Phoenix- Carl Edwards earned his first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory in nearly two years as he took his No. 99 Subway Ford Fusion to victory in the Subway Fresh Fit 500 today at the Phoenix International Raceway.
Edwards led a race-high 122 Laps today after starting the afternoon from the 15th place position.
Everyone was curious today on how the new gen-6 cars would run as NASCAR VP Steve O’Donnell said on Saturday “Phoenix was the first true test of this new generation of car.”
After 316 laps of racing today, the car got mixed reviews of the package at Phoenix but the drivers were still optimistic on the end result of this car.
Second place finisher Jimmie Johnson told me he thought track position was key all day and thought he had a chance at the end. Johnson led one lap in today’s event and said pit-strategy was the key in today’s race since passing was so tough.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who came home fifth after finishing runner-up last week in the Daytona 500, told me, “It was a real good race car but tough in traffic. We made our car good enough to be good in traffic and pass some guys but just didn’t have enough in the end.”
He went on to say about the car’s future, “We got a real good car we could work on and have something to take to Richmond. I like this new car we ran good with it both races this year so far. It’s hard to pass but when there’s something in front of you the size of a car it’s hard to get clean air to pass it. I don’t care what we do to it. The package isn’t going to get much better. The new car has tons of potential and we aint even learned anything on it yet.”
I caught up with 15th place finisher Aric Almirola and Denny Hamlin’s crew chief Darian Grubb and they both echoed the same statement regarding the new car and the race today.
Almirola said, “It’s always tough at Phoenix as it’s been a track position kind of race. This car was no different just the same as the old car and wherever you could stick your car you could run there. Early in the race we got in the top three and challenged Biffle for the lead and I thought we had a really good car at the point then later on we took four tires got stuck back in 20th and that’s where we ran. So it’s just really critical of track position and in the end we just didn’t have the track position we needed.”
Grubb told me, “Once we get to the 1.5-mile next week we will know more about it. All the theories are better and I think the races have been better so far.
The championship-winning crew chief added, “Phoenix has been this way for years. I think overall there’s anything we can do yet.”
After speaking with many in the garage on this issue, I’d say everyone is still happy with this car. They all agreed that Phoenix is the same type of track with track position being key and we will learn more by the week.
There wasn’t much passing up front all day as the leader on each restart checked out from the field. That’s been the MO at Phoenix though in the last several years as it sounds like there’s not much NASCAR can do about that.
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