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Track Smack: Edwards, Hendrick missing in Victory Lane

April 19, 2012, , NASCAR.com



Track Smack: Edwards, Hendrick missing in Victory Lane
Topics: Surprising skids heading to Kansas; Truck regulars look to make strides

1. Greg Biffle snapped a 49-race winless streak at Texas. Will Roush Fenway teammate Carl Edwards snap his own 40-race skid this week at Kansas, his home track?

Joe Menzer: Well, well, well. I am so glad this was brought up. Since Mr. Caraviello is in charge of presenting the questions, though, I'm surprised he would bring it up so quickly. Why, you ask? Because it gives me an open door to remind him -- and everyone else -- that I told him during last week's Track Smack that Greg Biffle was going to end his winless streak at Texas. So thank you for giving me the opportunity to remind y'all of that so early in this Smack session.

Mark Aumann: As usual, I'm going to whip out some stats. Drivers who have started every Cup race this season without leading a lap: Michael McDowell, Landon Cassill, David Reutimann, David Gilliland, Casey Mears, Bobby Labonte, Juan Montoya, Kasey Kahne -- and Carl Edwards. I think winning a race is pretty much predicated on leading. And that's something Carl hasn't been able to do a single time in 2012.

David Caraviello: Given that he was in the thick of the championship race all last season, it's somewhat hard to believe that it's been over a year since Carl Edwards has won. He's been so good during so much of that time -- heck, he lost the championship on a tiebreaker, for goodness sake -- that the fact he hasn't been to Victory Lane since Las Vegas in March of last year kind of gets lost. And Joe, less gloating and more answering of the question, how about it?

Mark Aumann: Given that a broken clock is right twice a day, Joe's ESP is only slightly more impressive than that.

Joe Menzer: No, Carl Edwards will not win this week. As Mark just said, he hasn't shown he's ready to win this season -- but of course that's more on his team and equipment than him as a driver. What's odd is that Biffle has been so good -- Kenseth, too -- and they all ride under the same Roush Fenway Racing banner.

David Caraviello: I will say, Carl hasn't seemed like his usual self this season, but to be honest he's had only one really poor finish -- that at Bristol, where he was caught up in an early accident -- and it's dragged him down in the points. So he's been solid much of the year. He just hasn't been able to get up front and contend for race wins, and I don't know that that is going to change in one week. Texas is one of Carl's better tracks, and he finished a solid but quiet eighth, and was never really seen as a contender for the victory.

Mark Aumann: So tell us how you did it, Joe: Tarot cards? Tea leaves? Mind meld? I've seen Joe in a trance before, but that's usually after too many Martinsville hot dogs. I think most of us -- maybe Joe's crystal ball being the exception -- thought Carl was primed for the breakout year. Was it David who wrote about how the championship runners-up seem to suffer a hangover the following year? Boy, it sure seems to be happening to the No. 99 Ford guys so far in 2012.

David Caraviello: But really Mark, the 99 bunch hasn't been that bad. They're 11th in points with one finish worse than 17th. That's much better position than Denny Hamlin was in this time last year. This doesn't look like a hangover to me -- this looks more like they're behind just a little, and trying to find that one piece or two that's making the difference between them and the top contenders this year.

Joe Menzer: Well, I have to admit that Jill Erwin predicted Biff's victory, too. Caraviello was the lone Smack dissenter. But enough of all that ... I'll get back to patting myself on my ample back later. I think David's right for once on his last point. Carl hasn't been a total dog this season. Far from it. He's been solid. But he's been quiet, too, and just hasn't seemed to be fast enough to contend for wins.

Mark Aumann: But seriously, yes, what's the deal? Biffle and Matt Kenseth have shown consistent strength, and yet, Edwards can't get to the front of the field. I don't have an answer. I need to consult my psychic friend.

David Caraviello: From gloating to parroting everything I write. Menzer needs some more original material.

Joe Menzer: OK, that's it. That's the last time I agree with anything either of you guys say! My pick for this weekend (you know you've been wanting it) is ... drum roll, please .... Mr. Greg Biffle. I think he's got a real strong chance of making it two in a row. Once again, Caraviello will probably pick the wrong Roush Fenway driver.

