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Two-car drafting packs back at Talladega? Maybe so.

Two-car drafting packs back at Talladega? Maybe so.

Carl Edwards: putting Richmond frustrations behind him (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern

   Cognitive dissidence.
   That's what Carl Edwards calls it, this racing at Talladega.
   "Where you can hold two different thoughts at the same time," Edwards says, considering Sunday's looming Aaron's 499/Talladega 500.
    Others might call it 'Wake up, Leroy' racing.
   "There is one part of a driver at this place that screams 'This is silly: we are waiting to wreck. There is no point being in this pack,'" Edwards says.
    "Then there is the other part like the little kid going 'Man, this is really neat to drive these cars around 200 mph bumping into each other.'"
    Fun? Or simply a couple of hours of sheer terror?
   "When I say fun, I am speaking of just how neat it is to be out there in that group racing at that speed," Edwards says.
     "There is still that huge other factor of the pure racer in me that is not a huge fan of this style of racing.
      "I know the consequences and the risks.
      "Not just physically, but on your season."
     So there are two ways to play the Talladega game: try to stay out front, ahead of the big one, or slide way to the back and hope you have enough room to dodge the melee when it occurs.
     And some of these guys may opt for option two, particularly if they're not looking that good in the point standings.

  Weather looks great for Sunday's Talladega 500. But it should be very hot (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

     "This type of racing -- as a driver you are less in control of whether or not you will be involved in a wreck," Edwards says. "That is just a part of this style of racing.
     "Nobody forced us to get in these cars.
       "I will be out there racing as hard as I can those last five laps, and if there is a wreck, there is a wreck.
     "I know what it is like as a fan to watch these races. You just can't help but watch because it is just spectacular to watch.
     "Unlike some folks, I do not hope there is a wreck…but  I know that it is a possibility."


    Jimmie Johnson: won here a year ago. Dry, though, for quite a while lately (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    Edwards is one of those off to just a so-so start. But after hearing weeks of questions about why he's not leading laps and winning races, Edwards at Richmond last weekend roared back into the game.
   Until that late race scoring confusion….
   Yes, Edwards did get muscled out of the way by that odd NASCAR call late in the day. But he says he's putting that behind him. Keeping his cool is now his pattern: "For me personally when something like that happens, I have been working on doing just what I did."
   Not that Edwards agreed with NASCAR's Richmond calls….
   In fact Richmond spotters last Saturday insisted that a NASCAR official atop the spotter stand told spotters four times just before that fateful green that Edwards was the leader.
   And the scoring pylon said Edwards was the leader, the NASCAR scoring monitors all showed Edwards the leader, and TV also showed Edwards as the leader.


  Martin Truex Jr.: one of Sunday's favorites. And he knows it (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    Edwards here, though, says he has nothing more to say about it all.
    "I gave my honest assessment of what I thought happened and how I felt about it," Edwards says. "I spoke with NASCAR and came to the conclusion that those actions are all that I can take.
    "That is it; there is nothing else that I can do.
     "I am satisfied with that personally I did everything I could do and that is that.
     "Last week is last week. That is done and behind us.
     "There is nothing I can do or say that is going to change it."
    So Edwards is concentrating on using the advantages he may have here – his team's power and strength, as shown at Daytona in the one-two finish in February by teammates Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle, and his own personal fitness.
   It's supposed to be 90 degrees Sunday, the hottest race day of the season, and Edwards says "I'm pretty excited to see how hot it is going to be here.
   "I am personally hoping it is hot so that there is a little of the physical aspect in the race. I think that is a lot of fun."

   Kyle Busch: turning the corner? Back in feisty form? Or just lucky at Richmond? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    Unless you have some cool suit issues like Kyle Busch did at Richmond.
    Busch, like Edwards, hasn't been making many headlines this spring.
    Yes, Busch did manage to win Richmond, after those penalties and cautions knocked Jimmie Johnson, Edwards and Tony Stewart out of contention.
    Still, that run didn't do much to dispel the image of Busch as being a changed man this season, less controversial, less aggressive.
    Busch laughs that off, saying it's still only April.
    And Dave Rogers, Busch's crew chief, says there is a new game plan for this year's first 26 races, the regular season. Busch is typically a hot starter each season, and a dismal finisher. Rogers wants to reverse that.
    "My job is to bring the best cars I can to the track each week…regardless of whether or not people are saying we're in a slump," Rogers says.
    "Obviously a year ago -- you look back and we were leading the most laps and contending for the win nearly every week at this point in the season.  
    "Now we're not living up to that standard.  
    "That tells me we've got to work harder, bring better cars to the racetrack."
    Winning Richmond, Rogers says "is an indication we're turning the corner.  
     "Kansas was an indication too --  Kyle came back after Kansas and gave me phenomenal feedback about what we need in our 1-1/2-mile program."


      Tony Stewart was miffed at NASCAR at Richmond, but he's cooled off (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


     Meanwhile over in the Tony Stewart camp?
    Stewart opened the year fast, with two wins, and Richmond was going to be his third.
    Then a caution, for debris, with only 14 laps to go.
    Has Stewart had second thoughts about his criticism at Richmond about that last caution flag for debris that cost him a shot at the win?
    "They picked it up; they know what it is," Stewart says now. "It looked like a bottle to me.
    "But it still cost us an opportunity, it still cost us a win.  
     "The good thing is, no matter what it is on the race track, you can't have a car hit it and then it go in the stands and hurt somebody.
    "You that they did what they needed to do, but you just hate the timing of it.
    "I think NASCAR has done a really good job in the last year or so of making sure if there is a debris caution, it's not a just mystery caution. There is something out there that they are picking up.
     "I've got the trust in them that when they throw the debris caution that there is something out there."

  Time for NASCAR president Mike Helton to sort some things out, after that mess at Richmond? Maybe time to reassess this confusing 'wave-around' rule, that turned the Richmond 400 around. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


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