NASCAR Next's Alon Day eager for new chapter
RELATED: Meet the 2016-17 NASCAR Next class There are several traditional routes to stock-car racing's big leagues. Several stars have emerged from asphalt Late Model circles, others from the sprint cars ranks, either on pavement or dirt. Alon Day has made a path where just five years ago, he says, none existed in his homeland of Israel. "I grew up without any motorsports -- nothing," says Day, who fantasized about NASCAR and Formula One as a youth. "When I started racing, which was in 2012, actually motorsport was illegal in Israel." Day's presence in NASCAR's pipeline reaffirms the notion that there are no uniform directions to the national stage. The NASCAR Next driver's roundabout journey has taken him from his home in Tel Aviv, to racing single-seaters and other vehicles in Europe, and stock-car sojourns to the United States more than once. It's a journey, he says, that's not nearly complete. "That's my main priority, for sure, being here in NASCAR, in Trucks or XFINITY or doesn't matter -- but be here, in the United States and not in Europe," says Day, who has spent the last two years in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series. "For me, going back to Europe is probably going to be a step down because I feel ready enough to race here, but that's life. It can be tough sometimes." The eagerness led to opportunities for the 25-year-old Day in two national series last year: Two road course events on the XFINITY tour with Carl Long 's team, and a pair of Camping World Truck Series races on ovals for owner Carlos Contreras . The road races played to Day's wheelhouse and he capitalized on his expertise with a 13th-place finish in his XFINITY debut at Mid-Ohio. But his truck time -- at New Hampshire and in the Homestead-Miami finale -- provided a valuable training experience. "It's still a different kind of racing for me," Day says. "I'm still learning as much as I can in ovals. I try to absorb as much information and more knowledge about oval racing, which is not easy. So definitely the two races I did in trucks were probably the most valuable races I've done." Besides his forays into racing in the USA, Day's success in NASCAR's European circuit -- stacking up six victories in his first two seasons -- has resonated back in his homeland. Early in January, he was recognized as Israel's Athlete of the Year in a newly announced category for motorsports. While he's still working on making his dreams of racing in the states a reality, he's also changing popular conceptions of what NASCAR means in his home country. "In Israel, if I would be very honest, people always -- until now -- think that NASCAR is just people who turn left and that's it. Sitting in the car and just turning left," Day says. "And now when I actually get more success in NASCAR and especially winning the Athlete of the Year, people get more and more interest now. The NASCAR races are broadcast in Israel and I'm really glad. "People really have the opportunity to understand it and realize that NASCAR is one of the toughest races in the world."
Can Carl Long go the distance?
No. 13 driver switched cars with Timmy Hill after crashing in Friday's practice DOVER, Del. -- During Friday's XFINITY Series practice at Dover International Speedway , Carl Long 's No.13 wrecked after a weight fell off Peyton Sellers ' No. 97 and Long ran over it. The piece of tungsten went through Long's radiator, into the steering and engine and caused the MBM Motorsports driver to slam hard into the wall. Having empathy for small team troubles, Selllers and the No. 97 team owner Victor Obaika quickly offered up any help they could. "We have spoken to Carl and we've offered him whatever we can," Obaika said in a statement on Friday. "(Our) backup car, our people, whatever he needs, you know because it's unfortunate, but we have to show some responsibility on our part and we've done that and we'll help however we can." "When you're on the bottom end, everybody kinda sticks together and tries to help each other," Long said on Saturday after the Coors Light Pole Qualifying session. "Some of the guys with a lot of money and a lot of focus and all, some help out, some don't. But all of us little guys usually stick together." While the Obaika Racing owner offered to let Long use the team's backup, the No. 13 driver feels his ride was the way to go. "(Sellers) offered me his backup car, but I had mine here," Long said. "This is the car we had at Iowa, we ran it Talladega, we ran it at Texas, we ran it everywhere. "I just felt like from changing the seats over and doing all the work, we would still be working on his car right now to get it ready for me. So, I think this is a better race car, and that's the ultimate thing is to be here to race, not to ride around." Shortly before the start of the Buckle Up 200 presented by Click It or Ticket , it was announced that Long switched rides with the No. 40 of Timmy Hill due to the pain he was feeling after Friday's hit. "Yesterday when I got out of the car nothing hurt," Long said. "This morning my chest is hurting, my shoulder is hurting, that's a pretty hard lick, it just didn't seem like it then." " Carl took a pretty good hit yesterday and he's feeling rather sore," Hill said. "He's not sure if he can go the distance. Out of the two cars he's really trying to get the 13 better in the points. With that being said, he wants to assure that the No. 13 runs the whole race." "My chest is hurting quite a bit and I didn't realize that until I did my qualifying laps and I just got to thinking about it," Long said. "My main goal is to run good and have a good finish for our team. If I fall out of the seat, that ain't a good finish." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Carl Edwards' exit could put Christopher Bell on fast track to XFINITY
