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Mike Edwards sets his Pro Stock rivals a step back

POMONA, Calif. --They're all back at Pomona, the National Hot Rod Association drag racers.

But Mike Edwards' back is back. And so is his edge on his Pro Stock competition.

"I was in pain all last year," he said, explaining that he was "just never comfortable, always in a lot of pain."

The 2009 class champion underwent Regenokine therapy, a non-surgical but painful-nonetheless procedure, to treat osteoarthritis in his back.

"I didn't get cut on, but it was pretty intense. It's a pretty intense deal, a lot of injections and epidurals," the Coweta, Okla., native said Thursday of his eight-day stay at the New York Sports Medicine facility in December. "Fred Couples the golfer had the same type of symptoms. He had that therapy, and he's winning golf tournaments now."

Recuperation left him unable to get back into his Penhall/K&N/Interstate Pontiac GXP until two days before in a cram-course-style test session at Las Vegas.

"It was a different off-season, for sure. I physically didn't do anything. The engine shop was wide open. The guys at the shop worked day and night, but I didn't do anything. At Vegas two days ago was the first time I was back in it. I didn't get released until last Thursday," Edwards said after grabbing the provisional No. 1 qualifying spot for the Winternationals with a 6.545-second, 211.86-mph pass down the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona quarter-mile that was quickest and fastest among Pro Stock racers on the opening day of the season.

He said he felt fine during Thursday's run and that he was "optimistic but a little nervous" beforehand.

"It feel really, really good. Anytime you start a new season, you don't know what to expect," Edwards said, calling it "one of the nicest runs we've made at Pomona in a long time."

His condition did have an impact on a routine he has followed for years. The team owner-driver, who steers his own hauler to every race, said, "My truck driving days are over."

Edwards said he had been concerned that he wouldn't be able to compete for the first two races of the season, because it might take him that long to hire a fulltime driver who understood the responsibilities and the routines of such a job.

But the gentleman who isis charge of the K&N Filters racetrack display introduced him to his colleague, who does the same thing for the Tire Kingdom display. That Tire Kingdom set-up won't be at the races until the Gatronartionals in March. So he was available and qualified to drive Edwards' trailer to Las Vegas, on to Pomona, and back to Oklahoma for him.

So the man who said within the past week that he and wife Lisa nd the team "weren't sure if we were even coming" to Pomona outdid everyone in his class.

"Thank the Lord, it all worked out," Edwards said.

Edwards got some extra encouragement, with a reminder that reigning champion Jason Line also had back surgery (for a different condition) before attending last year's Winternationals. Line won the race and went on to earn his second series title.

"I like that," Edwards said. He should -- he was two-hundredths quicker than his closest competitor, Ronnie Humphrey (6.561, 211.39). Both Edwards and Humprey were alone in 6.56-seocnd range and the only two to top 211 mph.

The second of four qualifying sessions is set for 1:30 p.m. (PT) Friday, with to sessions Saturday. Final eliminations will be Sunday.


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