BRISTOL — Despite a remarkable streak of four straight Ford Thunder Valley Nationals titles, 16 straight round-wins, Mike Edwards isn’t one to rest on his laurels.
It’s why Edwards was among the drivers participating in a Pro Stock test at Bristol Dragway last Tuesday and Wednesday. He loves the challenge the track nicknamed Thunder Valley presents.
“The challenge you have at every race you go to is how the conditions are different,” he said. “I love the challenge of trying to figure out how to make the car go fast. Coming here, this is my favorite track of all of them. It’s why I love to come here and test, you have the constant challenge of trying to make it go faster.”
It was just that tick faster last season in the Pro Stock final when Edwards’ Pontiac beat local favorite Allen Johnson’s Dodge Avenger to the finish line in a dead heat.
The closest race in NHRA history, the official margin of victory was .000 of a second.
“That was great for us, unfortunate for Allen,” Edwards said. “He didn’t lose because it was basically a tie. But, I love this place, love coming here. We’re going for five in a row and it’s going to be fun.”
In the year since, Johnson has gone on to win his first NHRA championship and added four-time champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. to his team’s lineup.
Edwards, who made his Pro Stock debut all the way back in 1982, merely stepped up his game. The 2009 Pro Stock champion has won three races this season, including the tour’s last race in New Jersey, to vault ahead of Coughlin and Johnson to the top of the point standings.
“It’s a good team over there and there are several other good teams out here,” Edwards said. “It’s just like every year. It will come down to the last six races and who does the best job will win the championship. It’s been an awesome year so far, probably the greatest year I’ve had.”
Off the track, there have been obstacles. A tornado went over his niece’s house in Oklahoma a few weeks ago and real close to Edwards’ race shop.
“The tornadoes hit within a couple of miles,” he said. “Thank the Lord we got through that. It’s unfortunate for a lot of people there, but we have to rebuild and go on.”
Edwards, 55, has been a master at moving on. He was basically out of big-time drag racing for 15 years before capturing his first national-event win in 1996. He has since gone on to capture 38 national-event wins, including four at Bristol where he seems to have mastered the conditions.
“The track itself surrounded by these mountains, you have the trees with a lot of oxygen,” he said. “It’s just a little different than every other place we go to. It’s why I come here and test. You have to try changes and do things here you haven’t tried before.”