Mother Nature finally allowed the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals to happen, much to the pleasure of the weekend’s winners: Defending Top Fuel champion Antron Brown, as well as Johnny Gray in Funny Car, and Mike Edwards in Pro Stock.
Brown claimed his second victory of the season and his fifth win at the Georgia dragstrip, powering past Brandon Bernstein in the final round. Brown covered the distance in 3.801 seconds at 321.25 miles-per-hour in his dragster, while Bernstein’s dragster lost traction at the start and finished in 7.105 at 90.64.
“It’s big to win down here at the Southern Nationals,” said Brown, who also defeated Pat Dakin, Spencer Massey and Doug Kalitta in earlier rounds to secure his 39th career victory.
“This track’s been real special to me,” Brown continued. “It reminds me of going to a racetrack in my hometown. It’s been around forever, and it has that special atmosphere with great fans that pump you up. You get that aura of the passion for the sport that they have. Everybody was running so strong this weekend that it was monumental for us to get the job done.”
In Funny Car, Gray earned his second win of the season by defeating the event’s top qualifier Matt Hagan in the final round. Gray’s Dodge Charger led the entire way down the track with a performance of 4.077 at 314.17 and Hagan trailed in his Charger with a 4.160 at 309.49.
The victory pulled Gray out of bit of a mini-slump, which he had been in since winning in Gainesville, FL. in March and included a DNQ at the Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte and a pair of second round losses at Las Vegas and Houston.
Edwards scored his second Pro Stock win of the season and the 36th of his career by defeating Gray’s son Shane in the final round with a 6.595 at 209.14 in his Chevy Camaro.
“All things considered, it was a great day in the office,” said Edwards, who beat Warren Johnson, V. Gaines and Greg Anderson in the first three rounds. “Man, it just seemed like we were a little bit faster than a few of them. We’re making good runs, just need to make better runs. We just tried all day long and couldn’t make it go any faster, but hey, it just feels good to come out with a win. It was a great win for me and my guys.”
The younger Gray posted a 6.643 at 208.17 in his Gray Motorsports Camaro in the runner-up effort in his third consecutive final round appearance. He barely missed joining his father in the Mello Yello Series winner’s circle, which would have been a first in the sport. The only other time a father-son tandem advanced to final rounds in different Mello Yello Series categories at the same event was in 2008 at Brainerd, MN, with Brandon Bernstein in Top Fuel and Kenny Bernstein in Funny Car. Neither driver won that day.
“Shane was on today,” said Edwards, who with the win increased his series points lead to 126 over second-place Jeg Coughlin. “I asked him down there at the other end what he had this morning, and he said a big ol’ box of Wheaties, so that’s what I’m having in Kansas. He did a phenomenal job. I think that’s three finals in a row for that team, so they’re definitely catching fire, and they’re running good.”
Gray rattled off several amazing reaction times to advance to the final round, including back-to-back .002 and .001 starts in the semis and final. Edwards, the 2009 world champ, says winning an NHRA Pro Stock race just keeps getting tougher and tougher.
“The competition is amazing,” Edwards said. “Pro Stock is just a great class. It’s fun to be a part of, but I’ll tell you what, the older I get, my nerves are getting shot. It’s tough. Them guys are so good. They pull up there and just pop them .00s on you. Man, we made a real nice run in the final. I was a little worried because that was the first time we were going to be the first pair out, but it made a sweet run. It’s all good when you win.”
Pro Stock Championship point standings
1. Mike Edwards 656 2. Jeg Coughlin 530 3. Allen Johnson 501 4. Erica Enders-Stevens 482 5. Jason Line 472
Funny Car Championship point standings
1. Cruz Pedregon 547 2. Matt Hagan 534 3. Johnny Gray 474 4. Ron Capps 440 5. Tim Wilkerson 423
Top Fuel Championship point standings
1. Tony Schumacher 564 2. Antron Brown 559 3. Shawn Langdon 506 4. Spencer Massey 467 5. Doug Kalitta 410