Carl Edwards: Bristol victory means more risks and fewer consequences

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With a NASCAR playoff spot virtually secured via a victory at Bristol Motor Speedway, Carl Edwards won’t be relaxing at Richmond International Raceway this weekend.

The mood around his No. 19 Toyota figures to be more happy-go-lucky both on and off the track, though.

The pressure is off because the punishment of a poor regular-season result is gone, too.

“It’s hard to describe,” Edwards said Tuesday morning during The Morning Drive on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “It’s not a lack of effort. It gives you an opportunity to have less consequences to try the things you want to try.

“At Richmond, without a win, if we’re running sixth, and there’s a stop with 10 (laps) to go, you don’t know whether to roll the dice because you could fall back, lose points and affect the season.”

In Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400, there now is little doubt that Edwards and crew chief Dave Rogers will gamble in seeking the driver’s second victory at the 0.75-mile oval. Because a win qualifies a driver for the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Edwards almost assuredly will be eligible for a championship run for the fifth consecutive season regardless of what happens in the next 18 regular-season races.

“Now we’ve got the win, we can really go for it,” Edwards said. “We can put out more effort and worry less about the consequences. We can take chances and try some things on the car and in the car with restarts (and) different lines. There’s less consequences. You can let it hang out more, which is really a lot of fun.”

It also could mean decreased pressure for his pit crew, which was under scrutiny at Bristol after a loose wheel in the previous race at Texas Motor Speedway cost Edwards a shot at a victory.

With much debate in NASCAR about whether teams should gamble on tightening fewer than five lug nuts to save time and gain positions in the pits, Edwards said ignorance is bliss for a driver.

“I trust my guys,” he said. “If they feel comfortable they got the wheel on there well, I’m better off to say ‘OK, that’s great.’ I don’t want to know whether it’s three, four, five (lug nuts). I’m going to assume it’s five. I don’t even want to think about it. As long as they don’t shake and fall off and we don’t have failures, I’m OK with it.”

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver, though, can relate to Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s blunt assessment that the possibility of fewer lug nuts “freaks me out.”

“I know exactly what Dale is saying,” Edwards said. “No one wants to feel a loose wheel and have it fall off. It can cause a lot of trouble.

“In a way, this originated with NASCAR wanting to have less people down there on pit road for a number of reasons. They said, ‘Look, you do whatever you want. If the wheel falls off, it’s going to be a big penalty.’ When you feel something loose, the first thing I do is ask Dave, ‘Hey, I think I got a wheel loose, what do you got?’ He looks down at (rear tire changer) Kip Wolfmeir and (front tire changer) Clay Robinson and says how we doing? If they say, ‘Eh, I don’t know about that,’ Dave’s going to tell me that, and I get to make the decision.”

Of course, the stress doesn’t end there if a driver pits, and the wheel isn’t loose after all.

“It does make it harder for the driver because you have ruined the day,” he said. “You have really screwed it up. And now you know going in there might only be 3-4 lug nuts on that thing. It probably makes you more likely to pull (into the pits), regardless of whether it’s real or not.”

Loose wheels aren’t the only major variable at Richmond, which will play host to a scheduled race on Sunday afternoon for the first time in nearly 20 years.

Though a few races have been postponed to daytime from Saturday night, this will mark the first time that teams are preparing all weekend for a daytime start since March 2, 1997. There also will be a new tire compound making its debut.

“It’s kind of neat to race in the daytime,” said Edwards, whose average RIR finish is 14th in 23 starts. “If the sun is out and 70 degrees, I think it’ll make the track slick, it’ll widen out, it’ll be more fun to drive. The lower downforce package has been fun all year, and Goodyear has been able to make tires that actually fall off and put a little strategy into it. I’d heard the groove even widened during the test (at Richmond), so I’m excited about the possibility of three-wide racing.”

Saturday NASCAR schedule at Talladega Superspeedway

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Both the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series will race Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway.

Cup cars will start the day’s action by qualifying for Sunday’s playoff race, followed by the Truck playoff race and then the Xfinity playoff race.

Talladega Superspeedway (Cup, Xfinity and Truck)

Weekend weather

Saturday: Sunny. High of 78.

Saturday, Oct. 1

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 9:30 a.m. — Truck Series
  • 1 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 10:30 a.m. – Noon — Cup Series qualifying (NBC Sports app, Motor Racing Network, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio)
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series race (94 laps, 250 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 4 p.m. — Xfinity Series race (113 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Talladega Xfinity starting lineup: Austin Hill wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — Austin Hill will lead the field to the green flag Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway after scoring his first career Xfinity Series pole.

Hill won the pole Friday with a lap of 182.036 mph. He will be joined on the front row by fellow playoff contender Ty Gibbs (181.981 mph).

MORE: Talladega Xfinity starting lineup

Playoff drivers will start in seven of the top eight spots. The exception is Sheldon Creed, who will start third after a lap of 181.870 mph. Hill and Creed give Richard Childress Racing the first and third starting spots.

Justin Allgaier (181.529) qualified fourth and Brandon Jones (181.305) completed the top five. Noah Gragson, who has won four races in a row, starts sixth after a lap of 181.134 mph and is followed by playoff drivers Josh Berry (181.052) and AJ Allmendinger (180.932).

The Xfinity Series race is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET Saturday on USA Network.

Talladega Truck starting lineup: John Hunter Nemechek wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — John Hunter Nemechek will start on the pole for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race.

Nemechek earned the pole with a lap of 178.767 mph.

Nemechek is one of four playoff drivers starting in the top six: Chandler Smith (second, 177.732 mph), Zane Smith (fourth, 177.061) and Ty Majeski (sixth, 176.744). Majeski clinched a spot in next month’s championship race at Phoenix with his Bristol win.

MORE: Talladega Truck starting lineup

Also qualifying in the top five were Carson Hocevar (177.068) in third and Matt Crafton (176.960) in fifth.

Failing to qualify are Tim Viens, Spencer Boyd, Jason White and Natalie Decker.

Saturday Talladega Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather

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The second race of the opening round of the Xfinity playoffs takes drivers to Talladega Superspeedway.

Noah Gragson secured his spot in the next round by winning last weekend at Texas. Ryan Sieg holds the final transfer spot. Riley Herbst is the first driver below the cutline, one point behind Sieg. Also below the cutline are reigning series champion Daniel Hemric (-8 points), Brandon Jones (-12) and Jeremy Clements (-28).

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 4:09 p.m. … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:21 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 1 p.m. … Driver introductions are at 3:30 p.m. … The invocation will be given at 4 p.m. … The Brookwood High School choir will perform the anthem at 4:02 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 113 laps (300.58 miles) on the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 25. Stage 2 ends at Lap 50.

TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 4 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 3:30 p.m. on USA Network. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. and also will stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Sunny with a high of 78 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Noah Gragson won and was followed by Jeffrey Earnhardt and AJ Allmendinger.