MADISON, Ill. – After suffering a disappointing and rare first-round loss last weekend in Dallas, count Pro Stock standout Mike Edwards as someone who is excited to get back in his car as soon as possible.
The points leader for most of his impressive 2013 season, Edwards dipped to third after two races in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship playoffs. But the best news for Edwards is that he can get back behind the wheel of his Interstate Batteries/I Am Second Chevy Camaro quickly and that chance comes this weekend at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, Sept. 27-29 at Gateway Motorsports Park near St. Louis.
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock), and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are defending winners of the third race in the Countdown to the Championship, which will be televised by ESPN2HD. For Edwards, it’s a swift opportunity to get back into a rhythm that produced a class-best six wins and 13 No. 1 qualifying positions during a fantastic regular season.
"We've had a solid race car all season, and know the only way to take advantage of the next (four) races in the Countdown is to win events and collect NHRA Wallys," Edwards said. "Moving forward, we understand that the only way to control our destiny and the championship is we have to win races, and by winning is the only way you can make sure nobody can chase you down. We do not want to leave anything to chance and rest our hopes on other people."
A slump came at the worst possible time for Edwards, who entered the Countdown with incredible momentum after winning the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Indy.
But the last two weekends have provided more than their share of frustrations. It started with a semifinal loss on a holeshot to eventual Charlotte event winner Jeg Coughlin, and Edwards’ momentum took another hit last weekend in Dallas.
He qualified sixth, his second-lowest qualifying spot this season, and then lost on a holeshot to Larry Morgan, giving Edwards his first first-round loss in 14 races.
That allowed Jason Line, who ended up winning in Dallas, to take over the points lead in Pro Stock for the first time since 2011, with Coughlin close behind. Edwards now trails line by 34 points with four races remaining, the first time he hasn’t been in the points lead since early April.
Edwards was disappointed after the first-round loss, but he is focused on moving forward and taking care of business in St. Louis, where he last won in 2006.
"If we make good runs and I do my job on the starting line, we have a good chance of collecting another Wally and helping our cause," Edwards said. "We just have to stay focused on the task at hand and if the good Lord is willing, we will have a great weekend."
Edwards will also have to deal with a number of other talented drivers in the class, including defending world champion Allen Johnson, four-time champ Greg Anderson, Dallas runner-up Shane Gray, Enders-Stevens, three-time season winner Vincent Nobile, V Gaines and Roger Brogdon. But he is banking on a solid showing, in part because his Camaro has been remarkably consistent for the majority of the season.
“The Camaro has really helped us,” Edwards said. “It's really stable. It's just a good car, good race car. We've made several changes to it, and it has just been really, really fast right out of the box. We worked on our engine program all winter like we always do. But I think the biggest thing we managed was with the Camaro.”
In Top Fuel, Shawn Langdon and Dallas winner Doug Kalitta share the points lead. Spencer Massey raced to a runner-up finish in Charlotte and is currently third, while others to watch include Morgan Lucas, who won the playoff opener in Charlotte, defending world champ Brown, Tony Schumacher, Clay Millican, Bob Vandergriff and Steve Torrence.
The Funny Car field is led by points leader and 2011 world champion Matt Hagan. Cruz Pedregon is riding plenty of momentum coming into the event after winning in Dallas and moving to second in points. John and Courtney Force, Robert Hight, Illinois native Tim Wilkerson, Ron Capps, defending winner Beckman, Del Worsham and Johnny Gray also will be among the pre-race favorites.
The two-wheeled warriors in Pro Stock Motorcycle return to Gateway Motorsports Park with Hector Arana Jr. atop the series standings in the category. Matt Smith, Michael Ray, John Hall and Eddie Krawiec, the most recent winner in the Countdown, will be among the contenders vying for the NHRA Wally during the weekend.
Fans of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series in St. Louis will be able to meet their heroes during the free Fan Fest sponsored by Mid-America Chevy Dealers in downtown St. Louis, Sept. 26. The event will take place from 5-7 p.m. on Washington Ave. (14 & Tucker) with activities for fans of all ages. A driver autograph session, car show, interactive displays, food, music and ticket giveaways will be among the featured attractions during the event. Downtown St. Louis will be electric with the excitement of Thursday Night Football and this will be a way to rev up the action before the game.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. Fans will be able to get autographs and watch the race teams service their high performance hot rods between each round of racing. No other sport offer fans an up close and personal experience like NHRA.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
The NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series also will thrill the crowds during the weekend with intense competition on the track.
Families can take part in a special ticket offer as children 12 and under will be admitted free in general admission and grandstand two with paid adult. A special 12 and under rate is also available in the Nitro 2 section.
The AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals qualifying sessions are scheduled for 2:45 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 27. Qualifying continues at 11:45 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 28. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 29.
