Edwards to do Dover to Vegas back to Dover double this weekend

By Janae Melvin

Carl Edwards thought he still had a year or two before he began his career on the NASCAR Nextel Cup circuit. That time frame was cut short in August when the 2003 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year found himself in the driver's seat of the No. 99 Roush Racing Ford.

Now with the Las Vegas 350 this weekend, Edwards is finding out about the hardest part of running in two series at the same time.

"So far the transition has been really simple," Edwards says, "but starting with this race, it gets complicated. The Cup race is in Dover, Del., while the Trucks are in Las Vegas. I will qualify on Friday in Dover, fly to Vegas for the race, and then leave immediately following the race to fly back to Dover."

The cross country trek doesn¿t worry him, especially since Las Vegas Motor Speedway is one of his favorite tracks. He's just hoping for more luck than he had last year.Edwards was running in the top 10 in the 2003 Las Vegas 350 when he began to feel a vibration in his truck after a pit stop. That vibration ended Edwards¿ run when a part broke in the drive line and he finished 27th. Edwards believes the luck of Las Vegas is on his side this year.

Luck is not something Edwards needed to get his Nextel Cup ride this year. He won three races during the 2003 season Truck season, and has won three times so far in 2004. Car owner Jack Roush had touted him as the successor to Mark Martin for Roush Racing, but Jeff Burton¿s departure for Richard Childress Racing in August moved up Edwards¿ timetable.

"I didn¿t think it would be easy, and it really hasn¿t been," Edwards said, "The guys in the Cup cars race a lot and they¿re very good. The guys that are veterans in the Truck Series have raced in the Cup Series as well, so I¿m used to the competition and intensity. Everyone has the experience. But the Cup guys are hard to beat. I¿m the new guy and I really have to hustle."

His first five races on the Cup circuit have been successful by any standards. He has three top-10 performances, posting a 10th-place finish at Michigan in his first race, and sixth at both California Speedway and Richmond International.

Roush Racing is known for having drivers running in more than one series throughout a season. Teammates Greg Biffle, and Matt Kenseth also run in both the Nextel Cup and Busch Series. The experience of the teams in running two series and at the different tracks has proven valuable for Edwards this year. He often seeks the advice of Biffle at times for help with the cars, the schedule and the adjustment to his new and busier race career.

Edwards has become most popular for his post-race celebrations. Following his first NCTS win, Edwards unleashed his acrobatic stunt in front of 46,000 -- a back flip off the back of his truck. It has become his signature move and one he plans to complete in Victory Lane following his first Nextel Cup win, no matter when that happens.

"The back flip is the easy part, winning the Cup race will be difficult," Edwards said. "I promise if I make it into Victory Lane during a Cup race, there will be a back flip."

For now, Edwards doesn¿t know what the future holds. He knows he¿ll be running for a championship somewhere, but isn¿t sure if that will be the Craftsman Truck Series, Busch Series, or Nextel Cup Series Championship. He should know by the end of the year which series he¿ll be competing in for the 2005 season.

"I just want to race something," Edwards said. "That¿s all I want to do."

The Double Down in the Desert will be a first-of-its-kind event featuring a nighttime doubleheader involving the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and Champ Car World Series. The Las Vegas 350 Truck race is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. The Bridgestone 400 Presented by Corona Champ Car race will follow the Truck race. Qualifying for the Trucks will be held at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. Champ Car qualifying is slated for 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 24.