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Carl Edwards Becoming A Pole Day Road Hog

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, August 6 2016
Carl Edwards has become a road racing specialist. On Saturday, he won his second road circuit pole of the season. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

Carl Edwards has become a road racing big boy. On Saturday, he won his second road circuit pole of the season. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Carl Edwards completed a once-improbable pole position sweep of NASCAR’s two non-oval Sprint Cup Series races Saturday at Watkins Glen International, officially elevating his status to “road-course ringer.”

sprint-logo-08“I think so, you know? No, I don’t know. My road-course career started pretty rough,” an animated Edwards joked after touring WGI’s historic and recently repaved 2.45-mile/11-turn natural terrain layout in 69.689-seconds at 126.562 mph. Edwards secured his fourth Coors Light Pole Award of the season and second in 12 starts at WGI, where he will lead the 40-car field into Sunday’s 31st annual Cheez-It 355 at The Glen. Scheduled for 90 laps/220.5-miles, USA Network will televise the race at 2 p.m. (EDT).

Edwards, of Joe Gibbs Racing, pipped Kyle Larson of Chip Ganassi Racing for P1 by 0.182-seconds (69.871-seconds/126.233 mph), as each posted a single lap during the 10-minute Round 2 session of knockout qualifying. In addition to an $11-million offseason repave, drivers had to deal with an overnight rain that washed off the Goodyear rubber accumulated during Friday’s Cup and Xfinity Series practices.

“The track was really, really slick to begin with,” said Edwards, driver of the No. 19 Stanley Toyota Camry. “I don’t know if it was the rain or the rubber from yesterday but the track was much different that first lap. I don’t know if it’s the oils coming out of the track. I watched a lot of guys go and I could see them locking up tires, I could see people missing that first corner. Really, that first lap was a good lap for me but I was nervous. I was nervous that I was going to slip up somewhere.

Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were all smiles in the garages at The Glen on Saturday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were all smiles in the garages at The Glen on Saturday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

And then we ended up running a second lap in that first round because we weren’t confident that lap was going to hold up.”

Edwards placed second to Joey Logano of Team Penske, who led Q1 with a lap in 69.880-seconds at 126.216 mph in his No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford Fusion. Edwards trailed by 0.157-seconds (70.037-seconds/125.933 mph).

“Guys like myself, you run yesterday, you go to sleep and they change everything on the car and you go out and get that first look at it and it’s tough,” Edwards said. “And, everyone when they were going again they were going faster and faster. So, we gambled… we didn’t gamble, I guess we played it safe. We ran a second lap that first round and I was nervous that would mess up our pole run for the third time out in the second round. I know it’s complicated…but it all worked out fine. It was good. It was all according to plan.

“I take a lot of pride in starting up-front. The qualifying day has become a lot more fun for me lately. It’s not a track position game, there’s nothing on the…it’s just how fast can you go and it took me a long time to get my mindset right to qualify when I first came into the sport and now I really enjoy it.”

Like Edwards, Larson said his crew changed “about everything” on his No. 42 Target Chevrolet SS in search of additional traction.

“Finally got some grip there late in (Friday’s second) practice,” Larson said. “And we still could use some more. But it was fun. I didn’t think I’d end up second. I didn’t even think I ran that good of a lap the first round. I missed the Bus Stop (chicane) pretty bad. That first run I had in the second round I probably could have run close to whatever was ran there, but I made a mistake.

“And then in the second run, I just butchered just about every corner. It was exciting, though. It’s always fun to qualify at the road-courses, especially here because you’re going so fast and you’re on the edge, especially at the Esses here. With the repave it’s really slick. It was a fun day.”

Three-time Cup champion Tony Stewart qualified third at 126.177 mph in the No. 14 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS. A record five-time Cup race-winner at WGI, Smoke will start his final series road-race here Sunday.

“I was happy with the lap,” said Stewart, who won the season’s first road-course event at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway on June 26. “I’m sure all 12 of us that ran the final round, if we could do our last lap over we would like to do it over.  I’m no different. I think we could have got a little more out of it. It’s still a solid run.”

Matt Kenseth will join Stewart in Row 2 after qualifying his No. 20 Dollar General Toyota at 126.104 mph. Kyle Busch, the reigning Cup champion and JGR teammate to Kenseth and Edwards, will start fifth after lapping at 126.099 mph in the No. 18 Snickers Crisper Toyota.  Denny Hamlin, also of JGR, qualified sixth at 126.002 mph in the No. 11 FedEx Freight Camry.

Four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon, subbing for the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr., will start 21st after lapping at 124.460 mph in Junior’s No. 88 Axalta Chevy SS. Gordon is a four-time Cup winner at WGI.

“My teammates, they’re really fast,” Edwards said. “Kyle is really fast and Martin’s (Truex Jr.) is really fast. You’ve got to work a little bit in race trim but we’re starting up-front and got a great pit crew.

“I think tomorrow is going to be a little bit of an adventure. The new pavement _ nobody knows how that’s going to go along deep into the runs with tire build-up. I think the braking zones are pretty tough and it’s going to be nice and warm. So, just got to stay up-front, can’t make any mistakes. I love road races. They’re so much fun. I got to talk to Boris Said, who’s basically my road racing coach, to start so that was cool. Hopefully tonight get me some good rest and be very competitive tomorrow.”

