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Jimmy Fennig (left) with Carl Edwards
All Eyes on Edwards
The winner of this year’s spring race at Bristol, Carl Edwards, made news this week when it was finally announced that he would move to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2015.
His Roush Fenway Racing Ford Fusion was good in March but not great. It was best on long runs, which came in handy in the waning laps of the race when there were multiple cautions.
Will Edwards have the car as good as it was in March? Will he and crew chief Jimmy Fennig end their time together with a championship for Jack Roush?
Emotions Will Test New Rules
This race will be the first real opportunity to exercise the recently announced rules that keep drivers from climbing out of the car following a wreck.
The new mandate doesn’t force a driver to remain in his or her vehicle if there is a fire. But under all other circumstances, he or she must stay seated until the safety crew arrives.
The new rules don’t (and won’t) change the possibility of fighting or arguing in the infield or on pit road. It wouldn’t be Bristol without a bit of pushing and shoving going down. Emotions will be turned way up as the countdown toward the start of the Chase is only three weekends away.
Blue Oval Comeback?
The last Sprint Cup race won by a Ford driver was back in July, when Brad Keselowski won at New Hampshire on July 13. Since then, it’s been all the Bowtie Brigade all the time in NASCAR Sprint Cup competition.
Chevy drivers won at Indianapolis, Pocono, Watkins Glen and last week at Michigan (where they also won in June).
Keselowski has been vocal about the disparity between the Ford and Chevrolet horsepower, with the Blue Oval getting the short stick.
"It's pretty obvious that the Hendrick engines are way ahead of everyone else," Keselowski said after finishing third at Michigan International Speedway in June.
Bristol is an equalizer. At this track it’s about setup and driver. If you can get off the corner faster than your competition, you’re going to do well no matter what make of car you’re driving.
Bristol ranks as the manufacturer’s second-most successful track with 34 victories, so maybe Ford can break its mini-drought on Saturday night.
It’s the Final Countdown
No, we're not talking about that very memorable song from the 1980s, but it is quite apropos, when you remember that after Bristol, only two races remain before the Chase.
Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Bowyer and Greg Biffle are all in danger of losing their seat at the big kid’s table should a new winner emerge on Saturday night. Among them, only Kenseth has won at Bristol (’05, ’06, ’13).
Track position will be key, and if you go a lap down at Bristol, it’s usually easy to make it up with fresh tires. But go four or more down to the leader and your evening might just be over.
And lest we forget…Kasey Kahne, Dillon and Kyle Larson all sit just outside the Chase cutoff. Kahne won the spring race last year.