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.

MRTI: Lucas Oil Raceway Recap

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Friday marked Carb Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, but there was also plenty of activity over in Brownsburg, Indiana at Lucas Oil Raceway.

Friday night’s Carb Night Classic featured the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda in their first oval events of the year: the Freedom 75 (USF2000) and the Freedom 90 (Pro Mazda).

Both races saw the points leaders in their respective series dominate, further asserting their championship prowess, and taking their first oval victories in the process.

Recaps of both races are below.

Pro Mazda: Thompson Holds Off Cunha for First Oval Win

The Freedom 90 saw Parker Thompson appear to be almost on cruise control for much of the race, as the Exclusive Autosport driver immediately jumped into the lead off the initial start and he began rocketing away from the field.

Behind him, a pair of Juncos Racing cars emerged in second and third, with Carlos Cunha ahead of Robert Megennis in that battle.

However, Thompson’s initial lead was wiped out following a Lap 46 crash involving David Malukas and Harrison Scott. The pair had been engaged in an intense battle for fourth, but came together in Turn 4, sending Scott spinning into the outside wall while Malukas eventually came to a stop alongside the front straightaway wall.

Thompson again pulled away when racing resumed on Lap 55, while Cunha immediately gave chase, passing the lapped car of Lodovico Laurini as he tried to keep Thompson in his sights.

Lapped traffic continued to play a key role in the closing stages, with Thompson getting briefly held up behind Nikita Lastochkin and Oliver Askew, allowing Cunha to close onto his gearbox in the final laps.

However, Thompson kept Cunha at bay to take the win, his third of the Pro Mazda season. Megennis drove a solid race to finish third, while Rinus VeeKay put three Juncos cars in the top five by finishing fourth. Team Pelfrey’s Sting Ray Robb finished fifth.

Thompson’s win sees him extend his points lead over VeeKay to 36, with Cunha only two points further back in third.

USF2000: Kirkwood Rolls to Victory in Oval Debut

Kyle Kirkwood was untouchable at Lucas Oil Raceway. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

If his first career oval proved a challenge for Cape Motorsports’ Kyle Kirkwood, he certainly did not show it. Starting on the pole, Kirkwood rocketed away into the lead and was never challenged.

Behind him, however, his closest title rival faltered. Alex Baron, who charged from eighth to third on Lap 1, crashed out while working his way around the lapped car of Russ McDonough. Baron was visibly upset and frustrated while walking along the pit lane after climbing out of the No. 29 Swan-RJB Motorsports Tatuus USF-17.

Racing only briefly returned to green on Lap 40 before Zach Holden rode up and over the back of Julian van der Watt, with both cars coming to a stop on the back straightaway.

A restart on Lap 50 again saw Kirkwood pull away, while Kaylen Frederick worked his way up to second around Rasmus Lindh and Lucas Kohl.

The race came to a close only eight laps later – the cautions brought a 30-minute time limit into play, preventing them from completing the originally planned 75-lap race.

In the end, no one got close to Kirkwood, who took a win on his oval debut, his third win of the 2018 season. Frederick came home second for his first podium of the year, and his first with Pabst Racing Services, while Rasmus Lindh rounded out the podium in third. Kohl and Jose Sierra completed the top five in fourth and fifth.

Kirkwood’s win combined with Baron’s crash to give Kirkwood a championship lead of 44 points. Sierra remains third, one point ahead of Igor Fraga.

Both series are back in action for double-headers at Road America on June 23-24.

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