Carl Edwards Has Something to Finish at Phoenix International Raceway

The racing at Daytona International Speedway matched the prestige of the event and did not disappoint. This week NASCAR returns to a much different track, Phoenix International Raceway, for The Profit on CNBC 500 presented by Small Business Fueling America. Carl Edwards will show he has this track mastered.

The Phoenix International Raceway is a one mile track that has very little banking. There are 10-11 degrees of banking in turns 1 and 2. There are only 8-9 degrees of banking in turns 3 and 4 which also includes the backstretch. The frontstretch has 3 degrees of banking. The shape of this track is like no other on the NASCAR circuit. Turns 3 to 4 to 1 look like a traditional oval but turn 2 was bumped out like an egg. This configuration makes it impossible to have cars set up perfectly in every corner.

Carl Edwards won this race last year and was on his way to win the race in the fall but ran out of gas. The track was configured into its current form in 2011. Edwards has the new configuration down. He has one win and a second place finish on this configuration. If he hadn’t run out of gas he would have excellent stats.

Looking at the Driver Ratings for Phoenix tells a different story. Jimmie Johnson appears to be the driver to beat. His commanding rating of 116.7 is in a time zone all by himself. This leaves Kevin Harvick (last fall’s winner), Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, and a bunch of others to fight it out.  Though he won four times on the old configuration, Johnson hasn’t been able to put it together on the new.

Looking at the most recent races though, Carl Edwards has the advantage; he has been just a little better than Johnson.

Phoenix has been one of our best racetracks lately. I really like racing there and hopefully we can go and do the same thing we did last year.” Carl added, “We’ve got Subway on the car again. We have a great partnership with them. It’s a short race, it’s a tough race and strategy is important. It will be the first race with the new rules package for the down force tracks so I think everyone in the garage is looking forward to getting out there and seeing how the new package races. We are coming off a very strong run at Daytona and I feel really good about it. I’m excited about Phoenix.

Carl Edwards and his crew chief Jimmy Fennig will finish what they started last fall at Phoenix.

If you can’t get to Phoenix International Raceway, the race will be televised on Fox at 2:30 PM ET. The race is 500 kilometers-312 laps.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary.

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Phoenix
Jimmie Johnson………………….. 116.7
Kevin Harvick……………………… 101.3
Carl Edwards………………………. 100.0
Jeff Gordon………………………….. 99.4
Tony Stewart………………………… 99.2
Denny Hamlin……………………….. 98.2
Kurt Busch…………………………… 98.0
Kyle Busch…………………………… 97.4
Greg Biffle…………………………… 91.6
Ryan Newman………………………. 87.1
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (18 total) among
active drivers at Phoenix International Raceway.

Featured Photo Credit: 283470 Jerry Markland/Getty Images

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has Been Released From Points Racing to Have Fun

Speed Weeks at Daytona International Speedway for NASCAR is over. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was slicing and dicing in every race he was in much like he did 10 years ago when he dominated racing at Daytona. His hard work culminated in winning his second Daytona 500.

To say that Dale Jr. was happy after winning the Daytona 500 is a tremendous understatement. Dale Jr. was indeed happy, excited, relived, and perhaps overwhelmed with all that happened. The smile on his face when he got out of the car was almost big enough to explode off of his face.

Photo by HHP/Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing
Photo by HHP/Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing

One could tell that Dale Earnhardt Jr. had taken the momentum he had from last year to an even higher level. One that brought back some fun to the sport he loves.

I know I’m the first feature winner and we are in the Chase.  I’m pumped up man.  Trust me man we are going to have a blast this year.” Dale Jr. said,

He knew right away that he not only won the Daytona 500 but also is all but assured a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. He has been released from point racing. Dale Jr. and his Crew Chief Steve Letarte can race for wins.

No more trepidation, no more apprehension or anxiety, no more conservative racing to save a top ten.

If they are running in the top five and Letarte thinks they have enough fuel, no worries, go for it. If they are deeper in the field and tires matter they can short pit and steel a win. If it doesn’t work, no worries. On a short track Dale Jr. can be more aggressive, no worries.

Steve Letarte said, “I don’t think it changes much before you win.  I don’t think anybody can take any bigger chances we already take to try to win.  I think once you have won one, it gives you an opportunity to really take borderline ridiculous chances.  It really does.  If there is a slim chance, that’s really all the chance you need.

Watch out but NASCAR just might have created a Championship that suits Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his style of racing.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary.

Featured Photo Credit: 295434Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Will Win the Daytona 500

Dale Earnhardt Jr. last won the NASCAR Daytona 500 in 2004, ten years ago, but he has finished 2nd three of the last four years. Dale Earnhardt Jr. will win the Daytona 500 this year.

Since NASCAR changed to the Car of Tomorrow, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has not been able to get the magic back and win at Daytona. That isn’t to say he has not raced well. Any driver in the garage would take his record. He just hasn’t won.

Watching the Sprint Unlimited and the Budweiser Duels, racing with the new cars resembles more the racing of old when Dale Jr. last won then the past five years when he was just a car to contend with.