David Caraviello: Mark, it could very well be the fact that Edwards' title hopes went down to the very end last year, so they never really got a chance to work ahead on the next season, which Biffle and Kenseth did. Something like that could have an impact, especially when we're talking about the very small differences between Carl and his teammates this year.

Roush Fenway

Drivers at Kansas
DriverSt.WLedAvg. Fin.
C. Edwards907110.7
M. Kenseth12023618.0

Joe Menzer: Um, didn't Tony Stewart have to race down to the wire last season and make a crew chief change, yet he hasn't missed a beat. Come on!

Mark Aumann: There's the thing -- Edwards seems to get into these winless streaks. Wasn't there once a deal with his hauler driver not shaving until he won again? Boy, the poor guy would look like a ZZ Top frontman by now. But when Carl wins, he wins in bunches. And what's more surprising -- the fact that Edwards led so many laps and won only once in 2011, or that he hasn't led at all this season? I'm not sure. I really thought he was primed for a repeat performance and, so far, it hasn't happened. Like Joe said, maybe he's following the Tony Stewart school of championship driving.

David Caraviello: Listen, Carl is very good at Kansas. His average finish there is 10.7 and he loves the place, so it could very well happen. But if you're an Edwards fan, here's what's more alarming: As Mark referenced, he snapped a 70-race skid at Phoenix in late 2010. Then he won three times in five races spanning the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011. And he hasn't won since, now a skid of 40 events. That's three wins in 115 races. That's a loooooooot of events.

* Fantasy Preview: Horse race between Roush, Hendrick in Kansas

Joe Menzer: I would argue that Carl really has won in bunches on the Cup level only once in the past six-plus seasons. That would be in 2008 when he went on his nine-win tear -- and set himself up as the odds-on favorite to win it all the next year, only to go winless. Maybe it's that Carl has too much time on his hands. He's talked about how much he misses running the Nationwide Series full time, and how much running those races many times the day before Cup events helped him. Maybe less isn't more for him. Maybe he would benefit from going back to the crazy schedule he used to have. Hard to say at this point.

David Caraviello: Oh, goodness. Now Joe, that is a reach. Might want to go back to your Ouija board.

Joe Menzer: So you're telling me that it's just coincidence that the two guys who have run the most races in recent years -- Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards -- suddenly struggle in Cup when they cut back on their schedules? Not sure about that, guys.

StreakYearsNote
182005Won four races in 2005, including two in a row (Atlanta and Texas).
522005-07Went winless in 2006; only full-time season he has missed the Chase.
702009-10Went winless in 2009, one year after posting a career-best and series-high nine victories in 2008.
402011-presentHas finished second six times since last win; has best finish of fifth (twice) this season.

David Caraviello: Joe's tea leaves are awfully murky these days. Time to switch to another brand, Menzer. May I recommend Luzianne?

2. It's been 13 races since Hendrick Motorsports' last victory on the Sprint Cup level. Kansas is where the team recorded its most recent. What's keeping this team from tallying victory No. 200?

David Caraviello: What is this, the Skid Edition of Track Smack? Well, first of all I'm sure Joe is going to look into his cubic zirconia ball (he doesn't do crystal) and tell me the reason these Hendrick guys haven't won is that they're not all out there running more Nationwide races. There's your answer! Get on out there on Saturdays, boys, and all your luck will change! Victories will fall from the sky! Or maybe not.

Mark Aumann: Ryan Newman, if you read Jimmie Johnson's post-race comments. I guess Jimmie wasn't real pleased with the way he got raced by lapped cars. And then there was that little bump at Martinsville. But Biffle seemed to be reeling in Johnson in the closing laps at Texas anyway. I think Newman was an excuse.

Joe Menzer: David Reutimann ... or Clint Bowyer. It's that plain and simple. They had victory No. 200 locked and loaded at Martinsville until Reutimann's car stalled out and brought out the final caution, and then it was Bowyer on the restart who tried to squeeze his car into a hole that wasn't there. Oh, and he had help from Ryan Newman, who booted him from behind. Suddenly the sure thing turned to dust as both Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson were wrecked.

