Carl Edwards says he had "high expectations" for this weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. And that was before the Roush Fenway Racing driver scored a drought-breaking win March 3 at Phoenix International Raceway.
"I know this is probably wrong to admit, but I didn't really have Phoenix marked on the calendar as the one that we were going to go win the first race," Edwards said during a national teleconference Wednesday. "I was looking at (Las) Vegas as the race that would be the really good one. So I'm really excited about Vegas, and after seeing the pit crew perform at Phoenix, I feel like I'm going to Vegas to win this thing."
Edwards, 33, survived a green-white-checkered restart in last Sunday's Subway Fresh Fit 500 to snap a 70-race winless skid. This weekend, Edwards will run in the first points race on a mile-and-a-half track with the new Generation-6 car, the Kobalt Tools 400. An open test will kick off race activities on Thursday.
"We tested very well at Charlotte," Edwards said. "We'll know tomorrow really where we stack up, and if it's anything like Charlotte, I think we're going to be real tough at Vegas. I think we are going to be good."
Edwards has good reason to be optimistic, and not just because he won the series' most recent event. He is a two-time winner at Las Vegas (2008, '11), has four top 10s in eight career starts and an average finishing position of 10.2 on the fast, 1.5-mile layout.
Still, he said, the Phoenix win certainly helps.
"Not winning a race for 70 races is really frustrating; even though it was a 70?race drought, we did have an awesome (2011) season," he said. "I think we had nine second?place finishes or something, so it wasn't 70 races of frustration, but it was a long time. (2012) was a full season of pretty lackluster performance for us."
As for the open test, Edwards said he hopes get a good feeling for how the car drives on the track by itself.
"I think that will be key, because qualifying will be so important," he said. "?I'd also like to run around some other cars and see how the car handles when I am behind someone ? see maybe how I can move around and try to make the car work in a passing situation."
Veteran crew chief Jimmy Fennig could be looking for the same thing, or his approach may be a bit different, Edwards said.
"I'm sure Jimmy has a run?by?run plan, and it may not include racing with another car out there," he said. "But I would like to try that."
A 20-time winner in the Cup series, Edwards claimed all but one of his first 19 victories with Bob Osborne. A win at Texas in April 2008 came with Chris Andrews as interim crew chief while Osborne served a six-race suspension for an infraction at Las Vegas.
"I believe the ingredients that we have right now -- the pit stops are fast, Jimmy Fennig's experience, the cars? seem to be running really well, the engines are fast -- I think all those things are good for this season," Edwards said. "I think we have a lot of great things to look forward to. But a win right off the bat is really, really good for us."
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