Categories
Trucks

Rhodes, Cindric Clash in Battle for Transfer Spot

AVONDALE, Ariz. – With only 20 laps to go in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix Raceway, playoff contenders Ben Rhodes and Austin Cindric made contact, bringing out the red flag and ending both Rhodes and his ThorSport Racing teammate Matt Crafton‘s night.

After Josh Reaume stalled on the track, Rhodes and Austin Cindric were running bumper to bumper on the ensuing restart. Contact between the pair saw Rhodes spin out, hit the inside wall, then took Crafton with him into the outside wall going into Turn 1. While Cindric’s No. 19 Ford came out of the incident virtually unscathed, Rhodes’ No. 27 Toyota and Crafton’s No. 88 Toyota were beyond repair.

“It’s almost like last year at Homestead in the Cup Series,” Austin Cindric told FS1. “I had a good run, Ben went to block and I was there. I had to hold my line. He went to block. That wasn’t his best decision. He was having a good run there and we were hoping to race it out. Obviously, nothing intentional there. I just held my ground.”

Rhodes entered Friday night’s race fifth in the playoff standings, and was therefore even more desperate to run well in this penultimate race. The only way he could have clinched a spot in the Championship 4 was John Hunter Nemechek not winning and beating Rhodes on points, or a victory himself.

“We gave [the No. 19 team] a chance to get to our bumper and they gave us a cheap shot,” said Eddie Troconis, crew chief for the No. 27. “They want to race like that and they won’t make a single lap at Homestead.”

Crafton, on the other hand, was third in the playoff standings. Therefore, all he needed to do to clinch a Championship 4 spot was earn either 37 points with a new race winner or 32 points with a repeat race winner.

Visibly upset after exiting the care center, Crafton only had this to say about the incident, “Just wrong place, wrong time. I told Ben [Rhodes] that the 19 better not finish Homestead.”

While Crafton still managed to clinch the third spot in the Championship 4, Cindric took the fourth and final slot with his ninth-place finish. Rhodes wound up fifth, just five points behind Cindric in the standings after Friday night’s race.

“They got me calmed down there in the medical center, so we’re just going to move forward from here and finish out the season strong and show everybody that had we not get taken out here that we should be the champion,” Rhodes said following the race.

Cindric and Crafton will now battle it out for the championship next week at Homestead Miami-Speedway in the season finale.
“It’s not the perfect circumstances the way to end the race here, but we deserve it just as much as any,” Cindric said.

Vivian Meza is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL VIVIAN AT vivian.meza@popularspeed.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
IndyCar Open Wheel

Team Penske Left Mark on Phoenix

AVONDALE, Ariz. – As reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Simon Pagenaud scored the victory, the crowd roared with excitement under the lights at Phoenix Raceway. After returning to the track last year after more than a decade, the open-wheel cars put together another spectacular run at the valley of the sun.

On Saturday night, the Arizona oval hosted its 63rd IndyCar race with the second running of the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix. The events not only ushered in larger audiences than the year before, but also rang the end of an era as the track prepares to make significant renovations. The revamp of the historic  facility is slated to be completed by November of next year.

“This track is old, in a sense, and even though there’s nothing wrong with the race track, the facility itself, to really to be able to continue to attract fans, you’ve got to really do more than just put on a show on the racetrack,” legendary IndyCar driver Lyn St. James said. “I think it’ll be great for Phoenix and great for the fans.”

Before it became a staple on the NASCAR circuit, PIR was opened in March of 1964 for open-wheel racing specifically. It’s inaugural event, a 100-mile United States Auto Club race with an average speed of 107mph, was won by A.J. Foyt. Due to this and his many other accomplishments in the sport, the winner on Saturday went home the A.J. Foyt Champions Trophy, a special award crafted with Grand Canyon Onyx and encrusted with a likeness of Foyt.

The competition for the victory was tense, but there was one team in particular which seemed unfazed: Team Penske.

The team’s success began early on in the weekend as Helio Castroneves won the pole on Friday night, winning the “Speed King” crown for the second year in a row at Phoenix. He was especially proud to reach this feat at a track he’s won at in the past.

“I wanted that crown so bad,” Castroneves said. “I’m not going to give up that crown, so I’m glad it’s still there. It was great, great teamwork.”

The entire Penske team was also able to make its permanent mark on the track on Friday night as all four of its drivers in the series were invited to sign a 30-foot steel beam that will make up part of the new grandstand.