Mark Aumann: The Hendrick guys are definitely frustrated. They've put the champagne for Rick's 200th victory on ice 13 times in a row. And haven't closed the deal. Martinsville was a huge downer -- after dominating all day. They just want to win and get it over with. Heck, Kasey Kahne was elated just to finish. Jeff Gordon had to make up 30 positions just to get a top-five at Texas. It's a weird season.

David Caraviello: Yeah, Mark. I'm sure Newman was a nuisance, but Biffle blew by Johnson to such an extent and built such a big lead that it hardly seemed like an issue at the time. Listen, this is all about circumstances, and the Hendrick guys have just run into too many bad ones. Not saying it's all luck, mind you -- I'm a big believer in the fact that teams make their own luck -- but stuff has happened at the wrong time, and it's kept the Hendrick guys out of Victory Lane. They've been fast, and they've been in contention, but they've also dealt with a lot of breaks that have gone against them.

Hendrick Motorsports

Drivers at Kansas
DriverSt.WLedAvg. Fin.
J. Gordon12220610.2
J. Johnson1125018.4
K. Kahne907717.0

Joe Menzer: I am a little irritated, Caraviello, that you're twisting my words about the Nationwide races. Every driver is different. Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon long ago eschewed the Nationwide Series to focus on Cup, and it worked for them. Lots of other drivers have done the same. All I'm saying is that Edwards and Busch might be different, or at least going through an adjustment period where they are benefiting less from missing those races than they are gaining any kind of "extra focus" by missing them.

Mark Aumann: You know what? I'm not going to make a winner's pronouncement like the esteemed Mr. Menzer, but the way things are going, perhaps Junior is the one who breaks his winless steak and scores No. 200 for the organization. Weirder things have happened.

David Caraviello: Mark, he's the flag-bearer for the organization right now. Third in points. Up front almost every week. To be honest, as much as we make of Junior's winless streak, right now you'd have to call him Most Likely Hendrick Driver To Win First.

Joe Menzer: It's only a matter of time until Hendrick finally scores that No. 200. I think the guy to watch might be Kasey Kahne, who at last showed signs of real life last weekend with strong runs in both Nationwide and Cup at Texas, then backed it up with a Truck Series win at Rockingham. He and Kenny Francis could be starting to get it together for a strong run.

David Caraviello: Something tells me you're missing some extra focus right now, Menzer. I know exactly what you need -- a heaping helping of Nationwide races. That will take care of everything!

Mark Aumann: And Nationwide is off this week. Of course, Joe forecast that.

David Caraviello: Oh well, everyone is doomed then. Listen, this is going to happen eventually, sooner rather than later. Everyone knows that. The team and the drivers and the cars at Hendrick are just too good. But Mark's right -- it's a weight on all of them. I think as much as anything, they feel bad about making the boss trek it out to the race track every weekend. Rick doesn't usually travel this much, and they all know it.

Mark Aumann: Last race on the old asphalt at Kansas. Got to think one of the Hendrick cars will hit the setup. My money is on Johnson.

Joe Menzer: Gordon and Johnson have been strong much of the time, too. They've led lots of laps. I think I like their chances of scoring No. 200 more than Junior's -- or Kahne's, despite what I just said. But remember, I have that crystal ball. Let's see. ... I forecast that you are both .... jealous of my forecasting abilities. Yep. That's it. Now I understand.

* Retro Racing: Johnson's first win start of something big

David Caraviello: Joe, what is going on over there in the Man Cave these days? You're rambling, contradictory, and borderline incoherent. Do I have to come over there? Is it an emergency? Are you out of beer?

Mark Aumann: Maybe he's channeling with the wrong remote.

Joe Menzer: Oh no. I'm fine. In fact, I predict a real good time in the Man Cave this weekend while Caraviello and Mr. Dave Rodman work the Kansas race.

