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Aggressive Carl Edwards Impresses in Debut for Joe Gibbs Racing

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Carl Edwards had quite the impressive debut for Joe Gibbs Racing on Saturday night at the Sprint Unlimited, finishing third and showing newfound flashes of aggression that seemed refreshingly unfamiliar from the 35-year-old veteran.

Edwards never put himself in a precarious position but was more than willing to go three-wide or throw a daring block when the situation demanded it. He also had the look of a team player on the final lap, seemingly deciding to race Martin Truex Jr. harder for second in the efforts to prevent him from overtaking teammate and race winner Matt Kenseth at the line.

“Man that was crazy,” Edwards said after the race. “I need to see a replay with (Truex). It felt like he just all but wrecked me that one time, but fortunately we got it straightened out and it was a good start for ARRIS and for Stanley and our relationship with Toyota. I’m glad Matt won that race, but, man, I could taste it there.

“That was a lot of fun – a cool event.

WEAVER: Three Things We Learned During the Sprint Unlimited

Despite not winning in his first night with a new team, Edwards expressed satisfaction with his efforts and the chemistry he established with his teammates and crew chief Darian Grubb on Saturday night.

Next up for the newly formed No. 19 team is qualifying on Sunday afternoon. It’s important that Edwards somehow locks down a front row starting spot because it would automatically lock him into the race prior to the Thursday qualifying races that set the field for The Great American Race.

Since this is a new team, Edwards has no entrant points to fall back on. With that said, Edwards said he was confident with the speed of his Toyota and is looking forward to the rest of the season.

“I think all of our JGR Toyotas are good for next week,” Edwards said. “We’ll qualify tomorrow and hopefully that goes well. We’ve got a very good car. If we don’t crash that thing or something tomorrow, I think we’re going to have a good race.”

Meanwhile, Joe Gibbs said not to read too much into Edwards’ aggressive driving on Saturday night, believing it to be a byproduct of the circumstances of non-points racing in the Sprint Unlimited.

“Like everyone else out there, he was going for it,” Gibbs said. “He got trapped in a bad position, just like Matt did for part of the race. If you’re two abreast, you’re back mid-pack, you’re going to have to be fortunate to get through there on some wrecks, which he just missed.”

EMAIL MATT AT matt.weaver@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattWeaverSBN

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NASCAR Cup Series

Darian Grubb: “27 Cent Part Failed at Indianapolis”

By Matt Weaver (JOLIET, Ill.) — Darian Grubb spent the past six weeks huddled at the Joe Gibbs Racing shop in Huntersville, N.C., serving out a suspension for what he believes was a parts failure during the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway back in July.

His driver, @DennyHamlin, finished third at Indianapolis but failed inspection when NASCAR officials found issues with several covers in the rear firewall of his driver compartment. Loose or missing covers could conceivably vent the cockpit and create more downforce at the expense of driver safety.

Grubb and car chief Wesley Sherrill were both suspended through last weekend at Richmond International Raceway, while Grubb was fined $125,000. On Friday at Chicagoland Speedway, Grubb says the inspection failure was in no way an attempt to circumvent the rules at Indianapolis.

“(That) was actually a new part for that week,” Grubb said. (It) was a nutplate for an aircraft fastener that didn’t have enough torque on it and just came loose. We took them out of the cars, have never seen them again and had never seen them before.

“It was a 27 cent part that just came loose and wasn’t torqued correctly. It’s not a gray area, it wasn’t intentional and there was no performance gain there. Everyone in the garage has the same covers and it came loose the week that it shouldn’t have come loose.”

Some in the sport believe that Hamlin may gain an advantage in the Chase by having his crew chief take several weeks off and focus completely on the playoffs. But Grubb says that isn’t the case.

“That’s something people say but When you take someone out of their job for six weeks, there are things that people have to do,” Grubb said. “We’re definitely behind and we’re trying to make things better so I was able to put extra work into some of those things but not being at the track and not working with Denny is definitely something I feel like I lost ground on.

“We’re six weeks behind and trying to keep our communication going into the Chase.”

Hamlin posted three top-10s over the past six races without Grubb and also contended for the win at Bristol prior to a mid-race incident with @KevinHarvick that eliminated him from the race. But Grubb says the extra time spent in the shop had little to do with the uptick in speed.

“Those things are always in the works,” Grubb said. “All three teams and Joe Gibbs Racing in general work ahead and try to get better for the Chase and get our best pieces on the track and ready for the Chase.

“Being there doesn’t allow me to work on that any more. It just means more people are walking in my door instead of me working on my race team.”