As the race began Saturday evening, all of the Penske drivers managed to avoid getting caught up in the four-car collision on the very first lap of the race going into turn one.

The rest of the race ran relatively smoothly up until Lap 138 when Takuma Sato made contact with the SAFER Barrier in Turn 4.  The caution worked out in Pagenaud’s favor as he was able to solidify his place in the top spot and hold off the other competitors all the way through the last lap.

“The car was so strong at the beginning of the race that we were able to save a lot of fuel in traffic you know, following Will [Power] and Helio [Castroneves], so we were able to lift a lot at the end of the straight and saved a lot of fuel so we could go longer,” Pagenaud said. “It paid off with that lucky yellow, I’ve got to say. We’ve had our fair share of bad luck this year too, so it doesn’t hurt sometimes to have a little break for yourself.”

Team Penske managed to take home a one-two finish with Pagenaud and Will Power. The rest of the Captain’s quartet – Castroneves and Josef Newgarden – finished fourth and ninth. Their dominance on the night shines through in laps led, as the foursome led all 250 laps en route to the team’s 189th series victory.

The victory also marked Pagenaud’s 10th career win and put him in the lead in this season’s points standings, with all four drivers in the top-seven.

For Pagenaud, the win was especially surprising being his first ever win on an oval track.

“Oval is not my specialty, I grew up in Europe racing go-karts, and I learned about oval only when I was, I believe 26 years old, 25,” he explained. “I had to re-learn the technique, the skill that I didn’t know. It’s incredible, what a win. That was phenomenal.”

With so many changes being made to the track before IndyCar returns next year, Will Power says he’s unsure of how these modifications, including the relocation of the start/finish line to the dog leg, will affect the racing.

“I’m not sure how they can make it how you can pass easier,” he explained. “It’s so difficult, even when you’ve got a strong car. You push like you wouldn’t believe and you just can’t get people.”

Even with the difficulties that Power mentioned when running at Phoenix, Castroneves summarized the weekend for Team Penske best, saying, “We have the moment with the pole position but Team Penske won with Simon [Pagenaud] and congrats to him. Josef [Newgarden] was right there in it as well. We showed that, even Honda looking a little bit strong, we still have a good car and today was proof.”

The next time Team Penske visits Phoenix Raceway, it will be met with a whole new set of challenges as well as fans. But one thing is for certain: Phoenix is a special place for Penske Racing.

Vivian Meza is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL VIVIAN AT vivian.meza@popularspeed.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Commentary

Check In: How’s The New Race Format Doing?

AVONDALE, Ariz. – Following the announcement that Monster Energy would become the new sponsor for NASCAR’s top national touring Cup series last December, NASCAR announced another significant change.

In January, NASCAR established a new race format and unique way of awarding points that would create a whole new experience for both viewers and drivers alike.

The new format divides the race into three stages, each with championship implications. Those who finish within the top 10 during the first two stages are awarded points on a descending scale, with the winner of the stage receiving 10 points, second getting nine and so on. Also, each stage winner gets one playoff point.

The final stage of the race will determine the overall winner, who will receive 40 points as usual. The rest of the points will be given out to the drivers as they have in past years – 35 points for second. Additionally, the winner of the race will receive five playoff points.

While in previous years the points wouldn’t matter, they do now in other changes made to rules in regards to the Chase. The points standings from the regular season are now worth something to the drivers; the points leader before the reset receives 15 playoff points, 10 points for second, eight points for third, with the rest receiving one point less as you go down to 10th. Drivers will then enter the Chase ranked by the amount of playoff points earned, and be allowed to carry their points all the way through till the final round.

Since every single race of the season will matter towards the playoffs, it was unclear the effect it would have on-track, and to the team’s strategies.

With four exciting races so far, the new stages seem to be providing more incentive for drivers, thus making for more aggressive competition and  opportunities for movement within the standings.

“It’s really helped us out in the points, we’re up from 33rd (place), to 14th to 5th,” Darrell Wallace Jr. said. “As long as we keep top six-ing them to death, it’s what we need to just stay right there in the hunt.”

With the heightened competitiveness and incentives within the races, some drivers who struggled have been given more leeway to move throughout the pack during the cautions at the end of the first and second stages. Before the race at Phoenix where he finished fourth, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had not finished in the top 10 since last year’s race at Talladega.

