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And for an encore, Carl Edwards will do what?

   Jubilant in victory...Carl Edwards (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   Now that Carl Edwards has logged another win, promoter Marcus Smith wants to get him back to the Stratosphere downtown for another 800-foot leap of faith into space….with a helmet cam, and maybe live TV.
   And what does team owner Jack Roush think about Edwards leaping off the tallest building in Las Vegas?
   "You did what?"

   Roush responded incredulously, looking at Edwards in more than amazement after Sunday's win in the Kobalt 400.
   "Uh, I jumped off the Stratosphere, Jack," Edwards said sheepishly.
    Edwards shook his head. "Jack may be the only guy who doesn't know….." Edwards said.
   "Uh, Jack…..it's a tall building downtown here."
   When the news sunk in, amid gales of laughter from those surrounding them, Roush pointed out "Remember a year ago or so Carl broke his foot playing Frisbee….
   "He told me after that he thought it would be okay, that he could deal with it….and I really didn't care how painful it was."
   "I've broken a thumb, the foot, things like that," Edwards said. "And each time it was pretty much the same from Jack: 'If you're going to be dumb, you'd better be tough.'
   "You don't get much sympathy from Jack for things…..
   "But then I don't think there would have been any minor injuries if something had gone wrong with this thing…."



     And it just wouldn't be Vegas without showgirls and Sinatra  (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR) 

   While Tony Stewart was something of a surprise in dominating the three-hour race, till the end, there were other surprises too:
   -- Jimmie Johnson, far off his game, finishing 16th and never really contending: "It seemed like track position was key, and Tony proved that when he did that two-tire stop. He had really old lefts but still hauled the mail."
   -- Dale Earnhardt Jr., on the other hand, was in contention late for the win: "Failure at this point is completely unacceptable, and I've got to put it all out on the line and do everything I can to make this work. If it don't work…I've got nowhere else to go. I got no other options, other than to race myself into oblivion….
   "But I want this to work…and it feels like it's working."
   -- Greg Biffle, whose car was pretty much the only one fast enough to run with Stewart, had several pit stop issues, which knocked him out of contention. First, he was running third when he simply ran out of gas under green and fell two laps down. His day went from bad to worse after that.
   -- Matt Kenseth, though he started from the pole, was never a contender after blowing a tire early and falling a lap down.
   -- Jeff Gordon also blew a tire and hit the wall hard. "The track kept tightening up, and we couldn't stay up with it. But I certainly wasn't expecting to blow a tire like that going into turn three. Thankful for the Safer barrier, and a safe race car."
   -- Kyle Busch was running third early but blew an engine and failed to finish. That cost him the tour points lead heading into the sport's off-week before Bristol.
   -- Denny Hamlin changed engines before the race, after seeing an issue. So he had to start in the rear, and he never got into contention….continuing his mediocre start to the season.

   Biffle's disappointments stemmed in part from NASCAR's new system of refueling, with new gas cans (Roush alone has had to spend some $300,000 just on the gas cans).  "Greg was frustrated that they apparently didn't get it full of gas," Roush said of Edward's teammate.
   "But there's a big challenge for the teams; this new fuel system is really a problem.  It doesn't fill consistently from the bottom of the can to the top.  We can get the first gallon or two of fuel out of the cans, two gallons in a second, and I'm not sure but it's probably twice that long to get the last two gallons out.
   "And so for the gas man -- for the crew chief, for the jack man, for everybody that's got to have a finger in this thing -- there is a learning curve. You need to know what your fuel mileage is before you have a reason to understand what it is.  You need to be able to guess correctly about it…and my guess is we didn't get Greg's gas tank full. We had some kind of a disconnect there that jeopardized Greg's result."

   The key to the race came when Tony Stewart, on the final round of stops with 50 miles to go, had to take four tires while his rivals had the luxury of taking only two. An earlier pit stop mistake with a lug wrench by his crew had drawn a penalty, putting Stewart at the rear of the field, and only a two-tire stop right after that could get Stewart back at the head of the pack. That would have been good enough for the win, if there had been a yellow near the end. But Stewart didn't have enough left-side rubber on the tire to make a two-tire stop, and Edwards did. That put Edwards ahead of Stewart down the stretch.
   "Tony's car was very good, and I thought our only opportunity was to leapfrog them on the racetrack and hope we were able to hold them off," Bob Osborne, Edwards' crew chief, said.
    "This is the best start to a season I've ever had," Edwards said. "Daytona could have gone any way -- There was a lot of luck involved with our good finish at Daytona.
    "But Phoenix was a very strong performance from everyone.
    "And here I felt we had a solid top three car all day. 
    "That's three different types of tracks, with success on all three.  So I'm really excited about this season.  This is a great start."

   However, from an entertainment standpoint, the race was no artistic success. Speeds of 200 mph into the corners on a 1-1/2-mile track could be criticized for part of the problem; that's as fast as drivers go at Daytona and Talladega on a track about half as big. And the aerodynamic characteristics of these new front  bumpers may also be an issue; drivers said they had trouble getting any closer than five car lengths to each other, in part  because of the aerodynamic air bubble in front of any trailing car. At Daytona drivers used heavy duty braking to push-draft in two-car packs to defeat that aerodynamic issue, but here that was not an option.
   So clean air was key.
   And there weren't a lot of passes for the lead.
   After two slam-bang races, this was wasn't quite so pretty, though drivers were certainly breathless.
   "I can tell you from the driver's seat, there are no more exciting tracks to drive on," Edwards said.
   "This place has a lot of character.  You slide the car 200 mph into the corner…there are multiple grooves. 
     "And I think that striving to deliver some sort of product that really is impossible to deliver in auto racing, I think that's foolish. I think we need to be NASCAR, we need to be what we are. 
    "Some days we're going to have races that are a little more single-file, and some days we're not. 
    "But the true sport of auto racing is making your car fast, driving it perfectly, making sure the engine makes tons of power, and all those factors I think the fans can appreciate without us having to be in a giant pack with restrictor plates.  I think the savvy fans understand what's going on."
    Edwards' start this season is similar to his start to 2008, his best year ever on the tour. So what's the difference between 2008 and now?
    "I think we're making it through tech, aren't we?" Edwards deadpanned, referring the NASCAR penalty following his 2008 Vegas win. "We did not mean to cheat that day."
    Edwards delighted in the laughter, and then turned serious:  "The biggest difference between then and now, from my perspective, is I feel I have a better understanding of how the sport works. And I think I'm more prepared to use these fast race cars and do a better job to try to win this championship.
    "It's something Jack and I have talked a lot about over the years --  there is definitely a process to becoming the best you can be at this level, because all the guys are so savvy. 
    "So I feel I'm in a better position now than I was three years ago."
    Certainly Edwards is making the most of every situation these days, on the track and off.
    For example, when an Hispanic journalist, hoping for Edwards to throw some Spanish lines his way, asked for some, Edwards responded playfully:
   "Buenos dias…gracias…mi coche es rapido….and mucho dinero today.
    "I had a lot of Spanish, folks, but I did not pay attention."


      Yep, Jack's back in victory lane again (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)





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