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So just what do Jack Roush's men have for all these Chevys here at Daytona? Or are they waiting for California and Vegas?


Carl Edwards: Roush's main man last year. And what about this spring? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern

   So how are Carl Edwards' chances of winning this Daytona 500 really shaping up?
   Welllllll, not quite as well as was expected coming down here.
   Yes, Jack Roush's cars aren't usually Daytona dominators, and frequently he puts more emphasis on the mid-sized handling tracks like California's Auto Club Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway – where, yes, Edwards won back-to-back last spring.
    This has been a Chevy track for years, for whatever reason. And that marquee had eight of the 10 fastest here Sunday.
    What might happen in Thursday's twin 150s – Martin Truex Jr. on the pole for the first (2 p.m.), Mark Martin on the pole for the second – is anybody's guess.
    These two races, about an hour each, are a perfect made-for-TV package, and it's long past time for NASCAR's Brian France to strong-arm Fox' David Hill into putting these two showcase races in prime time.  For one thing, afternoon races, under warm sunny skies, typically are not as thrilling as night-time races here in the grippy coolness, as we saw in Saturday's Shootout.
   What Kevin Harvick does Thursday may be interesting. He won the Shootout over Roush's Jamie McMurray in a barnburner. But Harvick burned up a rear end gear in qualifying and will be deep in the pack for Thursday's start.
   Edwards is one of the heavy favorites this season to win the title.
   So what does he see here for late-race tactics?
  Tony Stewart gambled on new tires for Saturday's two-lap finish, and he sprinted from 13th to third, in a remarkable run.
   "I've thought about this quite a bit," Edwards says of last-lap strategy here. "Being third near the end wouldn't have worked out the other night.
   "We have two possibilities here  -- we could have a race on Sunday that ends with a long green-flag run, or we're going to have what we had the other night,  where maybe 12 laps from the finish, or 10 laps from the finish, we get a caution, and everybody is going to be on the same page. 
   "I'm really hoping for the long green-flag run, where you can battle two or three guys, instead of just mayhem. 
   "The way it feels to me -- and I'm not an expert at this, but I'm getting better at these places -- is it feels like it's just 'restraint' that keeps us from wrecking. 
   "So the closer you get to the end of the race, there is this crescendo, where everybody starts going 'Well, I'm going to take a little more chance.'
   "And then there's a wreck. 
    "There's no way to race as hard as you want without wrecking in those situations."
   A late-race yellow means a green-white-checkered two-lap shootout. But NASCAR only makes one attempt at that type of finish. If there's a wreck then, the race is over.
   Of course two years ago in the 500 NASCAR officials made an infamous 'long count' before throwing the yellow for a last-lap wreck.
   Mark Martin was in the lead when the wreck happened, but NASCAR let Martin and Kevin Harvick run side-by-side --- with a clear track ahead of them, to be sure – to the finish line….as cars were flipping behind them.
   "The green-white-checker here might not last more than 100 yards past the green," Edwards says. "So you want to be first (leading).
   "But it's tough. That (last summer's race here) was one of the biggest letdowns I've had in a race car.  I was racing with Kyle (Busch), and I was planning on how we were going to this to the end…and then all of a sudden the caution is out and it's over."
   Edwards himself in these opening weeks of the season is a man to watch, to see how daring he just might be.
   That finish at Kansas, bouncing off the wall to try to catch Jimmie Johnson, showed just how devil-may-care Edwards can be.
   This season?
   "I don't know," Edwards muses. "I just have this thing sometimes in the car that comes out and I say 'Screw it, we're going for it.' 
   "And it seems to happen once in a while a little too much. 
    "Last season we started out so strong I felt I had the option to take more chances, because we had that points pad, way up in the points. 
    "Let's say we come out of here with a top-10, and we go to California and run really well, and Vegas really well, then I think we’ll be able to take more chances."
   And in the twin 150s? 
   "The duals are going to be pretty interesting, Bob (Osborne, his crew chief) and I talked about that," Edwards said. "It's supposed to be hot and sunny.
   "If we can make it past the first eight or 10 laps without a big wreck, it's going to string out a little bit. Then handling comes into play…pit strategy -- making sure you have a good pit stop if you have a green-flag stop." 
    A wild card may be NASCAR's new restart line, or two lines really, red lines on the fourth turn wall. The leader has to restart somewhere during that 50-foot stretch.   
    And that makes the leader, Jimmie Johnson says, a sitting duck.
   "Fifty feet sounds like a lot until you're in the car," Edwards says. "It's not much of a zone.
   "It's a good idea, though.  It was like 'You could start wherever you want,' and it caused a lot of wrecks."




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