Edwards wins, places and shows in Gainesville
Mike Edwards accomplished a rare feat Saturday at the Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals when he raced to a Pro Stock victory and a No. 1 qualifying position in the same day at historic Gainesville Raceway.
The defending NHRA champ powered his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP to a win in the completion of the weather-delayed NHRA Arizona Nationals and scored his third No. 1 qualifying effort of the season and 25th of his career. Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Karen Stoffer (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also will lead their respective categories into Sunday's 11 a.m. eliminations as No. 1 qualifiers at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.
Edwards scored his second win of the season and 22nd of his career by outrunning rookie driver Bob Yonke in the final. It was Yonke's first final round appearance in his first NHRA start. Edwards posted a winning performance of 6.552 at 211.16, while Yonke trailed with a 6.601 at 209.36 in his Adrenaline Motorsports GXP.
Edwards took the top qualifying spot for the Gatornationals with a 6.537-second run at a speed of 211.56mph.
"A win's a win," Edwards said. "I am real thankful. We've come here to Gainesville and ran good. We had some changes to the rules and my guys made the changes and we've done well. I am real proud of them."
In Top Fuel, Brown powered his Matco Tools dragster to a track-record time of 3.803 at 321.04 to earn his first No. 1 of the season and 22nd of his career (11th in Top Fuel).
"To come out here and do this is definitely a blessing," Brown said. "I just want to take it one step at a time, and being No. 1 qualifier is definitely putting a foot in the right direction, and I'm stoked about that. It feels good to get two solid laps back to back. It's not just being No. 1; it's just getting two solid laps back to back because that gives you confidence going into race day where you can go round to round."
Hagan claimed his third Funny Car top qualifying effort with a 4.060 at a track-record speed of 313.58 in his DieHard Dodge Charger.
"First of all, it's great to snag the No. 1 spot," Hagan said. "I have a little history here [in Gainesville] with the Pro Mod car, and this is big. I knew Tommy [DeLago, crew chief] was going for it because we were already qualified. When the clutch went one-to-one, I knew it was gonna run."
Earlier in the day, Hagan's Don Schumacher Racing-owned team announced that former John Force Racing crew chief John Medlen had joined his team and would be working alongside DeLago as co-crew chief.
"As for John Medlen, I'm not sure what his impact is yet," Hagan said. "He's feeling his way through everything. I'm sure he had some input, and I'm sure we'll see a lot of stuff from him and Tommy. I'm really excited and can't wait to see what happens tomorrow. We need to put four runs together on race day. We always qualify well, but we need to get that Wally on Sunday."
Stoffer earned her second career No. 1 position in Pro Stock Motorcycle, speeding to a track-record time of 6.855 at 194.77 on her GEICO Powersports Suzuki.
"We knew we had a fast bike, and I just had to do my job," Stoffer said. "I was excited that they gave me the performance, and I was able to do my job and put the package together and get that No. 1 back. I've had the No. 1 before, but I've never had to fight for it like that, so it was pretty cool to be able to do that."