Chase Capsules: Carl Edwards

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99 – Carl Edwards
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
Crew Chief: Jimmy Fennig
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Best Finish: 2nd (2011)
Chase History: 7th Chase Appearance, Best finish of 2nd in 2011

Regular Season Recap: In his final season at Roush Fenway Racing, Carl Edwards hopes to leave with the biggest going away present of all, the Sprint Cup championship. His season to date has been good for the most part, with two wins (Bristol in the spring and Sonoma). But he’s also had struggles, particularly at some tracks that he typically does well at (Michigan, Pocono and Daytona). Edwards’ biggest problem thus far has been consistency from week to week. He needs to significantly improve upon that in the Chase.

Jerry’s Take: With Edwards heading to Joe Gibbs Racing after this season, he has plenty of incentive to prove his close runner-up finish to Tony Stewart for the 2011 Sprint Cup championship was no fluke.

Edwards also has the incentive to bring a Cup crown to crew chief Jimmy Fennig, who will step down from the pit box at the end of this season and take an inside role at Roush Fenway Racing in 2015.

If Edwards can dramatically improve his overall consistency in the upcoming Chase and cut down on mistakes and missed opportunities that have cost him too much already, he may have a shot at reaching all the way to the third round. But it will take a Superman-like effort for Edwards to be one of the four drivers left in the winner-take-all season finale at Homestead.

Chris’s Take: As Jerry notes above, I also see an Eliminator Round berth for Edwards if he and Roush Fenway Racing can put together Top-10s against the likes of the Hendrick, Penske, and Gibbs drivers. But the competition is simply too strong for them to crack the Championship at Homestead without some problems from those aforementioned teams…Although Edwards is definitely capable of capitalizing on those mistakes should they arise.

Tony’s Take: I could see Edwards’ Chase occurring in one of two ways. He either goes out early, or makes a shock run through the opening rounds. While he has had the occasional hot streak in the past, I don’t really see it coming together at the right moment this year.

Given some of the surprise drivers in the Chase – Aric Almirola and AJ Allmendinger primarily – it shouldn’t be too difficult for Edwards to advance past the Challenger round. But I can’t put him past the Contender round. He’s not the Ford driver with the best shot at a title; Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano are better title contenders this year.

Carl Edwards’ Career Statistics at Chase Tracks
Chicagoland (1.5 mile) – Zero wins, 3 Top-5s, 3 Top-10s in 9 starts
New Hampshire (1 mile) – Zero wins, 2 Top-5s, 5 Top-10s in 20 starts
Dover (1 mile) – One win, 8 Top-5s, 12 Top-10s in 20 starts
Kansas (1.5 mile) – Zero wins, 5 Top-5s, 10 Top-10s in 14 starts
Charlotte (1.5 mile) – Zero wins, 6 Top-5s, 12 Top-10s in 19 starts
Talladega (2.66 mile) – Zero wins, 12 Top-5s, 5 Top-10s in 20 starts
Martinsville (half-mile) – Two wins, 9 Top-5s, 15 Top-10s in 21 starts
Texas (1.5-mile) – Three wins, 6 Top-5s, 8 Top-10s in 19 starts
Phoenix (1 mile) – Two wins, 7 Top-5s, 12 Top-10s in 20 starts
Homestead-Miami (1.5 mile) – Two wins, 5 Top-5s, 7 Top-10s in 10 starts

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NHRA: John Force-like motor explosions get contagious during Sunday’s Gatornationals

Photo and video courtesy NHRA
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John Force is rubbing off on others – but probably not the way they or he would like.

The 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion has had spectacular motor explosions in each of the first three races of the new NHRA season, including during Friday’s qualifying for this weekend’s Gatornationals.

During Sunday’s quarterfinals of eliminations, Force’s teammate (and son-in-law and president of John Force Racing) Robert Hight squared off with fellow Funny Car driver Matt Hagan.

As the duo closed in on the finish line, both cars experienced spectacular motor explosions of their own – virtually side-by-side and nearly at the same time.

Hight’s car was the first to explode, tossing its body high in the air. A split-second later, Hagan’s car exploded, also sending the body flying.

Check out the NHRA video:

Hight wound up losing the race.

Hagan, meanwhile, and his crack pit crew rolled their backup car off the hauler, put in a new motor and went on to race through the semifinals and into the finals, losing to race winner “Fast Jack” Beckman.

“We had a pretty great race day, to be honest,” Hagan said. “I’ve never been to the finals in Gainesville.

“We obviously had a huge blow up in the second round, then to watch these guys pull the other car back out and put it together in the amount of time they had, then turn a win light on against Capps (Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in the semifinals), then to be able to go to a final, it was huge and it speaks for itself.”

As for Hight, here’s his take on what happened with the motor explosion:

“I couldn’t see (Hagan) over there and it wasn’t like it was hazing the tires or anything else. As it turns out it wasn’t spinning at all. It kicked two rods out when it blacked the bearings in the crank then it hit the valves and blew up.

“The thing gave me no indication at all before that. What really scared me was once I got it under control and I look over and see his body is off his car. I am thinking ‘Oh man, he got gathered up in me.’ Then I stood up and looked and his injector was sideways so I realized he had an explosion as well. We are just lucky we didn’t get into each other.”

As for the guy who has had so much trouble in the motor department, John Force, he lost in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations to daughter Courtney Force.

John Force planned on shutting the motor off on his car at around the 700-foot mark of the 1,000-foot dragstrip, not wanting to risk another motor explosion – even though it meant a likely loss to his daughter.

Now John Force and his entire four-car team, including Courtney Force, Robert Hight and daughter and Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, will be off for extensive testing to try and determine what’s been causing the motor explosions.

“We have to evaluate it and go test,” Force said. “We’ll figure it out.”

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