“You used to use a side-draft as an offensive move, where you would get up on the guy’s quarter panel and stall him out and it would give you a boost and you’d pull away like jumping a boat wake and get out away from him so he could not do the same thing to you and you would make a pass. That was how we used to use that with success” Earnhardt Jr. added, “But now, there’s an extreme stall when you side-draft a guy and it really kills his car. But before you can get out and get away from him, it starts to kill your car and you sort of sit there and just fight on each other’s quarter panels until somebody tucks-in behind one of you and pushes you through.”

What it really looks like now is that a driver can use what is going on around him to his advantage. They don’t have to have a driver tucked directly behind their car to get to the front. This is much the way it was when Dale Earnhardt Jr. could seemingly move to the front and pass no matter who was behind him or what lane he was in. For this reason alone Dale Earnhardt Jr. will win the Daytona 500.

In the first Budweiser Duel Earnhardt Jr. appeared to try both the high line and the low line learning what he could about this new car and the draft. Though he didn’t time it right and finished fourth, you could tell he had a plan.

Earnhardt Jr. said, “Real happy with the way my car drove.  Sat there all the way until the end to make a move and you know that is what we are doing.  We are all waiting to make a move and I went to make a move and nobody got on the elevator with me.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start the Daytona 500 from the ninth position but don’t expect that to last very long.

If you cannot get to Daytona International Speedway for the Daytona 500 it will be broadcast live on Fox starting at 1 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Photo Credit: HHP/Christa L. Thomas for Chevy Racing

 

NASCAR Unveils New 2014 Camping World Truck Series Trucks

In the last five or more years NASCAR and the Manufacturers have been trying to bring the “Stock” back into NASCAR racing. Well they can’t really bring the stock back because we know better, but they are making the Cars and Trucks look like their stock counterparts. NASCAR has unveiled the new 2014 Camping World Truck Series Trucks to continue that trend.

The Camping World Truck Series were never actually stock trucks. They were always built for racing not hauling or what every one might use a truck for. That doesn’t mean that they were not supposed to represent their mighty but slow counterparts.

Each manufacturer has designed distinctly different trucks that they can use to promote their showroom models through their involvement with NASCAR racing,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition and racing development. “We have worked closely with all three manufacturers for the past several years, and we’re excited to unveil a new truck body that will make one of NASCAR’s most exciting series even better.

NASCAR and the Manufacturers had extensive research and testing to develop the new bodies to continue the close competition while allowing each manufacturer to highlight their model of truck.

2014 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Toyota Tundra Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images
2014 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Toyota Tundra
Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images
2014 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images
2014 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado
Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images

2014 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford F-Series  Credit: NASCAR Twitter

2014 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford F-Series
Credit: NASCAR Twitter

The truck has a new look that fans can relate to with their own truck at home,” said Chad Little, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series managing director. “The competitors have been happy with the new trucks in testing in January and we expect to continue to have some of the best racing in NASCAR for our fans at Daytona.

The new trucks will take to the track for the first time on Friday night at Daytona International Speedway for the NextEra Energy Resources 250.

If you cannot get to Daytona, the race will be shown on Fox Sports 1 at 7:30 PM ET Friday February 21, 2014

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary.

Feature Photo Credit NASCAR Via Getty Images

Austin Dillon Should Go for Broke in the Budweiser Duels

Austin Dillon won the Coors Light Pole Award for the Daytona 500. There is a lot of prestige in winning the pole and leading the field to the green flag in the Daytona 500. Dillon also gets to start the first of the Budweiser Duel qualifying races from the Pole. He is guaranteed that he will be in the Daytona 500 no matter what happens in the qualifying races.

In years past we have seen those that win the pole or are otherwise guaranteed a starting spot,race in a timid or conservative fashion such that there would be no damage to their proven fast car. The question is why?

Just about every team changes engines after the qualifying races so there are no guarantees that the car will be just as fast. Rarely does starting the Daytona 500 from the front increase the odds of winning. Recent winners started from 9, 4, 32, 13, 39, 7, 34, 9, 15, and 3rd.

In racing you never get a “Do Over” or Mulligan for those golfers out there, but by winning the pole for the Daytona 500 you get the closest thing. You get the opportunity to race in a qualifying race without any inhibitions. It doesn’t matter if you wreck, you are in the Daytona 500 anyway.

Austin Dillon should have the advantage over everyone else in his qualifying race. He has nothing to prove but lots to learn about the new car. No stress, no worries. He should be able to win this race.

When he gets back to Daytona in July he can get the pole and race to win, because in July four of the last ten races have been won from the pole eight from the top ten. Until then he should use the power of the pole to make his Daytona 500 experience the best it can be.

If you cannot get to Daytona International Speedway the Budweiser Duels will be shown live on Fox Sports 1 Thursday February 20that 7 PM ET. Austin Dillon will be leading the first of two Duels to green.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary, or on Facebook, Pinterest, and Google.

Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images