How long do you think it took Christopher Bell to do the math? Carl Edwards ' announcement of his abrupt exit from the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota has had a ripple effect that could go far beyond the promotion of Daniel Suárez to a full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series ride. Because Suárez will fill Edwards' seat in NASCAR’s premier series, he won't defend his NASCAR XFINITY Series title. Bell will be one of the beneficiaries of the changes in Suárez's schedule. "Right now, we have a solid plan for Christopher," said Dave Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development (TRD) USA. "He exceeded our expectations. He got all the way to Miami (the championship race of the inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase at Homestead-Miami Speedway ). This year, we expect him to get to Miami and win. "And if circumstances play out, we really would like to get him into an XFINITY car for a couple of races. We're working hard on that, and we're optimistic, but that could very well be a domino that falls. Those are helpful -- those couple of races where there's zero pressure, but it gives you a look at the next step." Last week at the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the 22-year-old Bell wasn't thinking about the next step. He was contemplating the next race, trying to become the first native Oklahoman to win the marquee event of midget racing since Andy Hillenburg accomplished the feat in 1994. (And, no, the Andy Hillenburg in question is not the Indiana-born driver who ran NASCAR races and later bought Rockingham Speedway . The Andy Hillenburg who won the Chili Bowl is a sprint car racer from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.) Bell was also thinking about the upcoming season in the Camping World Truck Series, where his own expectations mirror those of the Toyota brass. "I guess it could open it up for me," Bell said of Edwards' departure. "But, honestly, I haven't even really thought about it, because my schedule's already set, obviously, with Kyle Busch Motorsports. That's where my focus is, and we're going to aim really hard to win races this year. "We came close on the championship last year, but we didn't win many races -- we won one time. My goal is to win races with KBM." That doesn’t mean, however, that Bell wasn't enthused about the prospect of getting his first taste of the XFINITY Series. "That's great," he said during a break between features at the Chili Bowl. "That's good that I might get a couple of races -- that's really good." The extent of Bell's participation in XFINITY races depends to some degree on sponsorship. Wilson said Suárez's primary sponsor, Arris, which also sponsored Edwards, will be confined to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup car, even though Suárez will still run between eight and 12 XFINITY races. "If he (Bell) does what he should do in '17, then, naturally, we would love to get him into an XFINITY ride in '18," Wilson said. "Yes, this could play into Christopher's further development and get him one or two more XFINITY races that we may not have foreseen prior to the news (about Edwards)." Last Saturday night, Bell fulfilled his long -standing dream of winning the Chili Bowl, noting that competing in the Truck Series had informed his approach to dirt-track racing. Biding his time in the 55-lap "A" Main, Bell started on the front row and passed polesitter Justin Grant on Lap 26. He stayed out front the rest of the way. "In years past, it's been attack, attack, attack," Bell said. "This year, it didn't have to be that way. I just ran hard enough to stay in position but not get into trouble. I was able to ride behind Justin there for a while. I knew the bottom was slowing down quite a bit and I kept trying the top. I tried it two times and I almost got passed, so I knew it was going to be a matter of too early or too late at the top. "I started to watch the big screen. (Eventual runner-up Daryn) Pittman was running the top at the time. I knew he was in eighth, and I looked up and he was third or fourth so I knew I had to go. Once I went, I was able to squeak by Justin on the straightaway, and then it was a matter of just not screwing up." That sort of patience is emblematic of Bell's maturation as a driver. Early last season, he didn't look like a championship contender. In the second race of 2016, at Atlanta, his aggressiveness led to a wreck that collected Suárez, his teammate, and fellow Toyota driver and two-time series champion Matt Crafton . But Bell won at Gateway Motorsports Park nine races into the schedule, and he finished outside the top 10 just twice in the last 16 events.
Watch the full Carl Edwards press conference as he steps away from NASCAR
Carl Edwards announced he is stepping away from NASCAR, before the start of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.