“You know, we’re racing hard, you know that those segments are going to end, and even if we’re not close to the tenth place, we’re trying to get as far as we can before that caution does come out,” Stenhouse said about racing with the new points system.

Though the system seems to be positive for some, it hasn’t been so kind to others. Daniel Suarez finds it as a new obstacle to adjust to this year.

“Well, it’s pretty different. Competition is tougher, you know, just everything. It’s different,” Suarez explained. “I’m getting used to everything, the team is working very hard to make this transition smooth for myself.”

Though it is too early to tell how this format will affect the rest of the season and ultimately the outcome during the playoffs for the championship, Stenhouse believes it is already a vast improvement from last year’s points system.

“I think the stages are playing out great,” he said. “I think it’s been interesting, a great start to this season for NASCAR.”

Vivian Meza is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL VIVIAN AT vivian.meza@popularspeed.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Suarez Broke Through For First Top-10

AVONDALE, Ariz. – As he continues to transition into his first full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season with Joe Gibbs Racing, Daniel Suarez admits the beginning has proven to be difficult.

However, he says that his top-10 finish in Phoenix is just what his No. 19 team needed to get into the rhythm of his rookie year.

“In the last few races, we haven’t struggled, we just didn’t have the speed, and the communication wasn’t great,” Suarez admitted. “We’ve been working very hard trying to keep up communication, and we’ve for sure been getting better.”

In the first three races of the season, the Mexican-born driver struggled to finish in the top 15 with a best finish of 20th in Las Vegas. As he made his return to what he considers to be his hometrack, Suarez says he felt confident in his No. 19 Arris Toyota.

“I felt very good about the car, I felt like we were going to have a shot to have some fun in the race, and I wasn’t wrong,” he added.

Starting 27th, Suarez ran within the mid-20s throughout most of the Camping World 500 before maneuvering his way through the pack to finish in seventh on Sunday.

“Position was really important. Once I started getting that track position I think we were in better shape,” Suarez said. “We got some track position there in the end, and we were able to overcome to get a good result.”

Suarez hopes to carry the momentum into Auto Club Speedway this weekend, where he finished in the top five in the XFINITY Series TreatMyClot.com 300 last year.

“We just need to keep focused, keep working and keep trying,” he said about the upcoming races. “What we’re doing with hard work is slowly paying back.”

Vivian Meza is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL VIVIAN AT vivian.meza@popularspeed.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

Wallace Gets Third Straight Top-10 Finish

AVONDALE, Ariz. – After an unfortunate start to the season with an accident in the Powershares QQQ 300 that left him in 33rd place, Darrell Wallace Jr. has made an impressive comeback finishing sixth in each of his last three races.

The driver of the No. 6 Ford said that after being eliminated in last season’s playoffs when another crash ended his run in the Ticket Galaxy 200 at Phoenix, his focus going into this season was “not living on the past.”

“We’ve made some good changes with personnel, equipment, everything coming into this season. I think that’s what has helped out a lot, just letting last year be last year,” he said.

After seeing how competitive the field will be this season at Daytona, Wallace said he and his team have been working to keep the car balanced and to maintain consistency on the track. Although it’s still early in the season, he’s already thinking about what will bring his Roush Fenway Racing team the most success, especially with the new points system being implemented in the races this year.

“As long as we keep top six-ing them to death, it’s what we need to just stay right there in the hunt,” Wallace explained. “We still got a little bit of speed to be gained to be a frontrunner, but we’re getting there.”

Next stop for Wallace in the West Coast swing is Auto Club Speedway, where he finished third last year in the TreatMyClot.com 300.

“The biggest thing is trying to get some front grip, get your car working really well, get a good balance, have some decent speed and continue on,” he said about competing in the 300-mile event next weekend.

Last year, Wallace and fellow driver Ryan Blaney made headlines with their hilarious antics on their drive to California from the race in Phoenix. When asked if fans would get to see something like that this week, Wallace mentioned that NASCAR asked the pair if they could top last year’s success.

“Good luck topping that. We’ll see, we’re always coming up with something good.”

Vivian Meza is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL VIVIAN AT vivian.meza@popularspeed.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

David Starr To Drive for B.J. McLeod Motorsports at Daytona

Last minute entries for Daytona continue to file in as David Starr announced he will be piloting the No. 99 Chevy Camaro for B.J. McLeod Motorsports in the NASCAR XFINITY Series season opener this Saturday.

