LAS VEGAS — Today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race represents the true start of the season in some drivers’ minds.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway, one of the fastest tracks on the circuit, is the first chance for drivers to run on a 1 ½-mile oval.
Run well at Vegas, and teams can build confidence for the rest of the season. Struggle, and it could take awhile to get it right.
“You might not get the result that you deserve this weekend and the points might not shake out and they might not represent the speed that everyone has, but you can bet if a guy has a good, strong run here, that can give you a lot of confidence going to the rest of these racetracks: Texas and Fontana and Kansas and all these places that rely on this type of setup,” said defending champion Carl Edwards. “So, I think this is one that I’ve been looking forward to for a number of reasons, but one is to just see where we stand and what we’ve got.”
What Edwards would like is a repeat win at Las Vegas – and a few more victories to go with it.
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.
Asked about not winning a race in a year, 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. He earned $1 million for it, too.
The problem with that victory was that it didn’t count in the season standings. To find a win 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.
“It doesn’t feel like that to me,” he 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.”
Despite winning just one race, Edwards tied Tony 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.”