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Carl Edwards gutted after another home-track victory slips away

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. – With a steely smile and stiff upper lip, Carl Edwards politely weaved through throngs of longtime friends and well-wishers, flagging down Kevin Harvick’s car at the victory lane gate.

Edwards leaned through the window to offer a lengthy congratulations and then graciously completed the rest of his postrace interviews.

He delivered a good-natured slap on Kansas Speedway president Pat Warren’s shoulder with a “thanks for everything,” joked with Austin Dillon about his playoff beard and stopped when a member of the track’s color guard asked him for a selfie before exiting the media center.

“Yeah, let’s do it,” Edwards said.

Outwardly, the Columbia, Mo., native, who started his career on short tracks across Kansas and Missouri, seemed to be handling his runner-up finish to Harvick in the Hollywood Casino 400 – the hometown race Edwards desperately wants to win even more than the Daytona 500.

But looks were deceiving.

“I’d rather not talk about that,” Edwards said with a half-smile that seemed to indicate his joke was a half-truth. “It’s tough. There’s so many people that come to this racetrack that support me and have supported me. Not just when I’m racing here, but Capitol Speedway, Old Summit, Callaway Raceway, Godfrey, all these places I raced growing up. It’s a really special place for me.

“As much fun as I had racing up front, yeah, it stings. There are negative emotions tied to not winning here with that fast of a car, but that’s the way it goes.”

Edwards led 61 laps and was in first on a restart with 30 laps remaining when he lost the lead to Harvick.

After slipping to third behind Kyle Busch, he furiously battled by his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate for a second – the same place he finished to Jimmie Johnson at the 1.5-mile oval eight years ago.

This didn’t have the same dramatic ending – Edwards slapped the turn 4 wall on the last lap while attempting an optimist slide job on Johnson – “both of them were pretty painful.

“I was pretty sure we were in control of the race,” he said. “I felt really good about it. That race here in 2008 with Jimmie, I felt like we were really in control of that one. We let that one go, too.

“These I remember more just because they are so special. Fortunately, we get to race here twice now every year so I cannot wait to come back again. I wish we could line the cars back up again and go, but I’ll wait. Just like anything, you learn from your wins, but you probably learn more from your defeats. We’ll go back and look at that restart.”

Harvick, who has been working on honing his restart technique for a year, timed the green flag perfectly in his No. 4 Chevrolet, leaving Edwards’ No. 19 Toyota in the dust with a push from Johnson’s No. 48 Chevy.

“I think the key to the restart was just timing,” Harvick said. “The rest of it we’ll keep to ourselves.”

The other key was Edwards’ battle with Busch, which chewed up too many of the remaining 30 laps to make a run at Harvick.

“I knew if I could clear Kyle quickly, I could maybe catch Kevin,” Edwards said. “My car was faster than Kyle’s. He was good there for a lap or two, then I felt like I was quite a bit faster. I just needed to get by him.

“But he was doing his job. He was racing as hard as he could.”

Though teammate Matt Kenseth led a race-high 116 laps from the pole position, Edwards said his Camry was the best of the day after qualifying second.

“That’s what’s frustrating,” he said. “You should win with the fastest car, especially when you start on the front row. I take responsibility for that. I could have done something different on that restart, possibly hung on, and I wouldn’t have been in that position.

“But, man, I raced as hard as I could all day. We didn’t make hardly any mistakes. So we can keep our heads up.”

He also will enter Talladega Superspeedway in relatively safe position for advancing to the Round of 8. Edwards is 24 points ahead of the current cut line.

“Day or two will pass, maybe the sting will wear off and I’ll be more excited about the points situation going into Talladega,” he said. “Because that’s the bright side.”

My Home Tracks: New Mexico’s the Land of Enchantment and home of Cardinal Speedway

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The state of New Mexico is known more for IndyCar racing, with the Unser family being the state’s favorite sons.

Al Unser won four Indianapolis 500s, brother Bobby three and Al’s son Al Jr. a two-time winner (this weekend’s 500 marks the 25th anniversary of Little Al’s second 500 triumph).