Striping Technology L.P., a Tyler, company that specializes in liquid striping application for roads and highways, pavement marking installation and removal, and other road maintenance services, will serve as the primary sponsor for the team.

“All of us at Striping Technology couldn’t be more proud to sponsor David and the #99 Team. He’s such a positive role model and representative for our company on and off the track,” said Striping Technology President Linda Rudd.

“It’s an honor to have our long-term partner and friend, Linda Rudd of Striping Technology, on the car to kick-off the 2017 NASCAR XFINITY season,” added Starr.

Though best known for his success in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with fours wins, 48 top-fives and 117 top-tens in 317 starts in the series, Starr isn’t precisely a newcomer to the XFINITY Series.

The 48-year-old made his debut in the series with Day Enterprises, piloting their No. 16 Pontiac at Talladega in 2000. Most recently, Starr competed full-time last season in the No. 44 Toyota Camry for Tri-Star Motorsports. He finished 16th in the standings and currently holds two top-tens in 97 races in his career in the series.

Starr will be just one of three drivers competing in a Chevy Camaro on behalf of B.J. McLeod Motorsports: the other two include Jeff Green in the No. 8 and Clint King in the No. 78.

The green flag for the XFINITY Series opener, the Powershares 300, will wave Saturday at 3:30 PM ET.

Vivian Meza is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL VIVIAN AT vivian.meza@popularspeed.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

Brennan Poole Entering 2017 with Confidence

PHOENIX, Ariz. – Having just completed his first full season in the NASCAR XFINITY Series in which he garnered in an impressive four top-fives and 17 top-tens, Brennan Poole is more confident than ever to begin the new season.

“I have a better understanding of what I need out of my racecars and out of my team. I’ll kind of lead them in the direction to give us the best racecar,” Poole said.

The Woodlands, Texas, native will be driving  the No. 48 Chevy for Chip Ganassi Racing once again this year, alongside teammate Kyle Larson who drives the No. 42 Chevy. Poole says that Larson, who competes in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, has a mentor for him.

“He’s been a great teammate the last couple of years and helped me step my learning curve up,” he said. “I’m at a point now where I can run in the top five. I was a top-10 car at the end of the year every week and Kyle helped me a lot.”

This season, Poole will be gaining a new teammate with CGR’s addition of Tyler Reddick, who will be sharing the No. 42 Camaro in the NASCAR XFINITY Series with Larson. Reddick spent the last two years in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driving for Brad Keselowski Racing.

“Tyler has proven he can win at the truck level. I certainly believe he is going to have speed in the XFINITY Series. I think he’ll be a great teammate to lean on throughout the year,” Poole added.

Along with changes within the team, there are changes in the sport with the new “enhancements”, which include breaking the race into stages. Poole mentioned the key to winning the stages will be maintaining aggression on the track at all times.

“I think a lot of the crew chiefs will struggle trying to figure out how these stages will break down. If you get a caution in the middle of a stage, do you pit or do you keep your track position? What do you do? I think that’s going to mix it up and you’re going to have to make some aggressive decisions at times to win one of the stages,” he explained.

Although his focus at the moment is geared towards running well and winning as much as possible this year in the XFINITY Series, Poole says that he would still love to make the leap into Cup racing.

“When I feel like I’ve earned that right to move forward,” Poole said. “Obviously it’s my dream and hopefully I’ll make that jump.”

Poole will kick off his season competing in the Powershares 300 in Daytona next Saturday, and though it’s too early to tell who will be the drivers to watch this year, Poole is confident in what he and the No. 48 team can do.

“I really think we’ll put ourselves in position to win some of these stages and get some bonus points and also get ourselves in a position to battle for a championship at Homestead.”

Vivian Meza is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL VIVIAN AT vivian.meza@popularspeed.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
News

PIR Announces Groundbreaking Changes to the Track

PHOENIX, Ariz. – After over fifty years of providing the Valley of The Sun with exceptional racing, Phoenix International Raceway announced Monday that significant changes would be coming to the track in 2018. In a project officially Phoenix Raceway Project Powered by DC Solar, the changes are expected to enhance the experiences of both the drivers and fans alike.

“The track has been here for a while, and I think it’s evolved overtime, but it’s time to really take a huge leap,” said Lesa France Kennedy, Executive Officer of the International Speedway Corporation.

