|Edwards looks sharper than ever during final practice (Getty)|
By Micah Roberts
The Linemakers on SportingNews.com
Carl Edwards needs a lot of help to make the Chase. He doesn’t have any wins on the season and he’s 26 points behind Kyle Busch and 14 behind Jeff Gordon, both of whom have one win each. However, all indications from Friday’s final practice session at Richmond is that Edwards might have some something to work with and contend for the win Saturday night.
Despite not having won since Las Vegas since last season, we can legitimately call Edwards a candidate to win this week. He’s never won at Richmond, but he did finish runner-up in the fall last season.
The real strength in an Edwards argument is what he did during his final practice. He came blazing out from the first lap as if it was the last lap of his season, which it almost is, and not only laid down the fastest lap at 122.321 mph, but also started what would become the best 10-consecutive lap average of the session.
The main point about Edwards is that he hasn‘t been very good all season in single laps or average times during practices, but now he is. How he has been able to produce the way he has all season and at least contend to be where he is at right now is major testament to what a good driver he is.
Although his top times during happy hour do come somewhat of a shock, they really shouldn’t be. The chassis he’s using this week was the same one from the spring race that saw Edwards lead 206 laps and nearly win the race had it not been for a late-race penalty on a restart.
Having touted Edwards enough, despite how good he looks, he’s still a long shot to make the Chase and that’s only because Kyle Busch does not falter at Richmond. His four wins with a 4.7 average finish over his career is pretty strong and he finished eighth in the final session.
Should Busch have a major catastrophe for the first time ever at Richmond, Edwards still has to hope for the worst from Gordon. Gordon may not have won at Richmond since 2000, but he had a pretty solid pair of practices Friday, finishing 10th in the first session and fourth in the final.
Three-time Richmond winner Jimmie Johnson was second fastest in the final session and 1998 winner Jeff Burton was third fastest. Burton, a native Virginian, was also fastest overall in the first session.
Denny Hamlin was considered one the favorites in the race, not only because he’s won the past two races coming in, but also because he’s fared the best on these type of tracks this season. However, his car didn’t look as impressive during practices as it did in Phoenix, New Hampshire or the spring Richmond race -- tracks where he finished in the top-5 earlier this season. Hamlin, another Virginian, was sixth best in the first session and 25th fastest during happy hour.
Two-time Richmond winner Kevin Harvick shined in both sessions and looks like a driver who could spoil the party and win his first race of the season. His last win came at Richmond last fall and could repeat the feat based on finishing with the second best 10-consecutive lap average during the final session. Harvick had the fifth fastest lap in the first session and sixth best during the final session.
Richmond Practice 1 Speeds
Richmond Practice 2
Starting Lineup: Junior on Pole