David Caraviello: Well, sounds like you need it. Take a load off and let the pressure melt away. Maybe that's what the Hendrick boys need, too -- to just go out and race. Forget about everything else. They're all fast enough, and win No. 200 is going to happen eventually. As sure as Menzer will sink into his Man Cave couch and flip on one of his six televisions. Unfortunately, they're all black and white, but who can complain.

Mark Aumann: I see Arthur Bryant's in DC's future. I wonder where I can find burnt ends for lunch?

Joe Menzer: Finally, a prediction from one of you two that's right on the mark. At least that's where he should go. But sometimes he likes to class it up too much, and he might not like those metal trays they use.

DriverStartsRunners-UpTop-5sTop-10sFin. 21-worseDNFs
Jeff Gordon1303561
Jimmie Johnson1334642
Kasey Kahne700142
Mark Martin600030

David Caraviello: Got tired of those in prison. Not to disparage any of the fine Kansas City barbecue chains, but I'm more of a Jack Stack's guy. And at some point we'll surely trek out to Oklahoma Joe's, this little joint in a gas station which is one of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s favorite places. Maybe that will be the difference. A few ribs, a little brisket, and suddenly the guy is in Victory Lane. Two streak-busters at one time, all of it covered in sauce. That would be a K.C. masterpiece indeed.

3. Kasey Kahne won last week's Camping World Truck Series event at Rockingham. But which of the tour's regulars made the biggest strides at the Rock as the circuit moves to the Sunflower State?

Joe Menzer: Ah, now you have to admit you must defer to my expertise. Not only was I at the Rock much of last weekend, including for Sunday's race, but I've been going over there so much and hanging out with Andy Hillenburg so much lately that surely you must concede that I am a Rock-solid expert on the subject.

Mark Aumann: That, or we're subtly inferring that you're hard-headed. Anyway, Timothy Peters has put himself in a nice position. But I still think there are enough races for guys like Ron Hornaday and Johnny Sauter to get themselves back into contention.

* Six Pack of Pop: Points leader Peters a picture of consistency

David Caraviello: This one is easy -- Nelson Piquet Jr. That kid is coming, and given the right circumstances he could absolutely win. Piquet led 107 laps at Rockingham and may very well have won the race had he not suffered a pit-road speeding penalty. That guy is going to win one day, and he could win a lot. He's certainly showing the potential, at least. He's quite solid in that Turner Motorsports truck.

Joe Menzer: The guy with the second-best truck for the Rock race -- and for the first half of the race it clearly was the best -- was Nelson Piquet Jr. Like Kahne, he was driving a truck prepared by Turner Motorsports. If not for a late penalty for exiting pit road too fast following his final pit stop, he might even have given Kahne a run for the checkers.

David Caraviello: Is there an echo in here? Or is Joe deferring to someone else's expertise?

Joe Menzer: Um, you must have read the story I wrote following the event, sir!

Mark Aumann: The guy who perhaps has impressed me the most is Piquet. He really should have closed the deal at Rockingham. Let's see what he does on the intermediate track next. Since we all mentioned him, I guess that makes it a full Nelson. And yes, I was wrestling with that comment before I typed it.

Joe Menzer: Matt Crafton was strong for nearly the entire race, too, and James Buescher came on at the end and, partly because of Piquet's late pit-road mistake, came away with a second-place finish. But let's not forget Ty Dillon, who was solid again in that No. 3 truck.

Truck Series

Favorites in early hole
Pos.DriverBehind
12.Joey Coulter-43
13.Johnny Sauter-45
16.Todd Bodine-51

David Caraviello: Mark, I will admit -- Rockingham doesn't exactly translate to anywhere else on the circuit, does it? It's not like there's a similar track, especially since the Trucks don't race at Darlington anymore. So in some ways it will be a very different world going from the Rock to a 1.5-mile tri-oval. I guess in that regard, there are no real guarantees that Nelson can use one track to build on the other. But the opportunity is there, though.

Mark Aumann: You're exactly right, DC. I don't know that there's another race on the Truck schedule that will replicate the Rock. From a tire wear standpoint, perhaps Darlington. But it's a different animal. But he qualified on the front row at Darlington last year and ran sixth at Martinsville. So that's perhaps what I see as him making a big step up in 2012.

