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TUESDAY CONVERSATION: NHRA Pro Stock Driver Mike Edwards on winning, close calls and Young Life.
NHRA Pro Stock driver Mike Edwards started chasing a dream back over 30 years ago, but somewhere along the way, his desire to win races and championships took a back seat to sharing God’s love with others in the sport and more recently with teenagers through a special Young Life drag racing program.
In this interview, the 2009 champion and 30-time race winner talks about that magical season, why associations matter and how youth ministry has reinvigorated his career:
Bonham: What was so special about the 2009 season that allowed the team to basically run away with the championship?
Edwards: 2009 was just our year. We hit the ground running. We came out and we were extremely fast and really consistent. We won five races and we won the ultimate goal for me and for anybody in this class—that’s to win the championship. It’s just an unbelievable feat and it takes so many people to do it. It’s 24-7. You have to live it. It’s just what you do every day. It takes so much of your time. It was a rewarding year and something I’ve tried to do for 30-some years. I won a championship in modified several years ago but to win one in this class is quite a feat. I never thought I could accomplish that. It was the grace of God and everybody just helping me.
Bonham: Of course it looked like the same thing was going to happen again last year, but things didn’t quite work out the same.
Edwards: Last year, we won more races than anybody. We won eight last year and then got down to the countdown and just had some really difficult times and had some electrical issues in the car. One thing led to another and it just wasn’t meant to be. We ended up third.
Bonham: How has that first title impacted the team?
Edwards: When you win a championship like we did in ’09, that brings more TV attention and more public awareness. That just opened up the door for our other program, which is far more important than anything we do and that’s the Young Life program. We got lots of recognition for that and lots of response. When you win the championship, you’re getting interviewed all the time. Every time I get interviewed, I’m always plugging the Young Life program and all of my sponsors. It all goes hand in hand. When you have success on the track, it gives you more opportunities to do interviews and to talk about the things that matter to you. Of course, that’s the first thing on our list. The first priority for us is a program we do every Thursday night with the Young Life kids. It was just meant to be. It was just our time. We’ve been waiting a long time but it was finally (God’s) time.
Bonham: Can you tell me a little more about the Young Life program?
Edwards: We have a program every Thursday night at every event we go to. We have 22 races a year. It’s local groups and their leaders bring them out. When Young Life gets together, it’s called a club so we just call it our club on Thursday nights. It’s just another place to come and fellowship and let the kids get to know us. We have treats and refreshments and hot dogs for them. It’s just a place for us to have relationship and get to know them. It’s something most kids don’t get a chance to do by spending time at the track and being around the racecars.
Bonham: How important has your recent sponsorship from Interstate Batteries been to the team’s progression?
Edwards: (Interstate Batteries owner) Norm Miller came on board last year and this year he stepped up and did even more for us. He’s very aware of our program. He knows what’s going on and he’s a first class individual. The website is awesome. It’s a really neat deal. When you can associate yourself with people like that and surround yourself with people like that, it’s a great feeling to know that they’re behind you 100 percent no matter what happens. They know what the real goal is and you really want to be around people like that.
Bonham: Do you get the feeling that other teams respect you for your beliefs and your public displays of faith?
Edwards: I believe so. For the most part, everybody for sure that runs our class knows. In ’09 when we did the banquet at the end of the season, I had to get up and speak and most of my whole talk that night was about what I stand for and the things that mean the most to me. Of course, that’s the Lord Jesus. Whether they believe it or not, they respect us a lot and they respect what we stand for.
Bonham: Did you come into the 2011 season with a renewed sense of purpose?
Edwards: We’re definitely optimistic. I really feel like we didn’t finish last year. We had an awesome season. Don’t get me wrong. But the ultimate goal every year is to win the championship and we didn’t do that. So I feel like in a way that we failed a little bit. Unfortunately there’s two seasons in one. You’ve got the first season where you’ve got to have enough points to get into the top 10 and the countdown and then once you get there, they strip you of all your points and everybody’s neck and neck again. It left a really bad taste in my mouth because I had a 400-point lead before the countdown and then ended up losing it. It was really tough and disappointing for the team. We’re working hard and we’re optimistic.
