Edwards, Johnson End Thunder Valley Nationals with Closest Final Round Finish in NHRA History
Mike Edwards defeated Greeneville’s Allen Johnson by .0000 sec., a virtual tie, in one of the closest finishes in NHRA history during the Ford Thunder Valley Nationals Sunday evening at Bristol Dragway.
Although the victory is Edwards’ fourth straight Pro Stock triumph in Thunder Valley, it did not come easy. To advance to the final round, Edwards outlasted Larry Morgan, Jeg Coughlin and Erica Enders. Edwards faced Johnson, who easily had the best performing car of the weekend, in a pressure-packed match.
Much was riding on the outcome of the final, with Edwards looking to earn his unprecedented fourth straight Bristol win and Johnson hoping to earn his first career win at his home track. In the end, it was the closest finish in a final round in NHRA history.
“I don’t even know how to describe that run,” an amazed Edwards said. “Has that been done? That was unbelievable. Four zeroes for the win margin. I can’t believe it. Sometimes it is just your day. We have struggled a little bit.
“It seems like we come here and get healed up. I love this mountain. We weren’t the fastest, we were second fastest, but we got the Wally. I hate it for Allen; I know it is tough to lose in front of your hometown crowd.”
Edwards desperately wanted the mark, even coming to Bristol to test after the previous event in Englishtown. Edwards said it is something he had never done, but the move illustrated his desire to seal the deal.
“I can’t explain it,” he said. “We just run really good here. I wanted four-in-a-row so bad. I came here and tested after Englishtown. I wanted it that bad. Some days it just happens; it just clicks. Some days you just feel comfortable; you concentrate better than other days.”
Edwards beat Johnson off the line with a .005 reaction time in the final round, to Johnson’s .018 R.T. Edwards was slower down the track, a 6.674 elapsed time to a 6.661 E.T., making the finish a near tie.
“I think we’d rather shake the tires, hit the wall, anything other than lose like that,” a dejected Johnson said. “Hats off to the crew, the engines, my team, he just beat us in the final round.”
“That is Pro Stock racing at its best. Someone told me it was the closest finish ever or something. We’ll be in the history books one way or the other. I really wanted to give that win to my dad for Father’s Day. We’ll come back next year and try again.”
While disappointed, Johnson said there are days when racing luck is not with a driver, and for him, this was one of those days.
“It just wasn’t our day,” he explained. “Sometimes they get red lights against you and you have the slowest car in the field… Sometimes it just isn’t your day.”
Ron Capps raced to his second Funny Car win of the 2012 season in his sixth-straight final round appearance. Capps had a tough journey to earn his third victory in Thunder Valley. He defeated Courtney Force, Tony Pedregon, Johnny Gray and a surprising Alexis DeJoria on his way to the Winner’s Circle.
Capps said he felt added pressure due to his current streak of final round appearances.
“There was a lot of pressure coming in because people were asking about the sixth final,” Capps said. “Every race, the bond with (crew chief) Rahn Tobler gets better. Don Schumacher gets us everything we need. It is impressive that Tobler is able to do what he can with the car.
“The round against Courtney, every time I go to race her, I have to deal with my daughter because she loves her. This is a real pump in the arm.”
The weight of the day never relinquished for Capps, who admitted this Father’s Day was extra emotional for him.
“I was exhausted,” he admitted. “Today was a lot. I had a friend at home who lost his father. My family isn’t here. It is emotional. Then you think you’re going to be a stat, the guy that gives Alexis her first win. You have to find motivation, I dug down deep.
“It isn’t easy. You have such a good car; you hope nothing goes wrong, and you hope you aren’t the one that goes wrong. When you are on a roll like this…I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I hope I’m not the one that messes things up.’”
Tony Schumacher earned his fifth victory at Bristol Dragway, his first NHRA win since October 2010. Schumacher knocked out Dom Lagana, Spencer Massey and Clay Millican to earn a spot in the finals. The final round became a battle of Bristol heavyweights, with Doug Kalitta on the opposite side of the ladder. Kalitta has three Bristol wins.
Schumacher won the final round on a holeshot, with a 3.819 E.T. to Kalitta’s losing 3.802 E.T. While it was his first win in 32 events, Schumacher never lost focus or faith in his ability.
“I tell you what; it was a long time,” Schumacher said. “You get used to winning those races; you aren’t used to that (losing). We had a good car a lot of times; we just got beat by talented teams in tight races. It is what we do… All along, I said you have to have faith. I didn’t want to be a guy that wins a championship without winning a race. We used to have a car a tenth of a second faster than the field. It isn’t that way now. You have to go out and do your job.”
Facing Kalitta in the final round made Schumacher step up his game. He said winning against a successful competitor made the win even sweeter.
“You want to go out and run Doug and win on those close ones,” he said. “It makes what we do worth it. One thing I have learned is that our Army car has made teams better. We have forced them to go out and turn knobs they had never turned. I take it as a compliment. Those guys don’t take us lightly. You look back at our career, six championships in a row, one thing changes in a race and you don’t do that because so many come down to the final round.
“I love racing Doug Kalitta. I love Connie (Kalitta, Team Owner); he is so committed to the sport. Doug is a great driver. They have been running extremely well. They are back. They were off for a while; they’re back.
“Bristol and Bruton Smith put on an amazing race.”
While the 12th Annual Ford Thunder Valley Nationals is in the record book, Bristol Dragway still has several big events left in the 2012 season. For the full schedule, please visit www.bristoldragway.com.