Tickets are available for the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals online at www.gatewaymsp.com or by calling (855) RACE-TIK (722-3845). For complete online coverage of the second annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, please visit www.nhra.com.
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AAA INSURANCE NHRA MIDWEST NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: Second annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, the 21st of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and the third of six races in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Drivers in four categories - Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle - earn points leading to 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: Gateway Motorsports Park, Madison, Ill. Gateway International Raceway is located five minutes from downtown St. Louis at the intersection of Interstates 55/70 and Ill. Route 203 (Exit 4).
WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 27-29
FRIDAY, Sept. 27 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 2:15 p.m. and 4:45 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 2:45 and 5:15 p.m.
SATURDAY, Sept. 28 - LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 1:45 p.m.; First round of eliminations at 4 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 11:45 a.m. and 2:15 p.m.
SUNDAY, Sept. 29 - Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Sunday, Sept. 29, ESPN News will televise 90 minutes of qualifying coverage at 1 a.m. (ET).
Sunday, Sept. 29, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will re-air 90 minutes of qualifying coverage at 3:30 a.m. (ET).
Sunday, Sept. 29, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage starting at 8:30 p.m. (ET).
SATELLITE (Digital HD feed):
Friday, Sept. 27, 8:30 - 9 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 1C
Saturday, Sept. 28, 7 - 7:30 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 1C
Sunday, Sept. 29, 7 - 7:30 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 1C
(3720 MHz, horizontal; Data Rate: 40.46147055 Mbp; Symbol Rate: 29.27 Ms; FEC: ¾; Bandwidth: 36 Mhz)
Video news release contains race action highlights each day and winners’ interviews on Sunday.
2012 EVENT WINNERS: Antron Brown, Top Fuel; Jack Beckman, Funny Car; Erica Enders-Stevens, Pro Stock; Eddie Krawiec, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Top Fuel - 3.737 sec. by Antron Brown, Sept. ‘12; 326.79 mph by Antron Brown, Sept. ‘12
Funny Car - 4.049 sec. by Jack Beckman, Sept. ‘12; 312.93 mph by Jeff Arend, Sept. ‘12
Pro Stock - 6.496 sec. by Jason Line, Sept. ‘12; 213.47 mph by Line, Sept. ‘12
PS Motorcycle - 6.809 sec. by Hector Arana Jr., Sept. ‘12; 196.56 mph by Hector Arana, Sept. ‘12
Top Fuel - 3.701 sec. by Antron Brown, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 332.18 mph by Spencer Massey, April ’12, Charlotte, N.C.
Funny Car - 3.986 sec. by Jack Beckman, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 320.58 mph by Beckman, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.
Pro Stock - 6.471 sec. by Mike Edwards, April ’13, Charlotte, N.C.; 214.35 mph by Jason Line, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.
PS Motorcycle - 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.26 mph by Eddie Krawiec, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.
TICKETS: For tickets call Gateway Motorsports Park at (855) RACE-TIK (722-3845), or visit www.gatewaymsp.com.
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NHRA MELLO YELLO COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, Calif. -- Point standings (top 10) following the 20th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series -
Top Fuel: 1. (tie) Doug Kalitta, 2,251; Shawn Langdon, 2,251; 3. Spencer Massey, 2,249; 4. Morgan Lucas, 2,216; 5. Tony Schumacher, 2,163; 6. Clay Millican, 2,140; 7. Bob Vandergriff, 2,103; 8. Antron Brown, 2,101; 9. Khalid alBalooshi, 2,097; 10. Steve Torrence, 2,080.
Funny Car: 1. Matt Hagan, 2,272; 2. Cruz Pedregon, 2,221; 3. Robert Hight, 2,209; 4. John Force, 2,208; 5. Jack Beckman, 2,196; 6. Ron Capps, 2,170; 7. Johnny Gray, 2,155; 8. Courtney Force, 2,141; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 2,089; 10. Del Worsham, 2,068.
Pro Stock: 1. Jason Line, 2,264; 2. Jeg Coughlin, 2,256; 3. Mike Edwards, 2,230; 4. Shane Gray, 2,207; 5. Allen Johnson, 2,190; 6. (tie) Erica Enders-Stevens, 2,146; V. Gaines, 2,146; 8. Vincent Nobile, 2,128; 9. Greg Anderson, 2,116; 10. Rodger Brogdon, 2,063.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Hector Arana Jr, 2,261; 2. Matt Smith, 2,250; 3. Hector Arana, 2,228; 4. Eddie Krawiec, 2,199; 5. Michael Ray, 2,191; 6. Scotty Pollacheck, 2,147; 7. LE Tonglet, 2,134; 8. John Hall, 2,129; 9. Adam Arana, 2,088; 10. Shawn Gann, 2,062.