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Vegas offers another first

Steve Mickey

Steve Mickey

During the warm-up laps at Phoenix on Sunday, FOX announcer Darrell Waltrip referred to Carl Edwards as “five-time.” The reference was a little play on the term that is often used when referring to five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson. When “five-time” is used referring to Johnson it is an honor; when applied to Edwards it goes back to the five crashes that he was involved in during Speedweeks in Daytona.

When the Daytona 500 ended, Johnson had won his second 500 and Edwards had crashed five Roush-Fenway Racing cars. That is not the way a driver wants to start his season and to compound the misery, the 33rd-place Daytona finish extended his winless streak to 70 races.

Edwards had come within a tiebreaker of winning his firstever Sprint Cup title in 2011 to Tony Stewart, and since then he has struggled not only to compete once again for the title, but just to make it back to victory lane. However, the good news for Edwards was that he was going to a track where he once before had broken a 70-race winless streak.

Edwards beat Dale Earnhardt Jr. off pit road after the last round of pit stops on Sunday and when Earnhardt Jr. spun his wheels on the restart, Edwards took the lead for good. The only concern as the final laps went off the board was whether or not he had enough fuel to make it to the finish line. A late race crash by Ken Schrader set up a green-white-checkered restart, but on the restart (questioned by Johnson) Edwards was able to pull ahead of Johnson, who had to fight off Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin for second.

The win was the 20th of his career, but maybe more important it moves him up to 11th in the points standings after the first two races of the young season. The new Gen- 6 car that is being used this season makes getting off to a good start more important than in years past. The racing on Sunday once again provided no more than single-file racing and more than one postrace interview with a driver found him complaining about how the car handled in a crowd.

It was the first race for the car using the larger spoiler and, just like last week at Daytona, it is going to take some time for teams to figure out what they have in their cars. The biggest test for the car will come this weekend when the series rolls into Las Vegas Motor Speedway and its mile-and-a-half track.

One of the main goals of the new Gen-6 cars is to make racing better on the mile-and-ahalf tracks The Cup schedule is dominated by the mile-and-ahalf tracks, especially the last 10 races that make up the Chase, and it was vitally important that the new car with its increased downforce put on a better show anytime the series stopped at one of these tracks.

Just like Daytona and Phoenix was a first for the new Gen-6, this week will be another first and Las Vegas is giving every team the chance to get a better handle on the new car when it will open its gates a day early on Thursday to give teams the opportunity to hold a test session. Before NASCAR implemented a new testing schedule this season, testing always took place at Vegas before the beginning of the new season.

The new testing policy allows organizations four tests besides the annual winter testing at Daytona. Every crew chief and driver will agree that the car is definitely a work in progress and it could be that Vegas will be a very busy track on Thursday as teams get ready for the many mile-and-a-half tracks that they will visit this year.

Race Preview
Event: Kobalt Tools 400
Track: Las Vegas Motor Speedway
(1.5-mile tri-oval, 20 degrees of
banking in the turns)
Date: March 10, 3 p.m.
Radio: PRN
Defending Champion: Tony

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