.661 seconds (207.05 mph). Edwards, in a Pontiac, countered with an almost perfect .005 reaction time and finished with a 6.674-second elapsed time (206.16 mph).
The race was a virtual dead heat with the margin of victory listed at .0000 of a second.
“We’ll get in the history books, one way or another,” Johnson said. “We were talking, we would rather shake the tires, hit the wall, do anything, but lose like that. We thought we had it there.
“That’s Pro Stock racing at its best. It’s close, thousandths of a second, now we can say a dead heat.”
In Top Fuel, Tony Schumacher ran 3.802 seconds (324.28 mph) and captured a record fifth Thunder Valley title by beating threetime race champion Doug Kalitta in the final round. Ron Capps, driving a Dodge, recorded his third Bristol victory in Funny Car. He ran 4.076 (312.35) to best Alexis Dejoria in the final.
Johnson, in his 28th career final round, said the hardest part of being on the short end of the historic loss was not being able to win the race for his father, Roy, and the rest of his family and friends.
“We did everything we needed to do today,” said Johnson, who reached at least the semifinal round for a seventh straight event. “He just did a better job in the final. The biggest thing I hate it for, I just wanted to give the win to my dad for Father’s Day. For our employees and crew, I wanted to get them the excitement of a win here at home. But we’ll come back after it again next year.”
Edwards won for the second time this season and the 34th time in his career. He was stunned after his razor-thin victory over Johnson, one of his closest friends on the NHRA tour.
“I don’t even know how you describe something like that,” the 54-year-old Oklahoma driver said. “I can’t believe it. Sometimes it’s just your day. We’ve struggled all year, but we come here and get healed up.
“I love this old mountain. I could race them all here.”
Schumacher finally ended a 32-race winless streak in his 12th final-round appearance since October 2010. It was the 68th victory of his career and his 115th final-round appearance.
He won over Dom Lagana, teammate Spencer Massey and Clay Millican before the dream matchup with Kalitta in the final.
“We’ve had a great car more often than not, and have gotten beat by some talented teams in great races,” Schumacher said. “That’s been tough for us to deal with. But we’ve kept our chin up.
“It’s hard to have a car any given day which can win four times in a row. You want to go out and win like that, to run Doug and to win one of those close ones. It makes what we do worth it.”
Capps, who made his sixth straight final-round appearance this season, charged through the Funny Car ranks for his second win of the season and the 35th of his career. It came on a day he made it look easy, beating Courtney Force in the quarterfinals and Tony Pedregon in the semifinals before blowing by Dejoria, a first-time finalist, in the championship round.
“A day like today is actually backwards,” Capps said. “You have such a good car that you’re hoping nothing goes wrong, that you aren’t what goes wrong.
“I always prided myself on taking care of equipment and keeping it in the groove. When you’re on a roll like this, you just hope you don’t mess up.”