Saturday's roundup: Edwards looks for 1st win at Vegas
Las Vegas — Only two races into his new job, Carl Edwards is quickly finding his footing at Joe Gibbs Racing.
He left Roush Fenway Racing, where he spent the first 11 years of his career, to drive a new fourth car this season at Gibbs. The move reunited him former Roush teammate Matt Kenseth, who has helped in Edwards' transition to a new organization.
"I thought it would be harder to find my place, but it's really simple," Edwards said. "Everybody is extremely open in the debriefs. It's pretty amazing. I've already learned a ton about the guys' different driving styles. There's a lot of information sharing between the drivers."
Edwards is teamed with Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch, who was injured on the season-opening weekend and is out indefinitely. But Busch's replacement is former Roush driver David Ragan, who gives Edwards a second familiar face to work with.
Now Edwards hopes to find fast success at JGR, perhaps beginning Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where he's a two-time winner.
He has talked with new crew chief Darian Grubb about the importance of getting a win early in the season to lock down a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, something Edwards did last year when he won in March at Bristol.
"If we can win anytime, at the point at which we feel like we're locked in to the Chase, it definitely allows you to take gambles," Edwards said. "It's more fun to race that way, too, so this format allows guys that have wins to do that. Darian and I talked about it early, before the year even started.
"Whatever we can do to get wins early so that we can go out there and be aggressive, get those bonus points and really just have more fun racing, that's what we want to do."
Edwards, who will start 14th Sunday, would like to mimic the success Kenseth had two years ago when he moved to JGR. Kenseth picked up his first victory for Gibbs at Las Vegas, and went on to win seven more races and finish second in the championship standings.
He believes the move to JGR has been the right decision for his career and for Edwards personally.
"I believe that change in itself is good because it puts a lot of pressure on you," Edwards said. "That's a motivator and for me it's an opportunity right now. I'm way outside of my comfort zone and that's good. Hopefully it yields good results."
Jeff Gordon crashed during the final practice before Sunday's race, and his pole-winning car was damaged enough that Hendrick Motorsports pulled out a backup Chevrolet.
Gordon had won the pole, but will have to drop to the rear of the field at the start of the race because he changed cars. It was the first career pole at Las Vegas for the four-time champion.
The accident happened in the final minutes of Saturday practice when Danica Patrick spun in front of him and Gordon was unable to avoid her car. Gordon's car suffered heavy damage to the nose and right rear.
Hendrick Motorsports did not have time to get the backup car on the track. The backup was used last year at Chicago, Charlotte and Texas.
"Just when u think everything is starting to go your way 10 spins in front of u & ruins ur day," Gordon tweeted, referring to his crashes in the first two races of the season.
No Busch brothers
There will not be a Busch brother in the field at Las Vegas, their home track, for the first time in 14 years Sunday.
Kyle Busch broke his right leg and left foot in a crash last month in Daytona and is sidelined indefinitely. Older brother Kurt has been suspended by NASCAR for an alleged domestic assault on his ex-girlfriend.
The Las Vegas natives have flourished in their home city in the past, and only four previous races at the speedway did not include one of the Busch's in the field.
Kurt Busch is participating in a road to reinstatement program laid out by NASCAR that could get him back in the car as early as next week.
Brett Moffitt will start 36th on Sunday in the first of his three scheduled starts for Front Row Motorsports.
The 22-year-old was lauded last week for an eighth-place finish at Atlanta, where he was the substitute driver for Brian Vickers. It opened the door for a three-race opportunity with Front Row, which is borrowing Moffitt from Michael Waltrip Racing.
Front Row needed a driver because it loaned David Ragan to Joe Gibbs Racing to replace the injured Kyle Busch.
"Our biggest goal with this is to get more seat time in racing conditions," Moffitt said. "Last year, I ran seven races with Jay Robinson Racing, and that was good experience as far as track time goes, but it really wasn't the competitive level I needed to be at.
"This opportunity with Front Row Motorsports will be a car that we can go out there and compete with other cars, race inside the top-25."
Austin Dillon dominated the Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where he still had to hold off a hard-charging Ryan Blaney to wrap up the win Saturday.
Dillon led 183 of the 200 laps, but Blaney used fresh tires to chase down Dillon in the closing laps. Dillon needed to use a block with two laps to go to prevent Blaney from passing him for the lead.
Blaney followed Dillon around the track for the final lap, but he bobbled coming out of the third turn to end any shot of winning the race.
Dillon then cruised to the checkered flag, the third win of his career. His other two victories were in 2012 when he ran full-time in the series.