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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(Updated) NHRA shocker: Englishtown ceases drag racing operations immediately, cancels NHRA Summernationals

Photo courtesy NHRA
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If put in baseball terms, Wednesday morning’s news from the NHRA is comparable to Yankee Stadium closing down for good.

One of the most popular and longest-running race tracks on the NHRA national event circuit — Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey — announced in a statement that “it will no longer host any drag racing events at its facility, effective immediately. This includes the 49th Annual NHRA Summernationals, scheduled to take place this June.”

This is massive — and terrible news — for NHRA fans, particularly those on the East Coast, as the track more commonly known simply as “Englishtown” has long been a destination point for fans in the New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland area for decades. That not only includes NHRA national events, but also local bracket racing at the track.

Few details on the decision to stop all drag racing events are known. However, the track has long struggled being landlocked and unable to expand its runoff area for cars that have problems stopping under their own power. That is especially problematic for Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars, which are the most powerful cars in the sport and, due to the 10,000 horsepower they produce, often need longer stopping distances.

NHRA Funny Car driver Scott Kalitta was killed in a crash at Old Bridge Raceway on June 21, 2008, when his car was unable to stop in the runoff area and collided with a portable crane past the runoff area.

NHRA spokesperson Jessica Hatcher told NBC Sports in an email Wednesday morning that the sanctioning body will not look to find a replacement venue for Englishtown on the 2018 racing schedule.

As a result, the 2018 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule will shrink from 24 to 23 going forward with Englishtown’s departure.

” ‘Stunned’ is the perfect word to describe how we are all feeling right now,” Hatcher said. “For 2018, we are focusing on the remaining 23 events and do not foresee any additional changes to the schedule.”

UPDATE: Hatcher reached out again to NBC Sports later Wednesday afternoon with an addendum that could be promising for race fans in other markets: “Upon hearing the news about the Englishtown track, we’ve received a significant level of interest from other track operators about hosting a national event in 2018.  We’re not sure if this is possible for 2018, but we’re definitely looking into it, if not for 2018, then perhaps for 2019.”

New NHRA president Glen Cromwell said in a media release, “NHRA drag racing events have been held at the track in Englishtown for almost 50 years. The Summernationals have played an important part of our heritage and we hope that fans in the area will try to make it to another of our events.

“Our focus remains on making the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series a memorable experience for our fans, racers, sponsors, partners and tracks.”

The nearest venues to Englishtown that will host NHRA events this season are Maple Grove Raceway outside Reading, Pennsylvania (105 miles west of Englishtown) and New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire (310 miles northeast).

The Napp family, which owns Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, issued a statement that the facility will remain open and continue business as usual going forward — with the exception of eliminating all drag racing events, both national and local.

“Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, the Napp family owned and operated business announced today a reorganization of the company’s business operations,” the statement said. “To achieve this goal, Raceway Park will no longer conduct quarter mile or eighth mile drag racing events effective immediately.

“Raceway Park will retain and use the ‘stadium’ portion of the facility including the VIP hospitality tower and grandstands and continue most of its operations including the spring and fall auto swap meets, numerous car shows, both motocross racing and practice, kart racing, as well as drifting, a full schedule of road course activities, mud runs, monster truck shows, musical concerts, & festival events and more. The long standing Old Bridge Township Airport, owned and operated by Raceway Park will also continue to operate as normal.”

From a driver’s perspective, veteran NHRA racer Shawn Langdon, who is switching from a long career in Top Fuel to Funny Car this season for Kalitta Motorsports, won in Top Fuel at Englishtown in 2013 and laments the decision to drop drag racing there.

“It really caught me by surprise because I had not heard a thing about that,” Langdon said. “It’s unfortunate because that place has such rich history and so many great things have come out of that race in the past. It was a track that meant a lot to the Kalitta family and with Scott. They always wanted to win one for Scott. We’d have loved to have the opportunity to go back to the track and win that race for Scott.”