Revitalized again, Edwards looks to go back-to-back

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After breaking a 70-race winless streak last week at Phoenix, Carl Edwards will try to make it two in a row this afternoon at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Prior to his Phoenix triumph, Edwards’ most recent win had been on Vegas’ 1.5-miler back in March of 2011. Even with the new Generation-6 cars now in the equation, one assumes he stands a good shot today at keeping up his newfound momentum – which he credits to his new crew chief, veteran Jimmy Fennig, and his entire No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing team.

“I believe the ingredients we have right now, the pit stops are fast, Jimmy Fennig’s experience, the cars seem to be running really well, the engines are fast,” he told The Charlotte Observer’s Jim Utter this weekend. “I think all of those things are good for this season.”

“Cousin Carl” has done well at Vegas in his career with two victories and three top-5 finishes in eight Sprint Cup tries. But his Roush Fenway squad as a whole has had quite the tradition of success in Sin City.

RFR won the first three Cup events at the track, with Mark Martin claiming the inaugural win in 1998 and Jeff Burton going back-to-back in 1999 and 2000. Then Matt Kenseth added two more Vegas wins in 2003 and 2004, which were followed by Edwards heading to LVMS’ Victory Lane in 2008 and 2011.

Here’s some more impressive statistics. RFR has won seven of the 15 Cup events at LVMS, and in its 68 Cup starts there as a team, its drivers have finished in the Top 10 53 percent of the time. It has placed at least one driver in the Top 10 in each of Vegas’ Cup events and multiple drivers inside the Top 10 in all but two.

With all that said, it’s easy to see why Edwards would be confident of his chances today.

F1 2017 driver review: Nico Hulkenberg

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Nico Hulkenberg

Team: Renault
Car No.: 27
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P6 (Spain, Great Britain, Belgium, Abu Dhabi)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 43
Championship Position: 10th

Expectations were hard to peg for Renault heading into its second full season back in F1 with a factory team, but Nico Hulkenberg was surely expected to be the man spearheading its charge.

With teammate Jolyon Palmer severely underperforming, Hulkenberg did exactly that, bringing home all but 14 of the team’s points in the final standings. However, consistency was never something he truly found.

Many of Renault’s issues were down to reliability issues, sidelining Hulkenberg for six races – four coming in a five-race stint from Singapore to Mexico – yet he only scored points in consecutive races on three occasions.

When Hulkenberg and Renault were on form, they proved to be a potent combination, often topping the midfield fight and even looking faster than Force India come the end of the season. His run to sixth at the final race in Abu Dhabi was crucial for the constructors’ championship as Renault jumped Toro Rosso, securing an extra slice of prize money in the process.

But for a driver who was so often tipped as being a future star in F1, Hulkenberg still has a lot to prove. Renault is set to offer a good platform for the German moving forward with factory support, yet if he cannot beat new teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. through 2018, concerns will surely be raised.

Season High: Charging to sixth in Abu Dhabi despite a penalty.

Season Low: A tough run to 16th in Malaysia.