Carl Edwards returns to Phoenix, site of his first asphalt race

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AVONDALE, Ariz. — Carl Edwards ran his first pavement race in 2001, and it came at Phoenix International Raceway. The car was different than what he pilots now, but the thrill was the same.

Edwards’ first start came in a USAC Silver Crown car, and it was terrifying.

“I remember the first lap here,” Edwards said Friday. “It was amazing. Petrifying, really, is probably the simplest way to describe it.”

“You run down into Turn 1 in a Silver Crown car that some idiot would set up — which would be me — and have no clue what would happen. And then you go screaming down the backstretch.”

Edwards finished 19th in that race behind winner Paul White and one spot behind fellow NASCAR driver J.J. Yeley. Kasey Kahne was also in that field of 30 cars and narrowly missed the top 10 in 11th.

“Anybody who’s driven a Silver Crown car here knows what I’m talking about,” Edwards said. “It feels like you are sitting in a chair with a rocket strapped to it. You’re screaming down the backstretch, and you’re shaking, and your head’s buffeting in the wind.”

But there was one good outcome for Edwards: He developed a taste for paved racing.

“It was a turning point in my career,” he said.

Edwards’ first Sprint Cup start here came three years later, and he did not fare much better. He finished 37th in the November 2004 race at Phoenix.

Edwards ran the sixth-fastest lap in the first practice session for Sunday’s Good Sam 500. He has two wins on the 1-mile oval, with the most recent coming in six races ago.

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