NASCAR: Edwards hopes for more wins in 2012

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 10, 2012

By John Marshall
Associated Press
LAS VEGAS — Asked about not winning a race in a year, Carl Edwards had a quick correction.
“I did win the All-Star race, so that’s something,” he said.
True, Edwards did win the All-Star race in May, pretty handily. Earned $1 million for it, too.
The problem with that victory was that it didn’t count in the season standings. To find a race that earned him points, Edwards has to go back to last March, when he kicked off his championship chase with a win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“It doesn’t feel like that to me,” Edwards said. “I guess it’s reality, but we go out every week and race as hard as we can and there were many races last year that we very well could have won if things would have gone slightly different. We obviously ran very well.”
That’s for sure.
Despite winning the one race, Edwards tied Stewart for the championship, doing it on the strength of a series-high 19 top-five finishes and 26 in the top 10.
But not winning more ended up costing Edwards: Stewart earned his third Sprint Cup title on a tiebreaker with five wins to Edwards’ one.
Disappointing? Sure, but Edwards knows his car was strong all season, even if it only crossed the checkers first one time that counted.
“The way this sport works is if you run that well, you’ll win your fair share of races,” he said. “Any week would be a good week to go ahead and win another one, so this would be just fine.”
Edwards opened this season with a strong run at the Daytona 500, starting on the pole and finishing eighth. He was on his way to another good finish at Phoenix last week, but drifted back to 17th after he ran out of fuel and had to coast across the finish line.
“We ran out of fuel and we didn’t expect to run out of fuel when we did,” Edwards said. “We miscalculated a little bit, which we pride ourselves on having great fuel mileage and being able to manage that fuel mileage so that we can make it to the end of the race, so it was disappointing for us. But I think a lot of people were surprised.”
Stewart was caught a little off-guard last year at Las Vegas.
He had the strongest car all day, but had to change pit strategy after being penalized leaving his pit stall with an air hose still attached to his car. Wanting to get their car back to the front, then-crew chief Darian Grubb called for Stewart to take just two tires on a pit stop.
The plan worked, but the rest of the field saw that it did and used a similar tactic, putting Stewart in a corner. He later had to take four tires when nearly everyone else took two and shuffled back in the field because of the extra time. He dropped to 22nd after the stop and charged back, but came up just short, finishing second.
“I’m excited about (being back),” Stewart said. “This was probably in all reality was the strongest race that we had last year. We had a car that just was dominant and we still let it get away from us. It was real disappointing to lose it with a penalty last year.”
Las Vegas represents the true start of the season in some drivers’ minds.
The Daytona 500 is unlike anything the teams face during the season, a monthlong spectacle, not to mention one of the few restrictor-plate races on the schedule. Phoenix International Raceway is a mile oval that often drives more like a short track.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway, one of the fastest tracks on the circuit, is the first chance to run on a 1.5-mile oval, which the bulk of the schedule is made up of.
Run well at Vegas and the teams can build confidence for the rest of the season. Struggle here and it could take a while for them to get it right.
“You might not get the result that you deserve this weekend and the points might not shake out and they might not represent the speed that everyone has, but you can bet if a guy has a good, strong run here, that can give you a lot of confidence going to the rest of these race tracks — Texas and Fontana and Kansas and all these places that rely on this type of setup,” Edwards said. “So, I think this is one that I’ve been looking forward to for a number of reasons, but one is to just see where we stand and what we’ve got.”
What Edwards would like is a repeat win at Las Vegas — and a few more victories to go with it.