NASCAR at Bristol: Edwards on Pole, Roush Brigade Running Up Front

Luke KrmpotichContributor IIMarch 19, 2011

BRISTOL, TN - MARCH 18:  Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 Scotts' Ford, poses in Victory Lane after qualifying for pole position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Jeff Byrd 500 Presented By Food City at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 18, 2011 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Roush Fenway Racing drivers have dominated the Sprint Cup practices and qualifying at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend.

Carl Edwards paced the field in Friday’s practice, while teammates Greg Biffle, David Ragan and Matt Kenseth were third-, sixth- and eighth-fastest, respectively.

In qualifying, Edwards took the pole with a speed of 128.014 mph. Teammate Greg Biffle qualified second with a time of 127.622 mph, completing the sweep of the front row for Roush. Ragan will roll off fifth and Kenseth will start the race 11th.

Look for the Roush drivers to run well in the race. In this race last year, Edwards, Biffle and Kenseth all finished in the top six. In the summer Bristol race, the same three drivers finished inside the top 12. Edwards and Kenseth each have two career wins at the track.

Edwards has been impressive in qualifying of late. Demonstrating the strength of the Roush FR9 engine, Edwards has won two poles already this season and five over his last 19 races.

The hottest driver in NASCAR today, Edwards was the runner-up in the Daytona 500 and has won three of the last five Cup series races. His Bristol pole is the latest evidence of his continuing dominance and the recent resurgence of Roush as a whole.

RFR struggled in 2010 and didn't get its first win until Greg Biffle won at Pocono in August. Edwards led a total of six laps during the season's first 24 races and just 144 laps prior to winning the final two races of the season.

However, this year is shaping up to be very different for the Roushketeers. Their engine department is hitting on all cylinders and the drivers are once again running up front. No one would be surprised to see a Roush driver in Victory Lane Sunday afternoon.

The main challengers to the RFR brigade will be familiar faces.

Jimmie Johnson figures to be strong. He won the 2010 spring race and led 175 laps at Bristol in August before a crash took him out of contention. Johnson was second in practice on Friday and qualified sixth.

Kyle Busch has four Bristol Sprint Cup wins, including last August, when he swept the Cup, Nationwide and truck series races throughout the weekend. He ranked seventh in practice and 12th in qualifying.

Jeff Gordon, with five career wins at Bristol, is another driver to keep an eye on. Although he was only 21st-quickest in practice, he rebounded with a strong seventh in qualifying.

Kurt Busch has five Bristol wins this decade, so he must be taken into consideration. Despite being 17th on the speed charts in practice and posting a lackluster qualifying effort of 20th, it is likely he’ll be in the mix for the win at the end of the day.