Having opened it’s doors back in 1964 with the primary intention of hosting IndyCar races, the track began as a two and a half-mile road course nestled in the hills of Avondale. Years later in 1991, it was transformed into the mile and a half tri-oval it is today, a venue perfect for NASCAR races. Since then, the only adjustments made to the track have been additions to the grandstands, a repavement of the track, and the installment of solar-powered lights provided by DC Solar, the company that is sponsoring the track’s newest project.

“Parts of the track aged and were below where it needs to be,” said Bryan Sperber, President of PIR. “This was something we started looking at about five years ago.”

The $178 million project will include a variety of amenities to not only create a more fan-friendly atmosphere but also make the track more accessible. Elevators will be added, and tunnels that were previously out of use will be reopened to make it easier for all fans to enter the grandstands and enjoy the races. A first-of-its-kind Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Garage Fan Zone will also be added to the infield to give fans a special face-to-face experience with their favorite drivers.

The most talked about change, though, is the new location for the start/finish line. Races will now start and end in a section of the track that has become somewhat of a trademark for PIR: the dogleg.

With this new location, PIR will also be moving the grandstands to surround the dogleg and provide audiences optimal views of the most interesting section of the track.

“I talked to about 30 NASCAR drivers about a year and a half ago about this idea just to see what the feedback would be. Universally, it was very positive. ‘Cool’ and ‘awesome’ were used the most and that gave us the confidence that we might be onto something,” Sperber said on the decision to move the start/finish line in such a unique spot.

One such driver to provide support for this particular change was the driver of the No. 22 Ford for Team Penske, Joey Logano, who was in attendance when the project was announced.

“I think the racing gets better where the start/finish line is,” Logano said. “If I could put it anywhere I wanted that’s where I’d put it to make the most exciting, craziest thing happen as we go into turn one on a restart.”

Though the new location of the start/finish line in the dogleg will provide more room for stock cars to make passes for the finish line, the same can’t be said for IndyCars, the other machines that take over PIR each year.

Reigning Indy 500 Champion Alexander Rossi said that though he isn’t yet sure of how the change will affect competing at the track in the IndyCar Series, he agrees with Logano that the beginning and end of the race will be more exciting.

“It’s unlike anything else, so I don’t think any of us really know exactly what it will be because [PIR] is the first track to be doing this and it’s very inventive and I’m excited to get started,” Rossi added.

Fans can learn more about the Phoenix Raceway Project Powered by DC Solar and obtain news, updates, and alerts by visiting www.phoenixraceway.com.

Vivian Meza is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL VIVIAN AT vivian.meza@popularspeed.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
News

Gordon Wins Overall Rolex 24 Title

Jeff Gordon, along with Wayne Taylor Racing teammates Max Angelelli, Jordan and Ricky Taylor, led the No. 10 Cadillac to its first successful run in the 55th Rolex 24 since 2005 at Daytona International Speedway.

The win comes as a sweet relief for the Taylor brothers, who failed to take home the checkered flag in last years event, and as a great end to an illustrious career for Angelelli, who insists this event will serve as his final race before retiring.

Although it’s another great victory to tack on to his list of Daytona 500’s and NASCAR championships, Gordon says victory in an event he failed to win in 2007 with the Taylor team is an exceptional feat unlike any other.

“I haven’t been this emotional for a win and an experience like this for a very long time,” Gordon said. “The reason is because I know what this means to this team, Wayne, these kids, Max. Oh my gosh. This is amazing — Daytona has always been special, but this one sent me over the top. I’m just blown away right now.”

However, it wasn’t a spotless victory for the Taylor team.

“I had the experience of being in the wet, and I couldn’t see anything. It was a hard — it was very hard to feel the car, let alone push it,” Gordon said of his own struggles in the cold and rainy conditions that led to a lengthy full-course caution period during his segment of the race.

After winning the second and third sections of the event, the foursome entered the final six hours with a one-point lead over the No. 5 Mustang Express team.

In the last hour of the event, with the Express team in the lead, Ricky Taylor made what is being considered a controversial pass, but nonetheless put the No. 10 at the front of the pack.

When Taylor made a final attempt at a pass on driver Filipe Albuquerque, with the No. 10 traveling on the inside of the No. 5, it wasn’t clear if he could make the pass cleanly. The two vehicles ended up making contact, sending Albuquerque spinning. Luckily, after the review, no penalty was issued to the No. 10 team.