Hamlin does his homework before doing battle
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! RELATED: Lineup for 'The Clash' " Hamlin, Kes top practices DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Joe Gibbs Racing drivers have won the last three Advance Auto Parts Clash races at Daytona International Speedway and four of the last five. They've visited Victory Lane often enough, recently enough, to be considered the favorites when this year's 75-lap, non-points event gets underway Saturday night here at the 2.5-mile superspeedway (8 p.m., FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Two of those victories belong to Denny Hamlin , who won from 15th a year ago and first in 2014. More than a decade ago, the JGR driver won the non-points event for the first time -- also from 15th. "I was at the very back for the first 20-some laps last year," Hamlin said Friday before practice got underway at DIS. "We had some pit strategy, we worked a few things, we got up front and never left. "We've won it from the front (and) back; I actually can't remember starting up front in this race. I think I always start in the back, but we've been very fortunate. I actually had one ... I thought we had four wins but evidently we went below the yellow line in one of them." RELATED: Hamlin honors J.D. Gibbs on his car Hamlin sounds a familiar refrain when asked about the season's first on-track action -- the Clash is a "fun race" with no concerns about points clouding the picture. It's a chance, he said, "to knock that rust off, have fun and see if you can't win." This year Hamlin will start second in his No. 11 Toyota, alongside the No. 2 Team Penske Ford of pole-sitter Brad Keselowski . Jamie McMurray ( Chip Ganassi Racing No. 1 Chevrolet), Austin Dillon ( Richard Childress Racing No. 3 Chevrolet) and Martin Truex Jr . ( Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota) round out the top five in the 17-car field. Starting positions were determined via blind draw Friday. Others of note include Daniel Suarez , who will start 16th, and Alex Bowman , who will line up eighth on the grid. Suarez, the 2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series champion, replaces Carl Edwards in the No. 19 JGR Toyota this season. Bowman is making a one-race appearance in place of Dale Earnhardt Jr . in the No. 88 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports . Bowman won the pole at Phoenix last fall while filling in for Earnhardt. RELATED: How 'The Clash' format works The 75-lap race will be run in two segments – an opening 25-lap segment followed by a 50-lap finish. It's an entirely different animal from the Daytona 500 , thus the approach is different as well, according to Hamlin. "I think you get a little more aggressive from Lap 1 (in the Clash)," he said. "In the 500 you're kind of working (your way) toward the checkered flag. "I think the race is so short, that's why you see a lot of the wrecks. ... A) because we're a little rusty and B) because we're all going for it because we know it's win or nothing." Stewart-Haas Racing 's Kevin Harvick also has three Clash victories. Jimmie Johnson (HMS), Kurt Busch (SHR), Kyle Busch (JGR) and Matt Kenseth (JGR) will be looking for their second career Clash win. "I haven't driven anything since my last lap at Homestead, no testing for me or anything, which is kind of the same as last year and we fired off and won the Clash," Hamlin said. "I'm pretty confident that it just takes a (few) reps during practice to kind of feel the car out. I've done all the homework that I can do at home, studying tapes, studying data to figure out the best moves to make. I always like to kind of picture myself in certain situations and look at the data and see what I need to do to succeed. For me, that's why we've had the success we've had on these tracks." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Advance Auto Parts Clash delayed to Sunday
RELATED: Starting lineup DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Persistent rain on Saturday night forced postponement of the Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona. The race has been rescheduled for Sunday morning, with the green flag at 11:35 a.m., broadcast on FS1. The Clash will precede Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying for the Daytona 500 , which will take place at 3 p.m. Sunday at Daytona International Speedway . With starting positions drawn by lot, Brad Keselowski will lead the field to the green flag in the Clash. Denny Hamlin , the defending winner of the exhibition race that signals the start of the NASCAR season, will start on the outside of the front row. Hamlin is seeking to become the first back-to-back winner of the event since Kevin Harvick in 2009-2010. The 17-driver field includes Coors Light Pole Award winners from the previous season, playoff drivers from the previous season, former Clash winners and former Daytona 500 pole winners who competed full-time in 2016. Sunoco rookie Daniel Suarez was added to the field after Carl Edwards unexpectedly stepped away from NASCAR racing in early January. Because Joe Gibbs Racing 's preparation of Edwards' cars was at an advanced stage when Edwards announced his departure from the No. 19 Toyota, Suarez was allowed to compete in the Clash as his successor. Edwards led the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series with six poles in 2016. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Meet Jason Hedlesky, Carl Edwards' spotter
