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Edwards On Point In Points As Cup Heads To PIR

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, February 25 2011

Carl Edwards will head to Phoenix for race No. 2 on the Sprint Cup schedule as the points leader. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Mike Harris | Senior Writer

It’s time to get back to real racing and reality.

Last week’s fairy tale of a race story, with 20-year-old wunderkind Trevor Bayne winning the Daytona 500, is history and the only two-by-two tangos this Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway are likely to be chance meetings – i.e.: crashes.

Bayne will drive the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford in the Subway Fresh Fit 500 but, thanks to NASCAR’s new rule making drivers decide in which series they will run for a championship, it’s Daytona runner-up Carl Edwards who is leading the Sprint Cup points. Bayne opted for the points race in the Nationwide Series, where he will run full-time for Roush Fenway Racing.

Edwards, a Roush Fenway Racing Cup entry who finished with two straight wins last season after a mostly miserable season, would certainly have loved to spoil Bayne’s Daytona party. But the points lead is a pretty good consolation prize.

“I’m going to go to Phoenix and look at the points and think this was OK,’’ Edwards said after his disappointment at Daytona. “We’ll race the Daytona 500 again next year. We are going to have bad days, so it’s nice to get out of that one, considering the chaos that was going on, it’s nice to get out with a great points run.’’

Edwards acknowledged that the new FR9 engine deserves a lot of the credit for the 1-2-3 finish at Daytona by Ford and also for his strong showings in the last three Cup races.

“I think we’ve got a lot of positive things going on, a lot of ’em,’’ he said.  “Our performances have

Carl Edwards ended the 2010 season on a roll. He won at Homestead in the season finale. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)

been good.  We got a win, a win and a second.  That’s a pretty good streak to be on.  You never know what’s going to happen.  But a couple tracks coming up are really good for us.  I feel really good about it.  I think Ford’s in a great spot.

“A win at the Daytona 500 for Ford, for (engine builder) Doug Yates, for all of us is huge.  This season picked up right now so far right where we left off and I’m having fun.’’

Edwards has struck up a friendship with Bayne and, despite losing to the kid, he was very complimentary about the youngster’s big win.

“Seems like he’s got it figured out,’’ Edwards noted. “He does really well in the Nationwide Series.  That’s where I’ve raced with him the most.  It seems like he just has massive talent.

“He hasn’t done anything dumb.  That’s hard for us sometimes as drivers,’’ he added with a smile.  “He’s done a really good job of keeping his composure.  We all make mistakes, but he hasn’t made any more than anyone else.  He drives like a veteran.’’

David Gilliland, who finished third at Daytona and is the current points runner-up, agreed with Edwards’ assessment of NASCAR’s newest star.

“He definitely has everybody’s respect out there,’’ Gilliland said.  “That’s what it takes.’’

If an upstart like Bayne had not won the season-opener, it’s likely that Gilliland would have been a bigger story, finishing third for the second-level Front Row Motorsports.

“I’m just really proud of our team,’’ he said.  “In the media day last week, I told a bunch of the people you can look for Front Row Motorsports to be the most improved team from last year.

“We stepped up our motor program to run the FR9 motor.  (Team owner) Bob Jenkins bought a bunch

Among those congratulating Trevor Bayne after the Daytona 500 was Carl Edwards. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images for NASCAR)

of motors from RPM.  It’s taken us 10 steps ahead on the competition side.  I’m proud to have weathered the storm last year and now have a top‑three finish at Daytona, for not only myself but Bob Jenkins.  He does this deal out of his pockets.  To come and do that and be here with the success is something to be proud of.’’

The television ratings for this year’s 500 were up 13 percent and someone asked Edwards if he believed that would become a trend for the season?

“I think that the ratings, whatever scores we can look up, all that stuff, that doesn’t tell the story of what’s going on out there on the racetrack,’’ he explained. “We really do have the most competitive racing that I’ve ever been a part of, the closest battles.  We have races like we had (last Sunday) with a new winner, up‑and‑coming guy in the sport that’s tied to so much history with the Wood Brothers.  This is as good as it gets, guys.’’

We’ll see if they can keep it up Sunday on the 1-mile Phoenix oval – a much different track with a very different style of racing.

– Mike Harris can be reached at mharris@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, February 25 2011
One Comment

One Comment »

  • Terry says:

    The FR9 is the real story here…..FORD has made sure they got it right before they pushed it out. They are historicaly BAD at waiting to long…HYDRAULIC BRAKES…MODEL A late…V8 in ’32 late…..Y block OHV..1954 late……427 1963 late…..but when they finally do GET IT ….they get it ….RIGHT!!!