FYI WIRZ: NASCAR's Top Shakers Talk Las Vegas Before and After Flags

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FYI  WIRZ: NASCAR's Top Shakers Talk Las Vegas Before and After Flags
Carl Edwards on pit road with TV media

Carl Edward’s carried his winning momentum from 2010 into 2011 on Sunday, by staying out in front of a perturbed Tony Stewart to win the Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. 

Stewart was angered by a late pit stop that may have cost him the win. Juan Montoya, Marcos Ambrose and Ryan Newman followed to finish out the top five across the start-finish line. 

Five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson recently said that Carl Edwards is the guy to beat this season. Johnson may be spot-on.

One other element that is on this season is the importance of consistency, and the drastic effect that a DNF (did not finish) can have on position, with the meager allocation of points under the new system. 

Points leader Kyle Busch dropped 13 places and contender Jeff Gordon dropped 14 places when their engines blew. As a result of this one race, both are out of the top 12 Chase for the Sprint Cup positions and needing good results soon to get back on top.    
 
Johnson quietly moved into the top 12 not by running up front, but just by finishing the first three races of 2011.    

Wikipedia defines a mover and shaker as a person who wields power and influence. Few harness the power and factors to win on a National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) track and even fewer get the influence to gather the all important points that lead to a Sprint Cup championship.  

Carl Edwards in the Daytona garage

A top five finish at this level has never been more crucial to a championship run.  This week’s top movers and shakers share their thoughts.  

Carl Edwards [No. 99 Ford] Finished first

Before the green flag:

“I’m excited to come to Vegas, we all like coming to Vegas,” Edwards said. “The fans are great, the facility is second-to-none and the racing is spectacular.  Running well in Vegas is especially important after our misfortune in Phoenix last weekend.  We went from first to 12th in the points so we need to get back up there.”

After the checkered flag:

“When you are a kid you dream about this,” Edwards said. “Coming off of Phoenix, I went home last week and I had no clue. I just didn't know how things were going to go from there. You only don't get a good race car like that very often, but we had another one today. I got to thank the Air Force, the Thunderbirds, they let me fly with them on Thursday and this trophy is going over there in their hanger. They taught me a lot about discipline and believing in what you do and I can't thank them enough and all of our armed service personnel who serve everywhere.  This is a great day.”

Tony Stewart [No. 14 Chevy] Finished second

Before the green flag:

Tony Stewart's No. 14 Chevrolet

“The track is really smooth and that lets you work on the attitude of your car, and I think that’s a luxury that we have there that we don’t necessarily always get everywhere else because every track has its unique set of bumps. Vegas has bumps too, but for the most part, it’s so smooth that you can really fine-tune the attitude of the car.”

After the checkered flag:

“Real disappointed,” Stewart said. “I honestly think we had the car to beat today, we just gave it away.  Just shot ourselves in the foot two weeks in a row now.”

Juan Montoya [No. 42 Chevy] Finished third

Before the green flag:

“It should be a good weekend. I am pretty excited to get on to a mile-and-a-half with the new nose,” Montoya said. “The cars should work a little bit different. It should be interesting. Our goal this year is to make sure we finish every race. I think with the points system, you have to make sure you finish.”

After the checkered flag:

“Every time you're in traffic, you suck; every time you're in clean air, you look like a hero.  That's normal.

“For me it's just more comfortable.  I think the last two, three years have been very comfortable with these cars, and it shows.  When we can get the car working, it works really good.  Here we are.  It's good.”

Marcos Ambrose [No. 9 Ford] Finished fourth

Before the green flag:

“Vegas is a fun track to race at and it’s really fast,” Ambrose said. “A good run at Vegas will give us confidence going into the rest of the season.

 “Phoenix was a great learning experience for my team and I feel like we really got some stuff figured out last weekend. I know we’ve got good equipment and can do really well.”

After the checkered flag:

“It was a great day.  It is going to be a great year. We had great pit stops and a good crew today. There was a ton of good energy out here today, just a ton of good energy. I am really happy with the finish.”

Ryan Newman [No. 39 Chevy] Finished fifth

Before the green flag:

“It is the best two-race start to the season since my Daytona 500 victory in 2008,” Newman said. “This just really proud to get started better. I think we have done a good job so far of carrying a good run in the last 10 races of last season into the off season. That isn’t easy to do. Maybe Carl Edwards is doing it just a little bit better than us.”

After the checkered flag:

“We fought back. We were really loose for 80% of the race and the last two runs when it cooled down and we could just kind of ride.

“It seemed like track position was key and Tony proved that when he did those two tires. He had really old lefts and still hauled the mail. Track position was really important. I think when we get to some tracks where we have to handle a little bit more.”

FYI WIRZ is the swift presentation of pertinent motorsports topics by Dwight Drum @ Racetake.com. 

Photo credit: Dwight Drum @ Racetake.com

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