Carl Edwards talks Phoenix, Daytona 500 on NBCSN’s NASCAR AMERICA

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Last March at Phoenix International Raceway, Carl Edwards snapped a 70-race winless streak. And last fall, he was only a lap and a half’s worth of fuel from a season sweep there.

This weekend, the Sprint Cup Series returns to the one-mile PIR oval, and he’s confident that he can be a contender once again.

During an interview with Rick Allen and Jeff Burton on today’s edition of NASCAR AMERICA on NBCSN, Edwards trumpeted his Roush Fenway Racing team’s ability to find more speed in their Fords as a reason for why he’s been strong lately in the desert.

“The secret is we’ve been building really good race cars,” he said when Burton asked him about his secret to success at PIR. “[Crew chief] Jimmy Fennig and those guys, everyone at the shop – you spent a lot of time at Roush and you know how hard those guys work. But they’ve really stepped it up.

“I think our cars are better, we’ve worked better as a team, our tests have been better. And Jimmy, last year, he found some stuff – he and Dave McDonald, our shock guy, they worked on a couple of things that really helped out. The track’s great, the car drives great, and I hope nothing’s changed.”

But while Edwards is understandably looking forward to Phoenix, he’s also had time to think about last week’s Daytona 500.

Edwards was a late contender in The Great American Race, but lost the lead to eventual winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. down the backstretch with 17 laps to go.

He eventually was forced to swallow a 17th-place finish thanks to being involved in a last-lap accident.

“Looking back on it – my spotter, Jason Hedlesky, and I talked quite a bit, [team general manager] Robbie Reiser and I talked – I think it might have worked better with [teammate] Greg [Biffle] if I would have stayed behind Greg when he was leading and not taken the opportunity to jump out to the lead,” he said.

“I think we would’ve had a much better chance of one of us winning the race. But I had to go for the lead, I had some fun, I learned a little bit out there, and Dale Jr. and those guys were able to get by me.

“But, man, that was pretty cool to be leading the Daytona 500. I had a blast.”

Neuville wins Rally Australia; Ogier takes FIA WRC title

Sebastien Ogier. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) Belgium’s Thierry Neuville won Rally Australia by 22.5 seconds on Sunday as torrential rain added drama to the last day of the last race of the World Rally Championship season.

Neuville entered the final day with an almost 20 second advantage after inheriting the rally lead Saturday when his Hyundai teammate, defending champion Andreas Mikkelsen crashed and was forced to retire for the day.

His lead was halved by Jari-Matti Latvala early Sunday as monsoon-like rain made conditions treacherous on muddy forest stages on the New South Wales coast. The rain stopped on the short Wedding Bells stage where Neuville was almost 5 seconds quicker than his rivals, stretching his lead to 14.7 seconds entering the last stage.

COFFS HARBOUR, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 17: Thierry Neuville of Belgium and Nicolas Gilsoul of Belgium compete in their Hyundai Motorsport WRT Hyundai i20 coupe WRC during Day One of the WRC Australia on November 17, 2017 in COFFS HARBOUR, Australia. (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)

That stage was full of incident. The driver’s door on Neuville’s Hyundai i20 coupe swung open in the middle of the stage and Neuville had to slam it closed as he approached a corner.

Latvala’s Toyota then crashed seconds from the end of the stage, allowing Estonia’s Ott Tanak, in a Ford, to take second place overall and New Zealalnd’s Haydon Paddon, in a Hyundai, to sneak into third.

Sebastian Ogier was fourth after winning the final, power stage but the Frenchman had already clinched his fifth world title before Rally Australia began. Neuville’s win was his fourth of the season, two more than Ogier, and was enough to give him second place in world drivers’ standings for the third time in five years.

Ogier owed his drivers’ title to his consistency: he retired only once and finished no worse than fifth all season.

Neuville admitted the last day was touch and go as the rain made some stages perilous, forcing the cancellation of the second to last stage.

“That was a hell of a ride,” Neuville said. “Really, really tricky conditions.

“I kept the car on the road but it was close sometimes. I knew I could make a difference but I had to be clever. You lose grip, you lose control and the car doesn’t respond to your input.”