Prior to last weekend, the last time Carl Edwards had won a race was in 2011; the place, Las Vegas Motor Speedway site of this Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 400. After last weekend’s win at Phoenix, the question becomes can Edwards do it again?
Edwards, now paired with new crew chief cagy veteran Jimmy Fennig, broke a 70 race winless streak last week. His last win came at Vegas and based on his record here in the last eight races, he has another win that coming in 2008, along with three top-five and four top-10 finishes including a fifth place in this race last season, Edwards could be poised for a repeat performance Sunday.
“I know this is probably wrong to admit, but I didn’t really have Phoenix marked on the calendar as the one that we were going to go win the first race,” Edwards said. “I was looking at Vegas as the race that would be the really good one, so I’m really excited about Vegas. After seeing my pit crew perform at Phoenix, I’m going to Vegas to win this thing this weekend. I think we’re going to be real tough at Vegas. I think we’re going to be good, so I have a real high expectation there. I hope we can meet it.”
Perhaps the biggest obstacle Edwards will face Sunday is last week’s second place finisher Jimmie Johnson. In the last eight races here, Johnson has won four times and is far and away the best active driver at Vegas. Last week at Phoenix Johnson’s only obstacle was Edwards. In this race last year, Johnson also finished second. He hopes to reverse that Sunday and leave Vegas a winner.
“We ran well all day,” Johnson said of last year’s race. “It was a competitive race and it was fun to race that hard with Tony at the end for a win. He was killing everyone all day on the restarts and he got me at the end. I hope we are in the same position again this weekend.”
The Tony Johnson speaks of is of course, last year’s winner Tony Stewart. Stewart held off Johnson to score his first win at Vegas in 13 tries. He was second the year prior but before that was hold and cold. If Stewart is hot this weekend, he could defend last season’s race win.
“It seems like track position is really, really key there,” Stewart said. “As long as you can get your car driving well and stay ahead of it, it seems like as the day changes, or the longer the day goes, the more the track changes and the more you have to stay up with it. You just can’t have any mistakes there because you cannot afford to lose the track position, and you have to be able to stay up with the changing track conditions as the day goes on.”
Don’t count out: Greg Biffle has never won here, but was third in this race last season. Biffle has had his shining moments this season and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Biffle was shining in victory lane Sunday.
“I’m jacked up about heading to Vegas,” Biffle said. “One, I love to gamble, and two, I love that race track. We run really well there. Track position is key and you need to have the right pit stop at the end. We’ve been really close to winning in the Cup car before and hopefully this is it.”
Bottom Line: NASCAR is allowing teams a test day with the new Gen-6 cars on Thursday so the crème of this weekend’s crop should rise to the top prior to Friday’s qualifying. But those who are fastest in qualifying may not be the ones to watch Sunday. Only two races here have been won from the front row. Four of the 15 races have been won from a starting position outside the top 20. The deepest in the field that a race winner has started was 25th, that being Matt Kenseth in 2004.