It may have seemed a little odd on the Wednesday evening before the Daytona 500 to see Columbia’s Carl Edwards and his Roush Racing teammates playing some pickup baseball on a minor league baseball field in their driver’s suits, but thanks to a new partnership with John Henry, majority owner of the Boston Red Sox, Edwards and company will now be associated with Major League Baseball.
After talks began three years ago, owner Jack Roush and Henry reached a deal for what is now known as “Roush Fenway Racing.” The deal, worth $50 million, gives Henry ownership of half of the team, but Roush will still remain in charge of competition.
Car of tomorrow test: A Nextel Cup testing session normally doesn’t draw much attention, but all eyes were on the Nextel Cup’s testing session at Bristol Motor Speedway Wednesday and Thursday. The Bristol race on March 25 is the first Car of Tomorrow race on the schedule, and the test was expected to be a good predictor of who will be the teams to beat in the 16 COT races. The car, which is not as aerodynamically sleek as the current car in order to increase passing and competition, will be used at all tracks less than 1.5 miles and the fall race at Talladega. However, Jeff Burton, when asked about the competition-enhancing aspects of the car, warned that the increase in close racing may not be instantaneous.
“I don’t have the answer. I do believe, short-term, we have the possibility of a larger gap from first to last because it’s so new. Some people are going to figure it out quicker than others. Long-term, I think we have the opportunity for competition to be better because we’re restricted in all the things we can do,” Burton, who currently is second in Nextel Cup points, said in a teleconference Wednesday. “Only time will tell. But I think the potential for closer racing is there.”
Edwards, who sits 26th in Nextel Cup points after a 29th place finish at California last Sunday, ran a lap of 120.429 mph that was 11th fastest in the Wednesday morning session.
Viva Mexico: The Busch Series heads south for the weekend for the third race of the season, and the third race at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, a road course in Mexico City. Because of the off weekend, nine Cup drivers, including Edwards, will be driving Sunday. ESPN will televise the race in Spanish, the first time a live sporting event in Spanish will be broadcast on the network, while viewers wanting to watch in English can watch on ESPN2.
Edwards, the preseason favorite for the Busch Series championship, has a great chance to grab the points lead in Mexico. Kevin Harvick, who leads Edwards by 15 points, isn’t participating in Sunday’s race, and neither is Matt Kenseth, Edwards’ Roush Fenway Racing teammate, who is right behind Edwards in third.
Toyota: Brian Vickers, who failed to qualify for the Daytona 500, got Toyota’s first top 10 of the season Sunday at California, finishing 10th. But that was the automaker’s only bright spot. Only four of the seven Toyotas that attempted to qualify made the race, and their next-highest finisher was Dale Jarrett in 32nd. Toyota’s flagship owner/driver Michael Waltrip, who received a 100 point penalty for an unapproved substance in his engine at Daytona, was one of the drivers that failed to qualify.