RELATED: Meet Denny Hamlin's spotter, Chris Lambert Editor's note: This is the fourth in a series of interviews with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series spotters. Jason Hedlesky, Spotter for Carl Edwards , No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota How and when did you get started as a spotter? I grew up (in Clinton, Michigan) and my dad brought me to Michigan Speedway for the first time when I was 8 years old. Before that, I knew I wanted to be a race car driver. When he brought me here … I walked up to the fence at the start/finish line and I want to say it was Neil Bonnett in the Wood Brothers car, he just came flying by me. I stepped back about five feet, it scared me at first, but it was the most awesome thing in the world. That just confirmed it. I stayed focused on my goals and tried to eventually make it as a driver. I succeeded to some extent -- getting my start with Mr. (Junie) Donlavey and had raced locally at Flat Rock and Toledo. Getting my start with Mr. Donlavey in 1998, I drove for him, did a little bit of everything, team manager and spotted for the team as well. In '04, Mr. Donlavey was retiring and I wanted to keep driving. I didn't really want another management job or a real job. I wanted to concentrate on driving. Carl needed a spotter. He was driving a truck for Jack (Roush, team owner) and I started spotting for him. We just became ... he's like one of my brothers. What, if any, other duties do you have with the team? That's it. For the last 13 years with Carl , I've just been the spotter. At Roush I did some test driving, a little bit. I filled in for him on the XFINITY side in I want to say '08. I did a couple of practice sessions when he was off with the Cup car. Do you spot only in Sprint Cup or other series as well? I work with Matt Crafton in the Truck Series. I've been with him probably five years now. We've won the two championships together. I've got a great relationship with him as well; he's a great friend of mine. It's just a great team to work with. Junior Joiner, the crew chief, Duke (Thorson, team owner), they're awesome. As much as this is home with Carl and everything else and being with them for 13 years, I feel the same way over there at ThorSport. How long have you been working with Carl ? Since 2004 with Carl , I think that was his second year in Trucks, and then that year he started (at Michigan) in the Cup car, the '99 car. There was a timeframe when Bobby Hudson would come in just for Sunday only and do the races with Carl because he was already doing that 99 car. So I would do the Truck full-time and the Cup practice. Bobby would be here just to do the Sunday stuff. Then it gradually evolved into me doing everything Carl did. We ran seven straight years of XFINTY Series and Sprint Cup full-time. Do you remember the first race you worked as spotter? It goes way back to Toledo Speedway. I helped a guy with a Super Late Model. Toledo is a half-mile race track with a quarter-mile track on the inside. Chuck Roumell, I grew up working on his cars. He gave me a shot to help with the race cars and his brother was spotting. ... For some reason, one 100-lap Iceman feature at Toledo, he couldn't do it, so they just threw the radio at me. At that time, you'd stand on top of the tool box and just spin around in a circle; you really didn't do the inside/outside type of stuff that we do today. You'd let them know if there was a wreck; you'd give them information but that was about it. I think it might have been about '97. Chuck ran some ARCA races at Michigan and places like that and I spotted for him there. What is the most bizarre thing you've ever seen on the spotters' stand? I've been doing it now almost 20 years just in NASCAR, and every time you think you've seen it all ... something else crazy happens. ... There have been so many things, like Daytona when Juan Pablo Montoya broke that part and hit that jet dryer. That was crazy from our vantage point. We're watching the race track burn in Turn 3 and thinking we're never going to go back racing. The race track has to be destroyed. And we ended up going back to racing. I'd say the jet dryer thing and thankfully everyone was OK. What has been your most memorable experience as a spotter? We've had a lot with Carl . He's such a special driver. ... It stunk how it turned out, but one of the coolest things we were a part of was that championship run at Homestead with Tony (Stewart). That was a heck of a race. You just saw two spectacular race car drivers and they were right on the edge. They were an inch from the wall down there. I talked to Carl afterward; obviously we were all so disappointed. We thought that was our championship. To this day we still think we should have won that championship. But Tony just got us. I called Carl after that and said I was worried about him scraping the wall. He said, "I was never going to hit the wall; I knew I couldn't." But he was running a half-inch from it. Me driving and realizing how hard that is to do that at his speed, that's why those guys are the best. You realize that after you watch guys like him and Tony. To be a part of that, to watch the skill they had -- those guys were running as hard as any human being could ever drive a race car. ... That was pretty cool. ... That thing there was just a spectacular race, they put on a spectacular show. The cream rose to the top. What is the most difficult part of your job? As much as we like traveling, I