Daytona 500 pole winner Carl Edwards is not ruling out pushing for victory in Thursday's Gatorade Duel qualifying race, even though his pole position is secure.
Edwards guaranteed his top spot for the NASCAR Sprint Cup season-opener in yesterday's qualifying session, and will retain it wherever he finishes in his Duel heat. But despite the return of fully fledged pack racing producing more crashes in Saturday's Budweiser Shootout, the Roush Fenway driver said he is open to taking risks in the Duel, even though there is nothing at stake for him.
"That's one way to look at it, but the other way is that I know how good our back-up car is and I also know that you can't give these other guys any advantage and if I were to not race and not understand the dynamics that are going to happen during the daytime here at this racetrack with this package, I'd be giving them something," he said. "So I've got to go out there as a driver and mix it up and race and see how our car handles, but there is a little bit of a, 'Man, there might be something really special about this car,' so I'll talk with [crew chief] Bob [Osborne] and I'm sure [team boss] Jack [Roush] will have some words for me before that race."
Edwards suggested his risk strategy for the Duel might only be decided midrace.
"Even if we make a change halfway through the race and say, 'Hey, things look smooth. Let's just go for it,' or 'Things are looking insane, let's save the car,'" he said.
The 2011 Sprint Cup runner-up does not think starting from pole necessarily gives him an advantage in staying out of trouble in the pack, but does think having teammate Greg Biffle starting alongside him will be an advantage.
"We're likely to wreck up there in the front too," said Edwards. "I was running second [in the Shootout] behind Greg and Clint [Bowyer] was third and he got turned sideways coming out of the tri-oval, so I truly don't know there's a safe place on the racetrack with this style of racing, but the thing that's really good for me is that Greg, a guy who has been my partner at these restrictor plate races, is starting right there with us. Him and I can work together.
"I know Greg has my best interests and Roush's best interests in mind, just as I do for him, so that kind of makes me feel better, that we'll be together at the start and we don't have to go find each other to help one another later."
Although Edwards acknowledged that qualifying will hold little relevance when the 500 gets underway, he said pole was an important boost for his Roush Fenway team coming into the new season.
"It probably wouldn't have mattered to me the first time I came down here or the second time, but now after seeing how hard everybody works all winter and how much pride the guys take in how these cars qualify, it does mean something to me," Edwards said. "It's a sign of the strength of your team and it's not that we just have one car up there, to have that whole front row says a lot about Roush Fenway Racing, about Ford. It's huge for our sponsors."
Duel 1 lineup:
Pos Driver Team/Car
1. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet
3. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford
4. Ricky Stenhouse Jr Roush Fenway Ford
5. Trevor Bayne Wood Brothers Ford
6. Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Chevrolet
7. Aric Almirola Petty Ford
8. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet
9. David Ragan Front Row Ford
10. AJ Allmendinger Penske Dodge
11. Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge
12. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet
13. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet
14. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet
15. David Stremme Inception Toyota
16. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet
17. Danica Patrick Baldwin Chevrolet
18. Terry Labonte FAS Lane Ford
19. Michael Waltrip Waltrip Toyota
20. Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota
21. Michael McDowell Parsons Ford
22. Landon Cassill BK Toyota
23. David Gilliland Front Row Ford
24. Mike Wallace Max Q Ford
25. Robby Gordon Gordon Dodge
Pos Driver Team/Car
1. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford
2. Casey Mears Germain Ford
3. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet
4. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota
5. Mark Martin Waltrip Toyota
6. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet
7. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford
8. Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet
9. Joey Logano Gibbs Toyota
10. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet
11. Tony Raines Front Row Ford
12. Kyle Busch Gibbs Toyota
13. Kenny Wallace RAB Toyota
14. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet
15. Kurt Busch Phoenix Chevrolet
16. Elliott Sadler Childress Chevrolet
17. Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota
18. Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet
19. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota
20. Bill Elliott NEMCO Toyota
21. David Reutimann BK Toyota
22. Robert Richardson Jr R3 Toyota
23. JJ Yeley Robinson-Blakeney Toyota
24. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota