NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Four Burning Questions: Edwards, Edwards, and Gordon the Favorite

*Did Carl Edwards make the right decision in re-signing with Roush Fenway?*

After months of rampant speculation about where Carl Edwards would be driving in 2012, the 2011 Sprint Cup Series points leader opted this week to stay loyal to Roush Fenway Racing and remain with the organization, spurning Joe Gibbs Racing. Edwards and a potential Home Depot sponsorship at JGR may have certainly been appealing, but when it comes to winning races, this was a no-brainer. In seven full seasons with Roush Fenway, Edwards has amassed 19 wins, 79 top 5s and 126 top 10s while becoming the face of the organization and one of the most appealing drivers for fans and sponsors alike.

While Gibbs may be one of the premier organizations in the sport, it’s no closer to a championship than Roush Fenway – the team Edwards currently sits atop the points standings driving for. Roush gave Edwards his big break, and Edwards hasn’t disappointed, becoming one of the top drivers Cup Series and a weekly favorite to win in the Nationwide series. There’s no denying it was a good decision for Jack Roush to take a chance on Edwards, but it was an equally smart decision by Edwards to stay with the team.

*Is it a good or bad move for Danica Patrick to move to NASCAR full-time?*

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Danica Patrick is all but assuredly going to be a full-time NASCAR racer in 2012, and there’s no doubt the fans will be there for it in droves.

One of the worst kept secrets in the NASCAR garage has been the likelihood of Danica Patrick’s full-time entry into the stock car ranks. It’s becoming more and more apparent that Patrick will drive full-time in the Nationwide Series in 2012 with JR Motorsports and a limited Sprint Cup entry with Stewart-Haas Racing.

And why shouldn’t she? Her already through the roof marketability will reach even greater heights when she becomes a full-time NASCAR competitor, and from a competition standpoint, she’s seemed to make progress with just about every Nationwide start, while she continues to struggle this season in IndyCar. She’ll be in quality equipment, and most importantly she’ll appeal to a larger fanbase which should in turn increase the sport’s TV ratings and attendance. Danica will be NASCAR’s new media darling. She won’t compete to win races – with the exception of the superspeedways – but under the new Nationwide Series points format, you can expect her to finish in the top 15 in points next season.

*Is Jeff Gordon considered the favorite at Pocono this weekend?*

Jeff Gordon is having arguably his best stretch of the season so far, and now he heads to a track he’s already won at this year. Seven short races ago Gordon earned his 84th career win – tied for third all-time. This week he goes for No. 85. It’s no surprise that Gordon is considered the favorite this weekend by many analysts. It’s only rational that you assume so given the close proximity of the two dates on the Sprint Cup calendar. But there have only been six season sweeps at Pocono and the last time it happened was in 2006 when Denny Hamlin accomplished the feat.

In fact, it was Hamlin – not Gordon – who was the car to beat at Pocono just a couple of months ago, leading a race-high 76 laps. Gordon will be good again this weekend, no doubt, and should be considered one of a handful of cars to beat. He’s red hot right now with four top 10s over his last five races and a worst finish of 11th. Expect that to continue on Sunday.

*Would you bet Carl Edwards or the field at Iowa?*

While the Sprint Cup Series is in Pocono, the Nationwide circuit heads this weekend to Iowa Speedway. Saturday night’s race will feature just one full-time Sprint Cup regular, Carl Edwards (Brad Keselowski was entered before a testing accident at Road America), making the US Cellular 250 a showcase of the best the Nationwide Series has to offer. To date, only three Nationwide regulars have won races this season (Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Reed Sorenson and Justin Allgaier – all with one win) but Iowa is the next stop on the schedule that provides Nationwide regulars the best opportunity to break through into victory lane.

Edwards will undoubtedly be the favorite to win, but with one slip there will be more than a dozen hungry Nationwide regulars waiting to pounce. Guys like Elliott Sadler, Aric Almirola, Jason Leffler and Trevor Bayne are all looking for their first Nationwide wins this season and will be strong again on Saturday. Will they beat Edwards? It’ll be tough, but in the end I like the odds when it’s Edwards versus the field.

“Contact Mike Lovecchio”:https://frontstretch.com/contact/14358/

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