Asked about not winning a race in a year, Carl Edwards had a quick correction.
“I did win the All-Star race, so that’s something,” he said.
True, Edwards did win the All-Star race in May, pretty handily. Earned $1 million for it, too.
The problem with that victory was that it didn’t count in the season standings. To find a race that earned him points, Edwards has to go back to last March, when he kicked off his championship chase with a win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“It doesn’t feel like that to me,” Edwards said. “I guess it’s reality, but we go out every week and race as hard as we can and there were many races last year that we very well could have won if things would have gone slightly different. We obviously ran very well.”
That’s for sure.
Despite winning the one race, Edwards tied Stewart for the championship, doing it on the strength of a series-high 19 top-five finishes and 26 in the top 10.
But not winning more ended up costing Edwards: Stewart earned his third Sprint Cup title on a tiebreaker with five wins to Edwards’ one.
Disappointing? Sure, but Edwards knows his car was strong all season, even if it only crossed the checkers first one time that counted.
“The way this sport works is if you run that well, you’ll win your fair share of races,” he said. “Any week would be a good week to go ahead and win another one, so this would be just fine.”
Edwards opened this season with a strong run at the Daytona 500, starting on the pole and finishing eighth. He was on his way to another good finish at Phoenix last week, but drifted back to 17th after he ran out of fuel and had to coast across the finish line.
“We ran out of fuel and we didn’t expect to run out of fuel when we did,” Edwards said. “We miscalculated a little bit, which we pride ourselves on having great fuel mileage and being able to manage that fuel mileage so that we can make it to the end of the race, so it was disappointing for us. But I think a lot of people were surprised.”
The Las Vegas race, including today’s 2012 edition, represents the true start of the season in some drivers’ minds.
The Daytona 500 is unlike anything the teams face during the season, a month-long spectacle, not to mention one of the few restrictor-plate races on the schedule. Phoenix International Raceway is a mile oval that often drives more like a short track.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway, one of the fastest tracks on the circuit, is the first chance to run on a 1.5-mile oval, which the bulk of the schedule is made up of.
Run well at Vegas and the teams can build confidence for the rest of the season. Struggle here and it could take a while for them to get it right.
EFI system glitchy
A new electronic fuel injection system is causing some head scratching in the Sprint Cup garage.
NASCAR introduced the EFI system to the series this season and through the first two races there have been glitches that weren’t uncovered in offseason testing.
“It’s certainly an issue that has arisen that we’re all aware of and we all have to work through it as best we can and figure out the solution to the problem,” Kyle Busch said.
The biggest problem drivers have had with the new system is getting the car to restart once it’s been turned off.
Often when drivers are fighting fuel mileage at the end of a race, they’ll turn the car off to save gas, then turn it back on. But instead of just letting the clutch out and getting the car to re-fire, drivers now have use the starter switch to get it going again.
It hasn’t always worked.
Defending Nationwide champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. led the final 54 laps at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday for his first victory of the season.
Stenhouse had a strong car all day and dominated the end of the 200-mile race, pulling away from Mark Martin on a pair restarts on the 1.5-mile tri-oval in the desert.
Martin, who had won four of his previous six Nationwide starts at Las Vegas, finished second in his first Nationwide race for Joe Gibbs Racing. Polesitter Elliott Sadler rallied to finish third after a lengthy midrace pit stop to fix a vibration.
Danica Patrick was 12th in the first race at LVMS since IndyCar star Dan Wheldon was killed in a fiery crash last fall.