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Edwards Continues To Sizzle

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, March 18 2011

Carl Edwards topped qualifying in Bristol. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer

Bristol, Tenn. – Las Vegas winner Carl Edwards continued his recent hot streak, leading every practice session in which he participated and capping it off by winning the pole for Sunday’s Jeff Byrd 500 Presented by Food City at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Edwards ran a lap at 128.014 miles per hour to knock his Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle over to the outside pole.

Edwards said that despite his success on Friday at Bristol, on top of his recent performances that have seen him win three of the past five Cup races dating back to the final two events of 2010, he’s not assuming that his great fortune will continue.

“I’m not going to take anything for granted,” he said. “We just have to keep moving forward.”

Edwards also finished second to Bayne at Daytona and won the pole at Phoenix, where he led 21 laps before being involved in a crash with Kyle Busch.

Regan Smith will start third at Bristol, while Paul Menard continued his strong start with a fourth-place qualifying performance. Another Roush driver, David Ragan, will start fifth.

Ken Schrader, driving the No. 32 Ford in his first Cup appearance of 2011, was the only driver who failed to qualify.

Officials from Goodyear reacted rather quickly to excessive right-side tire wear during Friday’s practice session and sent for a different compound tire to be used on Saturday and Sunday.

Teams will get one set of the new tires to use in practice on Saturday and a full allotment for Sunday.

After several practice sessions for the Sprint Cup and Nationwide drivers, there was little evidence of rubber working into the track, and there were several tires showing cords on the right-rear tire.

Kurt Busch said he’s not an expert, but he did observe that there appears to be no rubber building up on the track, and it’s that rubber build-up that keeps tires from wearing out prematurely.

“I think that [the race track] is just chewing up the tires,” he said. “Right now it’s the lightest I’ve ever seen it….The tires are just turning to powder. They’re powdering instead of laying rubber into the race track.

“That’s what I saw at Indy [several years ago], and I’m seeing it here again.”

Carl Edwards said there could be a lot more changing than just the right-side tires. The new tire compound could confound some teams that ran fast on Friday and be the cure for others who were lacking in speed.

“The potential is there to turn this whole deal upside down,” he said. “It’s going to be interesting.”

Trevor Bayne, arguably the sport’s newest all-star, so far is without a ride for the All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May. Team co-owner Eddie Wood said that the team has expanded its partial schedule after the surprise Daytona 500 victory that guaranteed them a starting spot in the All-Star race, but there’s no sponsorship money yet for the non-points all-star race.

Wood said he’s trying to make sure his team stays in the top 35 in car owner points, and thereby assured of starting positions, so it’s better to spend their limited resources on points-paying races. But he also said that if a sponsor for the all-star race comes along, he’s ready to enter Bayne.

The Woods have been at every all-star race since the inaugural event, although they’ve only run the preliminary race on several occasions. They won the main event in 1996, becoming the first team to win after getting in the main event through the preliminary race.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. said it’s a little soon for his fans to begin celebrating his improved performance so far this season, and he indicated that the talk of his winning a Sprint Cup race in the near future is a little premature.

“I think we just got to temper our excitement over what we’ve seen so far,” he said. “There have been some positive results. We should have run good, and did at Daytona. Phoenix, I don’t know how well we would have finished had a lot of guys hadn’t had trouble like they did. We weren’t strong. It’s hard to pass.

“The car was getting better and faster. Would we have been able to make up track position the way the car was? I don’t know…

“You got to temper your mood a little bit and just keep working hard, keep staying focused, realizing how much further in the season we’ve got to go.”

But he doesn’t mind the attention he and his team are drawing by being in the top 10 in the points standings and the top Hendrick team in the standings so far.

“I’m comfortable with whatever buzz that creates,” he said.

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, March 18 2011
One Comment

One Comment »

  • Dick says:

    OK, boys and girls……here’s your winner’s equation for NASCAR 2011:

    Ford’s been embarrassingly AWOL of late + NASCAR gave Ford a new engine for 2011 = Ford wins the championship 2011

    The ‘stars’ have aligned, take it to the bank!