think the toughest part is being away from my wife and kids. Getting through all the practices and trying to stay focused. The races are fun, that's what you're here for. Staying focused all day up on the spotters' stand ... when you've got Truck and XFINITY and Cup. That part is tough, but the travel, all the long days and being away from your family. Your favorite track to work and why? Michigan, of course, because it's home. But I love to spot a race at Bristol. Our vantage point, it's a half mile. You're looking down and you don't have to turn your head. You can see everything right there in front of you. And the action happens so quick. It's probably my favorite. I've enjoyed the racing at Michigan. It's a big, wide race track. ... I've enjoyed draft, the fact that you have to lift in the corners, the fact that a guy can still beat you down in the corners. What is one thing the average fan might not realize about your job or what it entails? Probably how difficult it can be. I think if I just took the average person up there ... they don't realize maybe sometimes how little you can see at some of these places. We have great, clear vantage points, but you're still a long way away. You're listening to NASCAR on one channel, you have the crew chief on another channel and you're talking to your driver. There's a lot going on. ... Just the ability to stay focused. It's not easy or Talladega or Daytona or (Michigan); They're three- and four-wide and you're looking through binoculars to make sure you're as precise as possible. Then wrecks are happening in front of that. ... They're kind of far away from you. If you do it for a season you just get used to it. ... I appreciate all the work all those guys do. It's not easy. Bristol is a fishbowl but there's a lot going on. So you have to keep your head in the game.
How the Advance Auto Parts Clash works
MORE : Full starting lineup " Practice results The exhibition event known as the Advance Auto Parts Clash (Feb. 18, 8 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) is the kickoff to the 2017 NASCAR season. The non-points paying event at Daytona International Speedway features a select field of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers at the 2.5-mile track. How does the race work? What is the format? How does one qualify for the event? NASCAR.com answers those questions and more. Programming info for The Clas h : When: Feb. 19, 11:35 a.m. ET Where: Daytona International Speedway TV: FS1 Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Defending race winner: Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing What is the format? The 75-lap, 187.5-mile race will be split into two segments. A competition caution at Lap 25 will separate the segments. How do drivers qualify for this event? Drivers are eligible for this event by the following ways: 2016 Coors Light Pole Award winners, former Clash race winners and former Daytona 500 pole winners who competed full-time in 2016. All 16 drivers from the 2016 playoffs are also eligible. Which drivers are eligible to race then? " Entry list for 'The Clash' 20 drivers meet the requirements. They are: Chris Buescher (2016 playoff qualifier) Greg Biffle (2016 Coors Light Pole Award winner) Alex Bowman (2016 Coors Light Pole Award winner) Kurt Busch (2016 Coors Light Pole Award winner) Kyle Busch (2016 Coors Light Pole Award winner) Austin Dillon (2016 Coors Light Pole Award winner) Dale Earnhardt Jr . (Former Clash Race winner) Carl Edwards (2016 Coors Light Pole Award winner) Chase Elliott (2016 Coors Light Pole Award winner) Denny Hamlin (2016 Coors Light Pole Award winner) Kevin Harvick (2016 Coors Light Pole Award winner) Jimmie Johnson (2016 Coors Light Pole Award winner) Matt Kenseth (2016 Coors Light Pole Award winner) Brad Keselowski (2016 Coors Light Pole Award winner) Kyle Larson (2016 playoff qualifier) Joey Logano (2016 Coors Light Pole Award winner) Jamie McMurray (2016 playoff qualifier) Danica Patrick (Former Daytona 500 Coors Light Pole Award winner) Tony Stewart (Former Clash Race winner) Martin Truex Jr . (2016 Coors Light Pole Award winner) Some of those names are not driving in 2017 or have yet to secure rides That's a good point. Biffle does not have a ride as of yet for the 2017 season, so he will not be competing. Edwards stepped away from racing last month, but NASCAR has allowed his replacement, Daniel Suarez , to drive in the race. Stewart has retired from NASCAR competition. So that puts the field at 18. Bowman and Dale Jr. drove the same car in 2016; how can they both be in the race? They won't. Alex Bowman will drive the No. 88 in The Clash as a nod to the work he did as a substitute driver while Dale Earnhardt Jr . was out last season with concussion-like symptoms. Instead, Dale Jr. will be in the TV booth calling the action on FS1 with commentators Mike Joy, Jeff Gordon and Darrell Waltrip. So the field will be made up of how many cars? Seventeen drivers will make up the field: Buescher, Bowman, Kurt Busch , Kyle Busch , Austin Dillon , Elliott, Hamlin, Harvick, Johnson, Kenseth, Keselowski, Larson, Logano, McMurray, Patrick, Suarez and Truex Jr. How is the lineup determined? A draw will be held to determine drivers' starting positions. In past years, the crew chiefs have drawn for position. Hamlin, last year's winner, started the race 15th . " See the starting lineup Are there any points on the lin e? No, this is a non-points event, just like the Monster Energy All-Star Race in May.
