DINWIDDIE, Va. – Pro Stock driver Mike Edwards went wire-to-wire at the NHRA Virginia Nationals, earning the maximum 150 points, to all but clinch his first career NHRA Full Throttle Series world championship.
The other winners at the 22nd of 24 races in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series were Del Worsham (Funny Car) and Brandon Bernstein (Top Fuel).
The NHRA Virginia Nationals is the fourth race in NHRA’s six-race playoff, the Countdown to 1. The playoff concludes with races in Las Vegas (Oct. 29-Nov. 1) and Pomona, Calif. (Nov. 12-15).
Edwards qualified No. 1, earned the maximum 12 per-session qualifying bonus points, and the 20-point bonus for setting the national record (6.509 seconds) to become the first driver to record the maximum 150 points at a single race.
“This day was near-perfect,” said Edwards, who defeated Greg Anderson and the Summit Racing Pontiac team in the final on a slight holeshot, 6.526/211.43 (with a 0.019 reaction time) to 6.522/212.03 (0.027). “It’s unbelievable what I did here today, what my team did here today. My team was phenomenal. I’m going to enjoy it while I can because my daddy always told me, ‘One day it will start raining, so get ’em while you can.’”
Edwards, who drives the A.R.T./Young Life Pontiac, extended his lead from 78 points (over Jason Line to start the day) to 128 (over Anderson), meaning he has more than a six-round cushion (a round win is worth 20 points) with only eight rounds left.
“I’m thinking (championship), but I don’t have it yet,” said Edwards, who beat Line in the semifinals. “It’s close, but you’ve still got to stay focused. You’ve still got to keep your goals ahead. Those two Summit cars are going to be burning the midnight oil to try and get back up there with me. I’m not going to count my chickens yet before they hatch. But I’m living my dream right now, and I’m real close to it right now.”
In Top Fuel, Brandon Bernstein ended a more than two-year winless streak that spanned 52 races when he blew away Antron Brown, 3.844/307.09 to 9.099/75.99.
“We needed a win for our team and for our confidence,” said Bernstein, who pilots the Budweiser/Lucas Oil dragster and last won at Brainerd, 2007. “I can’t say enough about our team because with that long of a drought, it could get easy to get really down on themselves and not get out of that funk, but they just stayed positive. Our whole team, my dad (six-time NHRA Full Throttle Series champ Kenny Bernstein), everybody was just so positive, and we just kept at the grind. We knew that eventually we were going to knock down that door and get that win again.”
Brown, the regular season champion who is now in fourth place, did trim his deficit behind points leader Tony Schumacher and the U.S. Army team from 120 to 81. Dixon and the Al-Anabi team trail Schumacher by 47 points; McClenathan and the FRAM Tough Guard team are 68 points behind in third place.
In Funny Car, Del Worsham played spoiler with his milestone 25th career win over still-in-contention Tim Wilkerson, 4.091/305.98 to 4.179/81.13.
“I had a good feeling this morning,” said Worsham, who drives the Al-Anabi Toyota Solara. “You know, things were just kind of going my way. I was in the car right before first round, and I was just running through everything and I felt the reverser. It felt OK and then all of a sudden, it just felt too loose, and the reverser cable wasn’t hooked up. Right before they started the car, I’m screaming for the clutch guy, ‘Hook up the reverser cable.’ When you find things like that, it’s just kind of your day and you can’t make a mistake.”
Wilkerson moved up from eighth to fifth place on the day, but he’s still 82 points behind new points leader Robert Hight, who moved back around teammate Ashley Force Hood (first-round loss to Jeff Arend). He leads Force Hood by 13, Tony Pedregon by 48 and Ron Capps by 63.
“We took advantage of the situation where we made positive ground on the leaders,” said Capps, who trimmed 25 points from his 88-point deficit to start the day with his run to the semis. “But we are still very disappointed because we felt like there were 40 more points that we could have cleaned up with today.”
The NHRA Full Throttle Series resumes in two weeks with the NHRA Las Vegas Nationals Oct. 29-Nov. 1.