Carl Edwards at home in California

Aug 26, 2008 7:00 PM

Finish Line by Micah Roberts | This week weíre off to beautiful sunny California for the Labor Day weekend Sunday night Sprint Cup race.

As much as I love having a race close to my home in Las Vegas, Iím still not happy with this race being in California at Darlingtonís expense. The Southern 500 was an institution and something sacred on the annual NASCAR schedule. Letís just say money had a big part in the switch.

The irony of the whole move is that California Speedway and its parent company, International Speedway Corp., realized the mistake of putting the Labor Day race in California. ISC made a deal with bitter competitor Speedway Motorsports Inc. to switch dates giving Atlanta the Labor Day race beginning in 2009 and moving the California date to a cooler October time.

Between folks vacationing elsewhere in California and the sweltering heat of Fontana in early September, the California facility never came close to selling out its 80,000, which is extremely small in capacity for NASCAR standards.

Atlanta should be weary of dealings with ISC, who is owned by NASCAR, because of past dealings. Just before the announcement that "The Chase" would be a new format in deciding who won the Championship, ISC thought it would make a nice offer and trade their Miami race with Atlanta because it rained a lot in November. Atlanta figured the final race of the season didnít matter much because the Championship was usually decided by then, so why not trade with Miami? 

Even though Atlanta is no longer a Chase race, the move should work out well from them just because they arenít competing with college football when itís at its peak interest with their fans. Somehow, I think NASCAR has something up its sleeve. Time will only tell.

The last time we visited California Speedway, it was a week before the Vegas race. Carl Edwards won both of those events and showed that he doesnít have many equals on this type of track, which some call cookie-cutters. California Speedway is a big 2-mile track that is relatively flat compared to other larger venues. Because of his success and current run, Edwards is the clear favorite at 9-2.

Edwards is creeping up on Kyle Busch on wins and on points. They have combined to win 14 of the 24 races this season. When you look at the drivers that havenít won a race this season because of these two "pigging" everything, it really shows how great their seasons have been.

In this race, Edwards will be tough to beat. We just saw him win two weeks ago in Michigan, an almost identical track to California. Heís also got momentum going for him, which normally doesnít account for much. However, at this stage it just means they are dialed in.

Edwards also has the pedigree of being a Jack Roush driver going for him at California. Roush has won at California with just about every driver he has had. Mark Martin, Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, and now Edwards have all won there.

The driver that could be added to that list this week is David Ragan who has value at 30-1. Should anything happen to the favorites like Edwards, Busch, or Jimmie Johnson, Ragan could be right there. Heíll have a car good enough to get a Top 5, but beating those three will be a tough task.

Jimmie Johnson won at California as a rookie in 2002 and has continued to have the best average finish there among all drivers with a 6.4 clip. Edwards is next followed Kenseth, Kyle Busch, and then Jeff Gordon.

Gordon has three career wins there and would love to just get any victory in 2008. Gordonís quality finish last week let him breathe a little easier as he tries to hold on to his ninth spot in standings with only two races to go in the Chase.

News and Notes:

ē Kyle vs Carl, I love it. I want to see the two best drivers in the series go at it. I didnít think the bump at Bristol was too bad, Carl was just faster.

ē AJ Allendinger (Los Gatos), David Gilliland (Riverside), Jeff Gordon (Vallejo), Robby Gordon (Orange), Kevin Harvick (Bakersfield), Jimmie Johnson (El Cajon), and Casey Mears (Bakersfield) all hail from California.

ē Busch and Edwards have already clinched spots in the 2008 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with 10 remaining. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson only need finishes of 40th or better to lock up a spot.

ē The California race marks the 500th in Jeff Burtonís career. He has 20 victories, 114 Top 5ís, 205 Top 10ís.

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Matt Kenseth
Greg Biffle
Carl Edwards
Jimmie Johnson
Kyle Busch


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