Carl Edwards, who has engaged in a love affair with Memphis Motorsports Park, has sliced through the field like a hot knife through butter at the Kroger on Track for the Cure 250.
In a race marred by nine caution flags, Edwards has charged from deep on the grid (35th) up to the lead on lap No. 67.
However, while most of his rivals stopped for gas and tires under the fourth caution, Carl and his team decided to stay out and assume the lead, with Mike Bliss nipping hard at his heels.
The strategy came back to bite him, as Brad Keselowski took advantage of fresh rubber to wrest the top spot away from Edwards.
Over the next hundred laps or so, Edwards surged back into the lead.
With the extremely cool weather earlier in the day—upper 40s as qualifying began—the track has been slick. Even though the ambient temperature is now in the mid 60s, the 10-year old asphalt track has not yet warmed enough for tires to grab optimally.
In addition, the proliferation of cautions only exacerbates the situation.
When the race cars are driving slowly around the track, the amount of heat they create is virtually negligible. Within two or three laps of full-speed racing, though, the surface can heat up dramatically.
Pole-sitter Justin Allgaier was perhaps the most unfortunate victim of the slick racing conditions. After leading the first 34 laps of the race, he was tapped on the rear quarter panel and spun out.
Relegated to the back end of the lead lap, Allgaier has slowly worked his way back up to creep back into the top 10, running 10th through 160 laps.
Kyle Busch, with a series-high seven victories already, is currently in a dogfight with Mike Bliss for second place behind Edwards. A victory here would leave a formidable challenge for Edwards—or anyone else, for that matter—to come back and take the 2009 Nationwide Series Championship from Busch.
But for now, as Eric McClure brings out the ninth caution flag by slamming into the wall out of turn four on lap 165 (bringing out the red flag as fluid is being cleared), the 21 drivers still on the lead lap are only concerned with winning today’s race and taking home the last trophy that will be a replica of the King, Elvis Presley.
After today’s race, the trophy mold bearing Presley’s familiar pelvic thrust will be destroyed.
Photo credit: Copyright 2009, Leroy Watson, Jr.