Join Inspiring Athletes tomorrow for Good Works Wednesday featuring Dwight Howard’s latest charitable venture.
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Felix and Williams win at U.S. Track & Field Championships; Simpson also qualifies for World team
At the U.S. Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Ore., this weekend, Allyson Felix won the women’s 400-meter race and Jesse Williams won the men’s high jump. Also qualifying for the World Championships team was Jenny Simpson who placed second in the 1500-meter run.
Beijing Summer Olympics decathlon gold medalist Brian Clay had to pull out of the event after spraining his calf during the 110-meter hurdles but will likely petition for a spot on the World Championships team.
To hear more from these exceptional athletes and the faith that drives them to excellence, click on their names above. The World Track & Field Championships take place in Daegu, South Korea from August 27th through September 4th.
Nick Charles succumbed to bladder cancer today. He’s a familiar face for most diehard sports fans having spent nearly two decades reporting countless events alongside Fred Hickman.
Click here for an inspirational feature on Charles and an interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta that took place weeks before his death where he talks about his faith and living life day-to-day.
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ESPN announced its nominees for the 2011 ESPYS on Friday and several are familiar names to Inspiring Athletes:
Trevor Bayne (Best Moment)
Bayne was nominated for his record-breaking performance as the youngest Daytona 500 winner ever. He won 2011 race just one day removed from his 20th birthday.
“I want to be real,” Bayne told Inspiring Athletes. “I don’t want to pose as anything. I don’t want to pose as a tough guy. I don’t want to pose as a nice guy. Whatever Trevor Bayne is, that’s what I’m going to be. Staying humble is the key to this. I try to let that shine through. This can be gone in a second.”
Click here for more of Inspiring Athletes’ recent story on Bayne.
Tamika Catchings (Best WNBA Player)
Catchings is a two-time gold medalist who won her fourth WNBA Defensive Player of the Year award during the 2010 season with the Indiana Fever.
“All the things I’ve been through have given me a platform to be able to talk to people,” Catchings once told me. “I grew up with a hearing problem and I had to wear a hearing aid. I grew up with a speech problem. I had glasses and braces. I dealt with all the things as a young child that you don’t want to face. But it made me stronger and it helped me become the person that I am today.”
Kelly Clark (Best Female Athlete & Best Female Action Sport Athlete)
Clark won X-Games Gold in the half pipe event and became the first female athletes to land a 1080 in competition.
“I thought being a Christian was about following rules and going to church and being good all the time,” Clark once told me. “But (a friend of mine) helped me understand that it’s about having a relationship with God and not about being religious. That was where things shifted for me.”
Be looking for a full interview with Clark in a forthcoming edition of Inspiring Athletes.
Kevin Durant (Best NBA Player)
Durant led the Oklahoma City Thunder to the NBA Western Conference Finals and topped all NBA scorers in the process with a 27.7 per game average.
“In the Bible, (it says) the Lord exalts humility and that’s one thing I try to be all the time—when I’m talking in front of people or when people tell me I’m great, I (remind myself that I) can always be better,” Durant told Inspiring Athletes. “I always work on what I have now. I’ve just got to be thankful to the Lord for what the gifts He’s given me. My gift back to Him is to always be humble and to always try to work as hard as I can.”
Click here to read more from Inspiring Athletes’ story about Durant.
Some other nominees include:
Gene Chizik (Best Coach)
Josh Hamilton (Best MLB Player)
Allyson Felix (Best Track & Field Athlete)
Blake Griffin (Breakthrough Athlete)
Troy Polamalu (Best NFL Player)
Aaron Rodgers (Best Male Athlete & Best NFL Player)
Tim Thomas (Best Championship Performance & Best NHL Player)
Soul Surfer (Best Movie)
The ESPYS will be shown on ESPN, Wednesday, July 13th, at 9p ET/8p CT. You can vote for the ESPYS by clicking here.