Carl Edwards: Bristol victory means more risks and fewer consequences


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.”

Alpha Prime Racing’s road woes don’t keep team from competing


SONOMA, Calif. — Alpha Prime Racing owner Tommy Joe Martins laughs. He can. His Xfinity Series cars all are here at Sonoma Raceway.

At one point last week, it was not certain if his team’s cars would make it to Portland International Raceway.

“It was probably the toughest professional week I’ve had of my NASCAR career,” Martins told NBC Sports on Friday at Sonoma.

MORE: Kyle Larson leads Xfinity practice at Sonoma

The Alpha Prime Racing team had both its trucks break down and one of its haulers have mechanical issues last week on the way to the Pacific Northwest.

“We basically sent four pieces of equipment on the road and three of them broke,” Martins said.

For a time, the car Sage Karam is driving this weekend at Sonoma was left in a hauler in Kansas City because there wasn’t room in the dually Martins sent. It had room only for the car that was needed at Portland and other equipment. Karam’s car, which was to be a backup at Portland, was left behind.

“It’s a very helpless feeling when you feel like your stuff is stuck on the side of the road,” Martins said.

He still has one truck still in St. Louis and another in Oregon. Martins estimates the mechanical issues will cost his team about $50,000 when everything is totaled.

Trouble started well before the team left its Mooresville, North Carolina, race shop for Portland.

The Xfinity Series race at Charlotte was scheduled to run May 27. Rain forced that event to be rescheduled to May 29. Martins said the team had planned to send its trucks to Portland on May 28. With the race pushed back to the 29th, the travel schedule tightened.

It got worse.

After the Xfinity race started, rain came. With the Coca-Cola 600 scheduled for 3 p.m. ET that day – after being delayed by rain from Sunday – the rest of the Xfinity race was pushed back until after the 600. That further tightened the window on Xfinity teams to make it to Portland.

The Xfinity race ended around 11:30 p.m. ET on May 29. Alpha Prime Racing’s haulers left the shop around 6 a.m. ET on May 30.

The two trucks traveled together until issues in St. Louis.

The truck hauling the Nos. 44 and 45 cars had engine issues in St. Louis. The other truck kept going until it had mechanical issues with its hauler in Kansas City. The air bags on the hauler failed.

So, Alpha Prime Racing had a truck that worked in Kansas City with a hauler that didn’t and a truck that didn’t work in St. Louis with a hauler that did.

The truck in Kansas City went back to St. Louis to attach to the hauler and take those cars and equipment to Portland. Martins then had to find something to haul the stranded equipment in Kansas City and a driver. He eventually did. A dually left North Carolina for Kansas City. Once there, what fit in the dually was taken to Portland and what didn’t, including Karam’s Sonoma car stayed behind.

Yet, more trouble was headed for Martins and his team.

The truck that had gone back from Kansas City to St. Louis to take hauler that worked then broke down about 200 miles from Portland.

“I laugh knowing that we’re on the other side of it,” Martins said Friday of all the issues his team had transporting cars and equipment across the country.

“We’ve started to make plans and corrections for it not happening again,” he said.

That hauler that was left in Kansas City? It was repaired and transported to Sonoma, arriving earlier this week.

“Our guys are troopers,” Martins said. “Both of our (truck) drivers were just awesome about the whole thing. … They went through hell week as far as driving somewhere, fly back and pick something up, drive again and now are going to have to do the same thing getting back.”

When the garage opened Friday at Sonoma, Alpha Prime Racing had all its cars.

“I don’t think we had any major issues here, so that was good,” Martins said.

The focus is back on the track. Karam was 24th on the speed chart in Friday’s practice, leading Alpha Prime Racing’s effort. Dylan Lupton was 32nd. Jeffrey Earnhardt was last among 41 cars.

After Saturday night’s race, the team heads back to North Carolina for a well-earned weekend off.

Kyle Larson leads Xfinity practice at Sonoma


SONOMA, Calif. — Kyle Larson posted the fastest lap in Friday’s Xfinity Series practice at Sonoma Raceway.

This is the first time the series has raced at the 1.99-mile road course in Northern California. Teams got 50 minutes of practice Friday.

Larson led the way with a lap of 90.392 mph. He was more than a second faster than the rest of the field.

MORE: Xfinity practice results Sonoma

Sheldon Creed was second on the speed chart with a lap of 89.066 mph. He was followed by AJ Allmendinger (89.052 mph), Cole Custer (89.020) and Ty Gibbs (88.989).

Larson, Allmendinger and Gibbs are among seven Cup drivers are entered in the Xfinity race. Aric Almirola was seventh on the speed chart with a lap of 88.750 mph. Ross Chastain was ninth with a lap of 88.625 mph. Daniel Suarez was 16th with a lap of 88.300 mph. Ty Dillon was 33rd with a lap of 86.828 mph.

Anthony Alfredo will go to a backup car after a crash in practice. He was uninjured in the incident that damaged the right side of his car.

Qualifying is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET Saturday. The race is scheduled to begin at 8:20 p.m. ET Saturday.

Anthony Alfredo’s car after a crash in Xfinity practice Friday at Sonoma Raceway. He was uninjured. (Photo: Dustin Long)

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


The Xfinity Series will compete for the first time at Sonoma Raceway this weekend. This is one of eight road course events on the Xfinity schedule this season.

Seven Cup drivers are scheduled to compete in Saturday’s race, including AJ Allmendinger, Kyle Larson and Daniel Suarez, who won last year’s Cup race at this track Allmendinger has won 11 of 25 career road course starts in the Xfinity Series.

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Sonoma Raceway

(All times Eastern)

START: Golden State Warrior Patrick Baldwin Jr. will give the command to start engines at 8:08 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled to wave at 8:20 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 1 p.m. … Qualifying begins at 3 p.m. … Driver introductions begin at 7:35 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Earl Smith, team pastor for the Golden State Warriors and San Francisco 49ers, at 8 p.m. … The national anthem will be performed by 9-year-old Isis Mikayle Castillo at 8:01 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 79 laps (156.95 miles) on the 1.99-mile road course.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 20. Stage 2 ends at Lap 45.

STARTING LINEUP: Qualifying begins at 3 p.m. Saturday

TV/RADIO: FS1 will broadcast the race at 8 p.m. ... Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. … Performance Racing Network coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. and can be heard on … SiriusXN NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Mostly cloudy with a high of 72 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: This is the first time the Xfinity Series has raced at Sonoma.


NASCAR Friday schedule at Sonoma Raceway


The Xfinity Series makes its first appearance Friday at Sonoma Raceway.

Xfinity teams, coming off last weekend’s race at Portland International Raceway, get 50 minutes of practice Friday because Sonoma is a new venue for the series.

Seven Cup drivers, including Kyle Larson and Daniel Suarez, are among those entered in the Xfinity race. Suarez won the Cup race at Sonoma last year.

Xfinity teams will qualify and race Saturday at the 1.99-mile road course.

Sonoma Raceway


Friday: Mostly cloudy with a high of 69 degrees.

Friday, June 9

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 11 a.m. — ARCA Menards Series West
  • 1 – 10 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 2 – 3 p.m. — ARCA West practice
  • 3:10 – 3:30 p.m. — ARCA West qualifying
  • 4:05 – 4:55 p.m. — Xfinity practice (FS1)
  • 6:30 p.m. — ARCA West race (64 laps, 127.36 miles; live on FloRacing, will air on CNBC at 11:30 a.m. ET on June 18)