With such an exciting and amazing race, Gordon was asked if he would compete in next years event, to which he replied, “I’m kind of like Max. I mean, I think retiring and going out on top is a pretty good thing… [but] it was a better experience than I even had in 2007, which was a good one. So who knows, maybe there’s the chance of one being even smoother and better.”

With this victory, Gordon joins Mario Andretti, AJ Foyt, and Jamie McMurray as one of the only drivers to ever win both the Daytona 500 and the Rolex 24, making this memorable victory all the more historical.

Vivian Meza is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL VIVIAN AT vivian.meza@popularspeed.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

A Flip Through Carl Edwards’ Career

Once a substitute teacher in Missouri who had big dreams of becoming a professional race car driver, Carl Edwards can now boast about an illustrious 15-year career in NASCAR.

The Columbia, Missouri, native began working towards his dream when, after just three semesters in engineering at the University of Missouri, he decided to leave school and pursue the career he wanted most in life.

Like many success stories, Edwards road towards competing in NASCAR was wrought with challenges, including making sure the right people took notice of who he was and what he was capable of. Edwards even went so far as to personally hand out business cards to other racing teams and offer up his services. He was adamant about achieving his dream, though, and he knew what lay ahead of him.

“First time I stepped on the throttle of my dad’s race car, I mean, I thought I was the greatest driver ever, and about a half second later I pulled my foot right off, and I couldn’t get it to go back down,” Edwards said. “I thought, man, this is going to be tough.”

His first big break came in 2002 when he began competing for MB Motorsports in the Truck Series. Out of the seven races he ran, his best finish was eighth at Kansas Speedway. It was enough, though, to capture the attention of Jack Roush, and become a full-time Truck Series driver for Roush Racing in 2003.

His first career win came at Kentucky Speedway in the Built Ford Tough 225. As he was celebrating, he back-flipped off of his car in order to save himself from a potential fall, and the rest is history as the flip became his trademark.

Edwards went on to win two more races that season, along with Rookie of the Year honors. It was clear then there was no telling how far the talented driver from humble beginnings could go in the sport.

Throughout his 15-year career, Edwards said he accomplished more than he could have ever dreamed of.

He made history early on in 2005 while he was competing full-time in both the Cup and Busch (now XFINITY) Series when he won the Aaron’s 312 and the Golden Corral 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, becoming the first driver ever to win a race in both series in the same weekend. He went on to be named Rookie of the Year in the Busch Series that season.

In 2007, he found success again in the Busch Series when he clinched the series championship.

The next year, Edwards earned a career high of nine race wins in a single season, though it still was not enough to earn him the Sprint Cup Series Championship that would continue to elude him throughout the rest of his career.

In 2009, Edwards was met with hardship again when he experienced a fourth winless season. Though it wasn’t an easy struggle to handle, it was at times like these that he realized that his passionate trove of fans were a part of his team.

“They were a part of what I do… I’ve learned to really, really appreciate the fans,” he said.

Later in 2011, after many triumphs and trials, the driver of the No. 99 Ford won the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, a highlight in a season in which he lost the championship once more after an incredibly tight points battle with Tony Stewart.

After his move to Joe Gibbs Racing, the now driver of the No. 19 Toyota came oh so close to the Championship title the past two years , finishing fifth and fourth respectively in the standings.

After 15 years, 72 NASCAR national series combined wins, and 10 career Chase berths in the NASCAR Cup Series, Carl Edwards announced he will no longer compete full-time. While he was unable to win a championship, despite having been so close so many times, the 37-year-old says he is content with how far he has come in the sport.

“Everybody… has worked hard at something and been nervous and insecure but kept digging and learned all those lessons, and then you get to a point where you’re like, I’ve done this. This is great. That is way more than I ever expected,” he said.

Many fans, drivers, and public figures in the sport have expressed their sadness over the Edward’s decision to walk away from racing, as well as their appreciation for the driver, including CEO and Chairman of NASCAR Brian France.

“His hard-charging driving style has led to memorable moments that will live forever in the history of our sport,” France said in an official statement. “Carl’s passion and personality will greatly be missed – as will the signature back-flips that NASCAR fans have come to expect following his victories.”

Despite walking away from the sport indefinitely, Edwards refuses to call this his official retirement from NASCAR.

“Who knows what the future holds,” Edwards added. “If anybody has any ideas, I’m open, and I’ll see you guys around.”

Vivian Meza is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL VIVIAN AT vivian.meza@popularspeed.com

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