Carl Edwards returns to track ... to help Suarez
Recently retired driver Carl Edwards was at Phoenix Raceway on Tuesday, offering assistance to Daniel Suarez, the new driver of the No. 19 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Cain: No more counting Carl out
I'll admit it. I didn't necessarily pick Carl Edwards to be one of the Championship 4 drivers challenging for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series trophy at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 20. But now that Sunday's Texas Motor Speedway race winner is officially in the mix, he can no longer be anyone's "sleeper pick" for the sport's biggest trophy. Credit to Edwards for securing one of the four title race positions when other "sure-bets" might have given that first nod to his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, defending Sprint Cup champion Kyle Busch or this year's Daytona 500 winner, Denny Hamlin , or even former champ Matt Kenseth . Edwards earned this. And his demeanor from that of very hopeful long shot to confident contender transformed in one lengthy day in Texas. He entered the race ranked last among the eight Chase contenders, a whopping 32 points out, but finished the night celebrating in Victory Lane. From body language to just plain language, Edwards seemed to morph before our very eyes in the minutes following his win. He was not a driver content with the opportunity to contend, but someone who absolutely feels he could -- and should -- be hoisting the big hardware in two weeks. "When we made it to this round, I was very certain, I felt very confident," said Edwards, driver of the No. 19 Toyota. "We talked about it. We felt like we could win at Martinsville. We could win Texas. We could win Phoenix. "I know when the trouble happened at Martinsville, a lot of people probably thought, 'That's it for them.' But we really did have a lot of confidence. That's easy to say now because we won the race, but it's the truth, we really did. "It's nice to be able to pull through, make that happen. Now we just got to dig in and do it again." Edwards is not the kind of guy for the competition to ever take lightly. And this shot at the title is significant on many levels. He will quickly remind you that he tied Tony Stewart in the 2011 Cup championship point standings, losing out on the title to Smoke on a technicality. Stewart won the championship via tiebreaker with his five wins compared to Edwards' one. Last year, Edwards looked like he would earn a shot at redemption. But in the penultimate race at Phoenix, he got caught up in a bad position as the race was called for rain with 93 laps remaining. Edwards' Toyota had been a top-five mainstay all day only to be caught 12th (after a green flag pit stop) when the race was declared over for rain. His title hopes drowned out, as well. "One of the first things my dad told my about racing, 'There's a thousand ways to lose a race,'" Edwards said. "None of those thousand things can happen. You have to have everything go well. "Those disappointments like Martinsville or Phoenix last year or 2011, that battle, that's just part of the sport. That's what makes victories and days like this and championships so special. You have to do everything right." Edwards, who has a pair of wins at Phoenix, redeemed himself already this year finishing runner-up to Kevin Harvick in a dramatic, door-slamming chase to the checkered there. It's what he expects this week and what he expects the following week in the championship big show at Homestead. "I will not be relaxed," Edwards said, allowing a smile. "This is the part that I love," he continued. "I mean, next week, we want to go win the race (at Phoenix). Really, starting right now, in Victory Lane, (crew chief) Dave (Rogers) was actually trying to shut me up. I started talking about Homestead already. "Everything we do now will be geared to making sure that that Homestead weekend, we do it perfectly. So, yeah, I relish the opportunity to go focus for the next 14 days on trying to give a championship effort." Edwards' track record at the 1.5-mile Miami track is worth noting. He has a pair of victories (2008 and 2010) and finished in the top 10 for seven consecutive years from 2005 through his runner-up showing to Stewart in 2011. And he returns there next week already smiling and feeling good about his chances. "It's so much fun, you guys," Edwards said. "Just the idea of getting to race for a championship, getting that opportunity. "It's not just going there like we did in 2011 to race against one guy in championship form. We're going to go there and race against three guys, one of which is a six ‑ time champion, top of his game. I know whoever else in there is going to be tough as nails. "It's cool. If we're able to win that, stand here 14 days from now with that championship trophy, we're going to have earned it. And that's as good as it gets."
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