Talladega Weekend Preview: Carl Edwards Eyes Third Consecutive Sprint Cup Win

(NASCAR Wire Service)

Staff Report ~ NASCAR Wire Service

Carl Edwards (Photo: Sarah Glenn/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Carl Edwards (Photo: Sarah Glenn/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Carl Edwards has long advocated for NASCAR implementing a lower downforce aerodynamics package for it race cars.

Lowering the downforce on a car makes it harder to control, which causes more passing and emphasizes driver skill over engineering expertise.

His wish was granted this year.

Unsurprisingly, Edwards has excelled under NASCAR’s new lower downforce aerodynamics package. The No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driver tops the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings on the strength of two wins, five top-five and eight top-10 finishes. He’s finished lower than seventh only once in the first nine races, three of which set records for green flag passes for the lead.

“I think it’s too soon to tell, but I believe that the lower downforce has been better across the board,” said Edwards, prior to his win at Bristol Motor Speedway. “Like I said over and over, I applaud NASCAR for doing it. I think that direction is the right direction.”

At the moment, Edwards is on one of the best runs of his career. The 36-year-old Missourian has won the last two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races and has led the most laps in the past three contests. He’ll attempt to visit Victory Lane for the third consecutive race in Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway (1 p.m. on FOX) – a track where he has never taken a checkered flag.

“Headed to Talladega to try to better our average finish there,” Edwards said. “We don’t have a win there, but the way our team has been running, I feel like I am on one of the best runs of my career. I’m having a real great time with my crew and these Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas are fast.”

Edwards has struggled at Talladega throughout his NSCS career. In 23 starts at the 2.66-mile behemoth, he claims three top-five and six top-10 finishes. His best showing was a third-place result in spring of 2013.

Despite his mediocre Talladega track record, Edwards believes he can build on his experience from this year’s Daytona 500, a restrictor-plate race where he rallied to finish sixth after sustaining heavy damage to his car.

“We ran well as a group in Daytona and we really worked great as a team together,” he said. “Hopefully we can do that again and have similar results.”

Dillon dashing up XFINITY standings

Sometimes second isn’t the first loser. Ty Dillon finished runner-up in last Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Richmond International Raceway, and received a nice consolation prize – the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus.

Dillon won his Heat to become eligible for the big-money award, then earned it by finishing highest among the four Dash 4 Cash drivers in the Main.

As a result of his strong showing, the Richard Childress Racing driver ascended from sixth in the standings to third, 19 points back from Daniel Suarez.

“This team has a whole lot of fight and was there with me at the end to give me a great race car,” Dillon said. “I really wanted to win this race today, and thought we had a chance at the end. It’s cool to win this Dash 4 Cash and I can’t thank XFINITY enough for allowing us to race this format.”

Dillon will continue to fight his way up the XFINITY Series standings in Saturday’s Sparks Energy 300 at Talladega Superspeedway (3 p.m. ET on FOX). In three career starts at the Alabama track, Dillon has a high finish of eight. He won the ARCA race there in 2011.

“Talladega is awesome,” Dillon said. “We enjoy going there because it’s a great opportunity for us to showcase our ECR Engines power, win a pole, race up front and hopefully score a victory. Superspeedway racing is something that I’ve always enjoyed. It’s challenging and requires a lot of strategic driving, which is right in my wheelhouse…

“I know our team puts a lot of hard work into our superspeedway race cars and I fully expect our team to compete for a win this weekend.”

Race Weekend Preview

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Race: GEICO 500
Place: Talladega Superspeedway
Date and Time: Sunday, May 1 at 1 p.m. ET
Tune-in: FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 500.08 miles (188 laps)
What to Watch For: Seven of the first nine races have had a margin of victory of less than one second. … Dale Earnhardt Jr. will pilot Chassis No. 88-872, better known as “Amelia,” as he attempts to win the Talladega spring race for the second straight season. Earnhardt leads active drivers with six Talladega victories. (To download an infographic on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s success at Talladega, please click here.) … Ty Dillon will take the seat of the No. 14 Chevrolet for Tony Stewart following the first caution. Since Stewart is starting the race, he will still collect series points. … Two-time Talladega winner Clint Bowyer will try to turn around his season with a run at Victory Lane. … Joe Gibbs Racing can continue its dominance after placing four drivers in the top seven at Richmond. … Joey Logano goes for his second consecutive win at Talladega after winning the fall race there. … Sunoco Rookie of the Year frontrunner Chase Elliott makes his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut at Talladega, a place where his father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, has two wins and holds the record for poles.

Race: Sparks Energy 300
Place: Talladega Superspeedway
Date and Time: Saturday, April 30 at 3 p.m. ET
Tune-in: FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 300.58 miles (113 laps)
What to Watch For: Daniel Suarez attempts to increase his nine-point lead in the series standings over second-place Elliott Sadler. … Sunoco Rookie of the Year frontrunner Erik Jones hopes to rebound from his 34th-place finish at Richmond. … Elliott Sadler tries to win at Talladega for the second time in three years. … Defending race winner Joey Logano takes the seat of the No. 22 Ford for his third series start of the season. … Chase Elliott takes the wheel of the No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet for Saturday’s race. The No. 88 grabbed the owner’s points lead by one point over the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet following Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s victory at Richmond.

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