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.”

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.