Carl Edwards' last win in a NASCAR Sprint Cup race came a year ago at this time at Charlotte Motor Speedway, site of Saturday night's All-Star event. Unfortunately, All-Star weekend is a non-points event on the NASCAR schedule, which may have contributed to Edwards' runner-up finish to Tony Stewart last season in the Chase for the Cup Championship, negating a win that would have awarded Edwards his first Sprint Cup title.
Edwards' last victory in a points-awarding Sprint Cup race was at Las Vegas in March 2011. Since then, he has gone 44 races without visiting Victory Lane.
Asked last weekend at the Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, where Edwards finished seventh, what his prospects were for this year's All-Star race, the Columbia, Mo., native said he really didn't know. The driver of the No. 99 Ford for Roush-Fenway wasn't being flip. His hesitation had to do with the changes in the race format being introduced this year.
Instead of two 40-lap segments, this year's All-Star race has been divided into four shorter, 20-lap segments over the 1.5-mile Charlotte race layout. Those four preliminary races will be followed by a 10-lap shootout to determine the overall winner. There will be a mandatory pit stop before the 10-lap finale. The winners of the four preliminary races will be given the advantage of entering and leaving pit road ahead of the rest of the field.
The All-Star lineup consists of 20 drivers. The drivers who did not qualify for the All-Star preliminary segments will face each other in a 40-lap Showdown event. The top two-finishers in the Showdown plus the winner of the Sprint Fan vote will join the All-Star field for the 10-lap championship shootout.
After apprised of the new All-Star race rules, Edwards, who qualified 13th, just behind fellow hometown favorite Clint Bower (that one-two order seems to keep happening to these two drivers, although usually in the final results), reportedly got a big smile on his face and said, "Oh, that's cool."
"That's going to make those first races really important," Edwards said. "We started first or second in the last segment last time, and that was a huge advantage for us. I don't know if we would have been able to win if we started back in the pack."
Kyle Bush of Joe Gibbs Racing will be on the pole for Saturday's All-Star race. This will be his third pole at this race, but he has yet to grab an All-Star victory. Bush said he wants to start fast and win the first segment.
"If you win that first segment, that sets your pace for the whole night," he said.
Ryan Newman will start in the second position for the Charlotte All-Star race. Busch's Gibbs' teammate Denny Hamlin will be third and Greg Biffle, a teammate of Edwards, will start from the fourth position.
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