Can Carl Edwards beat Kyle Busch?


Carl Edwards has emerged as the strongest challenger to Kyle Busch for this year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. The 29-year old Edwards scored his fifth win of the year at the high-banked Michigan superspeedway last Sunday, beating championship rival Busch who again led his share of the race and came home a strong second.

8-10 August, 2008, Kyle Busch wins at Watkins Glen

Busch has won eight races this year, including four in a row in June and July, building a comfortable championship lead, but Edwards broke a thirteen-race winless streak by winning at Pocono earlier this month and kept the pressure on Busch by winning again at Michigan.

It was a big win for Edwards because the Michigan track is less than an hour’s drive west of Detroit – the headquarters of America’s beleaguered auto industry – and Edwards is the lead driver of Jack Roush’s five-car Ford factory team. The Roush-Fenway Fords always run well at Michigan and Edwards able was able to defend Detroit’s honour by scoring Roush’s eleventh win at the track while keeping Busch and Toyota out of victory lane in the American car makers’ backyard.

Roush-Fenway Fords also finished third (David Ragan), fourth (Greg Biffle) and fifth (Matt Kenseth) with Busch’s Joe Gibbs Toyota the only spoiler among them. So it was a good day for Roush-Fenway and the Ford Motor Company, particularly with Edwards enjoying a weekend sweep as he also won Saturday’s second division Nationwide race.

Sunday’s 400-mile feature race at Michigan was the twenty-third of this year’s thirty-six-round Sprint Cup championship. Three more regular season races follow before NASCAR’s Chase for the Cup championship play-off begins at New Hampshire Speedway next month. The top twelve drivers in points take part in the Chase for the Cup but it’s difficult to see anyone other than Edwards pulling together a serious challenge for Busch.

This is Edwards’ fifth year in the Sprint Cup series, all with Roush’s team. He won four races and finished third in the ‘05 championship, added three more wins last year and also won the second division Nationwide championship. This year, Edwards has been extremely competitive on the 1.5-mile and 2.0-mile banked tracks and is an amiable fellow whose signature victory celebration is to do a back flip by jumping off the doorsill of his car in front of the main grandstands before going to victory lane.

Can Edwards beat Busch to NASCAR’s Sprint Cup title? He’s the underdog and generally considered a good guy while the unpopular Busch is quick on all types of tracks and seems to have few weaknesses other than a little youthful hubris. One thing you can be sure of is more fans will be cheering for Edwards and his Ford than for Busch and Toyota.

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