His future may be up in the air, but Carl Edwards' present is as bright as any Sprint Cup driver.
On the track, Edwards has two wins and currently finds himself sitting in third on the NASCAR Chase Grid with just 10 races remaining in the Sprint Cup regular season.
Off of it, Edwards is in the midst of a potentially nasty divorce with Roush Fenway Racing that has everyone in the NASCAR world speculating where he might land. Like the professional he has always been, Edwards has yet to address the situation publicly.
So analysts are left to speculate, which is exactly what Bob Pockrass of Sporting News did following Edwards' first road-course win at Sonoma:
But Edwards' approach is going to make it difficult for him over the next few months. He doesn’t want the drama and doesn't want this to be messy. But divorce in the NASCAR world is always messy; it’s just a matter of degree.
One thing is for sure: Edwards won’t be swayed by public opinion. He’ll do it his way, the way he thinks is right. And some people will admire him for that. Except for those who think his way is the wrong one, and they will continue to remain skeptical of every word he says and hesitate to root for him on Sundays.
More on that situation later, but with the Sprint Cup Series heading to Kentucky for the 17th race of the season, several questions remain for the premier drivers.
Will Matt Kenseth win a race this season? Can rookies Kyle Larson or Austin Dillon finally capture a checkered flag? Is M&M's still going to back Kyle Busch next season? No, seriously, that's really being speculated.
Before the Sprint Cup circuit heads to Kentucky, here's a look at the schedule, latest team news and top drivers for the Quaker State 400.
Quaker State 400 Information
Site: Kentucky Speedway, Sparta, Kentucky
Date: Saturday, June 28
Start Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: TNTDrama.com
|Pos.||Driver||Points||Wins||Top 5||Top 10|
|2||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||555||2||8||11|
Latest Team News
Joe Gibbs has been a busy man the last few weeks, and it's not going to get any easier down the stretch.
With everything from rumors about Edwards leaving RFR for Gibbs' team to Busch and M&M's splitting their sponsorship in favor of the potential newbie, the owner has his hands full.
Despite being at the center of the NASCAR universe, Gibbs still found time to refute one rumor and make us wonder about the other, per Jenna Fryer of The Associated Press:
JD Gibbs calls the M&M's recent reports "bad journalism" and tells me "I can't talk about that" to all Carl Edwards queries.— Jenna Fryer (@JennaFryer) June 22, 2014
Several months are still left of the season for the Sprint Cup, so rumors about Edwards to JGR will likely continue. As for Busch, it appears he'll remain an M&M's man for the foreseeable future.
Outside of Joe Gibbs in the news, Hendrick continues to own the headlines. With a combined six wins on the season, the team also has two drivers nominated for ESPY awards, per USA Today.
Jimmie Johnson won his sixth points championship last season and already has three wins this season, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. already won the Daytona 500 and Pocono 400. Both cases were presented for either to win Driver of the Year in the USA Today report:
Johnson: He appears on his way to what would be a record-tying seventh championship. Only NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. have that many. Johnson, who didn't win the first dozen Cup races of the season, promptly reeled off three wins in four races.
Earnhardt Jr: He started the season with a bang, winning his second Daytona 500. He added a victory at Pocono Raceway to secure his first multiple-win season since 2004.
The two Hendrick drivers were the only NASCAR nominees on the list, along with IndyCar racers Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay and NHRA legend John Force. Though he might be the best driver, Johnson has stiff competition for championship performance with Shabazz Napier and David Ortiz.
Drivers to Watch
Only three races have ever taken place at Kentucky in the Sprint Cup Series, but Kenseth has the best results. He also just so happens to stake claim to the last victory at the track.
Kenseth still sits in the top five of the traditional points standings thanks to his consistency, but he still doesn't have that elusive checkered flag this season. The seven-time winner from last season shared his thoughts on the start, per Lee Spencer of Motorsport.com:
I think the biggest sense of urgency probably is that we just know as an organization we need to be running better. We're not running as good as we did last year as a group. We're not leading as many laps, sitting on as many poles, winning as many races. As a group we're not doing near as much of that or running up front as much as we were last year. So we need to get that better.
As far as the urgency to get a win, yeah, you want to get one. In this new format you really need at least a win and be up in the top 30 to really feel confident about being in the Chase. Anything can happen with different winners, so you're never sure.
After seven victories last season, Kenseth had a lot of success at several tracks. But with an average finish of 4.7, a win and three top-10s at Kentucky, he's clearly the top contender at the 1.5-mile oval.
It was just over a month ago that everyone was questioning when Johnson would finally get a win. It might just be time for Kenseth to answer the question as well and essentially secure his spot in the Chase field.
With JGR drawing plenty of attention over the last few weeks, Kenseth might just give his owner something to be happy about after Kentucky.
Much like Kenseth, Brad Keselowski has one of the three Sprint Cup checkered flags captured at Kentucky. Just for that, the No. 2 machine will be one to watch heading into Saturday night.
Take into account that he's already won this season and has six top-three finishes, and Keselowski should finish no worse than fifth at Kentucky. He'll also have plenty of experience on the track, as he's driving in all three of weekend's events at the track, as he tweeted out:
Following a truck race on Thursday night and Nationwide event serving as a warm-up, the Team Penske driver will know the course inside and out. With the only other racer attempting the triple being Busch, both might already have victories heading into Saturday night.
Tough competition awaits Keselowski at Kentucky, but he will eventually find his way to the front of the pack. With another win, Kes would be in the same category as teammate Joey Logano in the Chase Grid next week.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Who will win at Kentucky?
It just feels like it's Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s season to lose.
While he doesn't have the same amount of wins as Jimmie Johnson and sits behind his Hendrick teammates in the traditional points standings, Earnhardt has been a consistent force all season.
Coming into Kentucky, Earnhardt already has two victories and eight top-five finishes. Though he's not typically known as a great road-course driver, he notched a third-place result at Sonoma.
Now, Earnhardt heads to a track where in only three races he's captured a pole, a top-five finish and led 10 laps last season before winding up 12th. Given the type of results he's put up this season and his track record at Kentucky, he might be in line to be the fourth winner in four Sprint Cup events.
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