TOPEKA — Even after making a hurried engine change, Mike Edwards continued to monopolize the pole position in the NHRA’s Pro Stock division on Friday night.
Edwards took the provisional No. 1 qualifying spot at the Kansas Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka with an elapsed time of 6.618 seconds and 208.55 mph, which if it holds up today, should give him his seventh pole in eight events this season.
“That’s almost impossible …” said Edwards, a two-time winner at Heartland Park. “This class is so competitive, everyone is so close, to run like that, I’m totally surprised, I really am.”
In the nitro divisions, Top Fuel points leader Tony Schumacher qualified No. 1 with an elapsed time of 3.769 and 326 mph; and Robert Hight claimed the provisional pole in Funny Car with 4.067, 302.62 mph.
The only time Edwards has failed to qualify No. 1 this season was at Houston last month when rain shortened qualifying from four sessions to two, and he ended up third. This time, after Edwards came into his pit area following his first qualifying run, the engine in his Camaro conked out.
“We had like 25 minutes to get it changed, and I don’t know how we did it,” Edwards said. “It was almost time to go. We just had to throw it in there. We didn’t have time to warm it up, and we went out there and made an awesome run.
“That is more impressive than qualifying No. 1. I’ve got two guys who just started this year. Hats off to my guys of doing a tremendous for getting everything in there and making everything tight and making that kind of run. It was awesome. ”
As points leader, Edwards was the final qualifier, and he knocked off Erica Enders-Stevens, who as the second-to-last qualifier, had gone 6.625, 208.30 mph.
Edwards, 55, shares the NHRA record of 16 No. 1 qualifiers in a season with Pro Stock rival Greg Anderson and Schumacher. All three won championships in the seasons they set the records, Edwards and Schumacher in 2009; Anderson in 2004.
“I don’t know if this is going to hold up,” said Edwards, “but it’s a victory in itself for what we went through.”
Edwards has parlayed his six poles to two victories, a runner-up and two semifinal rounds in building a whopping 126-point lead over Jeg Coughlin in the Pro Stock standings.
Schumacher, the 2010 winner at Heartland Park, qualified No. 1 for the first time since the season opener at Pomona. He has struggled in the last two events, qualifying 14th and losing in the first round at Houston and qualifying sixth and losing in the second round at Atlanta and attributed those results to the rain-shortened sessions.
“It’s been two races we’ve been down to two qualifying runs, and it’s so important when you’re trying to win a race on Sunday to come out and have those rounds,” said Schumacher. “That first run of the weekend … you go down the track well, and then you can step on it.
“I can’t blame it on the rain, because everyone had it. But we didn’t do what we were supposed to do under those conditions.”
Hight, a two-time winner at Heartland Park, followed the same pattern as Edwards as he overtook John Force Racing teammate and sister-in-law Courtney Force in claiming the No. 1 qualifier with an elapsed time of 4.067 and 302.62 mph. Force turned a 4.068 and 312.86.
It was the second No. 1 qualifier for Hight, who is still looking for his first victory of 2013.
“For some reason we always do well in Topeka,” Hight said. “Lately we’ve been struggling, but we definitely got it today and fixed what we’ve been looking for. A lot of hard work, a lot of testing, and luckily (crew chief) Jimmy Prock hit it right out of the box.”