Edwards humbly recalled that the early days of his road-racing career at Roush Fenway Racing were nothing short of a wreck-fest. “A little perspective for you guys,” Edwards said to the assembled media. “My first time here, I didn’t even make it a full lap. I backed the No. 99 car right into the wall coming down the front straightaway. That was embarrassing. It was really embarrassing later while they were fixing my car I was talking to Casey Mears and shooting the breeze and he said, ‘You see that idiot out in that red-and-white car back it in the first lap that didn’t have a number on it?’ I was like, ‘Casey, that was me.’ So, to come back here after that test…

“I also crashed the No. 60 Xfinity car; Brad Parrott was my crew chief and he wouldn’t unload the backup car. He said we’re going to sit for a little while. He’s like, ‘At the current rate, we’re going to be going home in about 30 minutes if we unload it.’

“I was terrible here and Boris Said helped me a ton. Jack Roush used to have a program when Boris _ he would call him to go for a day with young guys like myself who didn’t have any road-racing experience. (Now) I kind of go through the list of things you have to do. So, yeah, from then to now to be fast here, to be at the top of the chart for a while in practice and have a shot at winning these races is a big accomplishment for me.

“I’m really proud of doing well at these places just because it really has been a long learning process. So, now I need to put it together and get a win here. Been close here, we’ve run really well and this will be a good start to it. But, yeah if we had one more road-course, like this year, I think people would say, ‘Oh Carl!’ But by next year they’ll forget and it’ll be all over again.”

Edwards added he does expect grip levels to improve dramatically on Sunday, thanks to rubber put down during Saturday’s 22nd annual and crash-marred Zippo 200 at The Glen Xfinity Series race and the harder/more durable compound tire Goodyear Racing has provided this weekend.

“As much grip as the tire has when you do get sideways here the tires break loose and they can chatter quite a bit, it’s a little bit treacherous,” Edwards said. “So, I think riding up through those Esses and the Bus Stop that first lap is going to be a real battle in the middle of the pack. So, yeah, if I can keep everything straight and not end up in the middle of the pack by the time we get back there I think it will be a big advantage to start up-front. And then all day having a good pit stall will help.

“I think it’s just going to be a matter of tons of grip and managing that all day.”

That sentiment was echoed by Brad Keselowski. “The track is changing dramatically as the cars run on and lay rubber down. It changes,” said Keselowski, who will start 12th in the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion (124.981 mph) fielded by Team Penske. “When we started practice here Thursday the practice was about five seconds slower than what it was here in qualifying. That’s a very dramatic change of pace. Five seconds is at least 10 mph average speed. That’s a good way to put it in perspective.

“I ran wide-open on my last run through the Esses in qualifying and there are three turns in the Esses. Then in practice when the track was just starting out you could barely run half-throttle through those three corners. The track changes dramatically as it takes rubber. The tire itself is a very hard compound and it takes awhile to put rubber down. But as the practice sessions have gone on and the cars from Xfinity, Cup and the K&N side have put that rubber down the track is picking up speed and grip.

“Your (braking) points that you use continue to move and you continue to drive the car that much harder still. That’s a tough process. It’s tough because these tracks are still about getting in a rhythm and when the grip level is changing every lap it’s hard to get in a rhythm. It’s a very challenging racetrack by itself and the repave is adding a whole other dynamic to it that I think we’ll see play-out with a lot of action, a lot of sideways, a lot of spinouts and probably a lot of crashes.”

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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Qualifying – Cheez-It 355 at The Glen

Watkins Glen International

Watkins Glen, New York

Saturday, August 06, 2016

  1. (19)  Carl Edwards, Toyota, 126.562 mph.
  2. (42)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 126.233 mph.
  3. (14)  Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 126.177 mph.
  4. (20)  Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 126.104 mph.
  5. (18)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, 126.099 mph.
  6. (11)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 126.002 mph.
  7. (22)  Joey Logano, Ford, 125.924 mph.
  8. (31)  Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 125.831 mph.
  9. (47)  AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 125.623 mph.
  10. (1)  Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 125.536 mph.
  11. (95)  Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 125.370 mph.
  12. (2)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 124.981 mph.
  13. (48)  Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 124.981 mph.
  14. (78)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 124.968 mph.
  15. (4)  Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 124.837 mph.
  16. (24)  Chase Elliott #, Chevrolet, 124.670 mph.
  17. (41)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 124.585 mph.
  18. (3)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 124.569 mph.
  19. (21)  Ryan Blaney #, Ford, 124.559 mph.
  20. (13)  Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 124.532 mph.
  21. (88)  Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 124.460 mph.
  22. (98)  Cole Whitt, Toyota, 124.269 mph.
  23. (5)  Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 124.248 mph.
  24. (16)  Greg Biffle, Ford, 124.159 mph.
  25. (34)  Chris Buescher #, Ford, 124.120 mph.
  26. (23)  David Ragan, Toyota, 123.842 mph.
  27. (44)  Brian Scott #, Ford, 123.633 mph.
  28. (15)  Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 123.464 mph.
  29. (7)  Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 123.455 mph.
  30. (17)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 123.446 mph.
  31. (10)  Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 123.389 mph.
  32. (6)  Trevor Bayne, Ford, 123.353 mph.
  33. (27)  Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 123.157 mph.
  34. (43)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 123.110 mph.
  35. (83)  Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 122.624 mph.
  36. (55)  Alex Kennedy, Chevrolet, 122.193 mph.
  37. (32)  Boris Said, Ford, 122.157 mph.
  38. (46)  Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 121.202 mph.
  39. (30)  Josh Wise, Chevrolet, 119.246 mph.
  40. (38)  Landon Cassill, Ford, 0.000 mph.

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, August 6 2016
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