At first, it seemed like a curious coincidence, but now it has turned into more of a habit. Kansas City-area NASCAR competitors Carl Edwards and Clint Bowyer. The two local drivers, from opposite sides of the Kansas-Missouri state line, know each other well, and as it so happens, they have an uncanny tendency of finishing back to back in their respective stock cars in NASCAR's top racing level, the Sprint Cup Series.
Bowyer came in 10th, and Edwards was right behind, in 11th, in the Goody's Fast Relief 500 Sunday at Martinsville (Virginia) Speedway. No big deal, right? Except that the same two drivers finished back to back, except in reverse order, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the third Sprint Cup race of the current season several weeks ago. At Las Vegas, Edwards and Bowyer posted top-10 finishes, coming in fifth and sixth, respectively.
Bowyer actually could, and probably should, have done better at Martinsville this weekend. Were it not for his ill-fated attempt to get around race leaders Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, going three-wide on the two Hendrick Motorsports cars around Turn 1 on a green-flag restart very late in the race. Bowyer caught Johnson's No. 48 car and all three cars spun, bringing out the seventh caution flag of the race.
Bowyer was in good position to finish in the top three or five and one of only 12 cars to finish on the lead lap at .526-mile Martinsville, NASCAR's shortest track. As it turned out none of the three leaders up to that point would finish in the top five. Bowyer came out the best, finishing 10th. Johnson ended up 12th, behind Edwards, and Gordon was 14th.
Between them, Gordon and Johnson combined to lead 440 of the scheduled 500-lap race. As late as lap 496, three Hendrick cars were in the top three positions, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. running third in the No. 88 Chevrolet.
None of this would seem to matter, except that the same phenomenon occurred on more than a few occasions in the 2011 season - nine times to be precise. On three other times a year ago, Edwards and Bowyer finished within three positions of each other. Six of the nine back-to-back race finishes in 2011 were in the top 10 and on one occasion both drivers finished in the top five in the race results.
The 12 racetracks where Edwards and Bowyer came within three positions of each other in 2011, and nine of which were back-to-back finishes, were Phoenix, Fontana, Texas, Richmond, Dover, Charlotte, Michigan, Sonoma, Indianapolis, Watkins Glen, as well as Kansas and Chicago in the Chase for the Cup (which only Edwards qualified for).
Both drivers are about a year apart in age and in the years they started driving full time in the Sprint Cup Series. Edwards, who hails from Columbia, Mo., is 33 and launched his then-Nextel Cup career in 2004, while Bowyer, from Emporia on the Kansas side, is a year younger and started out in 2005, driving the No. 33 Chevrolet owned by Richard Childress Racing. Bowyer is in his first year in 2012 driving for Michael Waltrip Racing.
We'll follow this situation throughout the current NASCAR season to see if this unusual trend continues. If it does, we'll have to seriously consider the possibility that something very out of the ordinary is going on here and perpetuating this extraordinary set of results.
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