But there’s a strong grassroots racing scene in the Land of Enchantment, particularly in the far southeast corner of the state at Cardinal Speedway, a half-mile dirt track in the little town of Eunice.

NASCAR America continues its My Home Track series of 50 states in 50 shows.

Wednesday, we visit New York state.

2018 NASCAR schedule changes: EVP Steve O’Donnell breaks it down (video)

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On Tuesday’s edition of NASCAR America, NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell joined us to discuss the NASCAR Cup schedule changes in 2018, including running a road race at Charlotte and having Indianapolis be the final race before the playoffs.

“I’m real excited about these changes,” said O’Donnell, who cited unprecedented cooperation between NASCAR, its teams, drivers and sponsors to reach agreement on the schedule changes.

Among the key changes: Las Vegas will kick off the 10-race playoffs in 2018 (Chicagoland Speedway, which will have hosted the last seven playoff openers, will return to its more traditional race date in early July/late June and serve as a run-up to the Coke Zero 400 in Daytona.

Several other changes include:

  • The fall playoff race at Charlotte will move up a couple weeks in the schedule and also incorporate competition on both the infield road course and part of the speedway itself.
  • After 14 years as the deciding race to qualify for the NASCAR Cup playoffs, Richmond International Raceway will now become the second race of the playoffs.
  • Indianapolis Motor Speedway will see it’s Brickyard 400 go from late July to become the final qualifying race for the playoffs in early September. While still in the rumor stage, there’s a lot of talk that IMS may change the race to something akin to its Verizon IndyCar Series Indy Grand Prix race in mid-May, where half the race is run on the infield road course and the other half on the traditional racetrack surface.

Catch up on all the changes in the above video.

Tony Stewart pulled over by state trooper, but it’s not for speeding

Photo courtesy Damein Cunningham Twitter account
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Retired NASCAR Cup driver and team co-owner Tony Stewart was stopped by an Illinois State Trooper over the weekend near DeKalb, Ill., about 90 minutes west of Chicago.

But before you think Stewart was stopped for speeding by Trooper Damein Cunningham, he wasn’t.

Rather, Cunningham pulled Stewart over for improper lane usage, although exactly what the infraction was is unclear.

After getting a verbal warning, Stewart gladly posed with Cunningham for a selfie, which the trooper promptly tweeted out.

“Just pulled over NASCAR LEGEND Tony Stewart on I-88 in DeKalb, IL, what you think I got him for? #NASCAR #ISP”

But according to the Chicago Tribune, Cunningham’s bosses apparently didn’t have a sense of humor about the incident or realize the good PR it meant for the Illinois State Police.

That, or they’re not Stewart or NASCAR fans. They ordered Cunningham to delete the tweet, which he did.

It’s unclear what Stewart, who was stopped on his 46th birthday, was doing in the Land of Lincoln.

But his luck went from bad to worse a few hours later. According to USA Today, Stewart and others were stuck in an elevator in a Madison, Wisconsin hotel for about 20 minutes before being rescued by firefighters.

We can just imagine what the elevator riders talked about while trapped.

How much do you want to bet Stewart said, “Man, do I have a story about a cop that I have to tell you.”

Cunningham then posted another tweet on Sunday after attending church services.

 

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All-Star Race will remain at Charlotte in 2018

Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images
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NASCAR confirmed that the All-Star Race will be held again at Charlotte Motor Speedway despite more of a push from competitors and others to move the event.

Criticism was raised after last weekend’s 70-lap event featured only three lead changes. Kyle Busch took the lead on the restart to begin the final 10-lap stage and went on to win. It marked the fourth time in the last five years the All-Star winner led every lap in the final stage. In 12 All-Star Races at Charlotte since the track was repaved, there have been two lead changes in the final five laps.

Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations, was clear in a call with reporters Tuesday that the All-Star Race is set for Charlotte.

“We’ve finished our discussions for ’18,” he said. ” We’ll begin looking at ’19 and beyond in the near future.”

The All-Star Race debuted at Charlotte in 1985, moved to Atlanta in 1986 and returned to Charlotte the following year. It has been held at Charlotte ever since.

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