Joe Menzer: Why only direct your comments to each other? Hello, I'm still here. Wow, the jealousy is just eating you guys up, isn't it?

Mark Aumann: Sorry, Joe. You should have foreseen it.

Joe Menzer: Nelson Piquet Jr. will win at least two Truck races this season, no matter the venue. That's what my crystal ball says. Deal with it. The guy is going to get to Victory Lane and next year I expect he'll be running in the Nationwide Series. He's got the talent to make it all the way to Cup.

David Caraviello: Here's the thing about Piquet -- the guy has been much more consistent than he gets credit. Four of his past five finishes have been in the top 10, which in a schedule as spread out as the Truck Series is saying something. The only aberration in there is a wreck at Daytona, where just about everyone wrecked, so you can hardly hold that against him. He's made a great transition from the Kevin Harvick Inc. stuff to the Turner stuff, he's a great qualifier, and given the numbers he's putting up now, you have to think he's going to piece it all together one day soon.

Joe Menzer: But do you want to know my pick to win this weekend's Camping World Truck Series race? I'll take Ty Dillon, another future Cupper. And thank you, David, for finally agreeing with me. I knew you'd come around to my way of thinking.

Mark Aumann: Don't forget the fun we had the last time the Trucks visited Kansas. Wasn't that when Ty's grandpa took matters into his own hands? And where is Richard Childress' watch?

David Caraviello: Oh, and as for Piquet on intermediate tracks -- fourth at Texas this past fall, eighth at Kansas last spring. So the kid can wheel it. Not sure moving to a 1.5-mile track will exactly be a problem for him.

Joe Menzer: Hey, there are a couple other guys who impressed me on and even off the track at the Rock -- Parker Kligerman and Justin Lofton. They ended up ninth and 10th, respectively, in the race, but Lofton is now second in the point standings and Kligerman is fifth. These guys know what they're doing and will contend for some race wins before the season is over, as well.

Mark Aumann: At this point, I think we're still shaking out the contenders in the Trucks. But from what it looks like so far, it's wide open. I think this will be a fun summer for the pickups.

Joe Menzer: No question about that. I'm so glad we can all get along and agree on something. But then, I saw this coming all along.

David Caraviello: And while we're on the subject, how great was it to see such a good crowd on hand at Rockingham last weekend? The fans kind of bailed on that place in its last days as a Cup venue, so it's nice to see the turnout even for a Truck event. Hope Andy Hillenburg made a little cash and NASCAR liked the experience and everyone will come back. With Nationwide cars in tow, maybe.

Mark Aumann: Certainly one of those places that fits well for those two series. Good racing and just enough seats to make it look like a packed house.

Joe Menzer: Oh man, that would be great. And you know what? With right about 32,000 grandstand seats, let's face it, that's a place where it would be great to see the Nationwide and Truck series guys running. They could fill it up or close to it every time, and it would be great racing on a slick, weathered track that's a little more than a mile and has multiple grooves. Would be good stuff indeed, and hats off to Andy for making the place look so terrific.

David Caraviello: Of course, Joe knew it would turn out that way. His chamomile tea leaves told him so.

Joe Menzer: I don't even know what chamomile tea is -- but I did foresee it in the bottom of my Coors Light.

David Caraviello: A few of those, you start to foresee plenty.

Pos.DriverBehindNote
3.Ty Dillon-7Has finished in the top 10 in five of his six Truck starts; finished second at Martinsville earlier this year.
4.James Buescher-10Has four runner-up finishes in 75 starts; won at Daytona this year in the Nationwide Series.
5.Parker Kligerman-20Has two career second-place finishes; worst finish this season is 11th.
6.Nelson Piquet Jr.-21Won the pole and led a race-high 107 laps at Rockingham; the native ofr Brazil is trying to become just the second foreign-born winner (Ron Fellows, Canada) in the series.
7.Jason White-27Has made 132 series starts; he has one top-10 (10th in 2009) in six starts at Kansas.

Joe Menzer: Who needs a crystal ball when you have an endless supply of brown bottles?

The opinions expressed are solely those of the participants.