Thank goodness for practice

LONG POND, PA - JUNE 08: Carl Edwards drives the #99 Kellogg's/Cheez-It Ford  during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Party in the Poconos 400 at Pocono Raceway on June 8, 2013 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

LONG POND, PA – JUNE 08: Carl Edwards drives the #99 Kellogg’s/Cheez-It Ford during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Party in the Poconos 400 at Pocono Raceway on June 8, 2013 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

LONG POND, Pa.–Carl Edwards was worried. With practice and qualifying rained out at Pocono on Friday, the prospect of losing Saturday’s two practice sessions to weather was not one Edwards wanted to contemplate.

Fortunately, the Sprint Cup cars finally got on track at 10:15 a.m. Saturday, and Edwards got a chance to dial in his No. 99 Ford. That’s something of an understatement. Edwards was second quickest in Saturday’s first session and third fastest in Happy Hour.

Had practice been washed out, the setups for Sunday’s Party at the Poconos 400 would have relied primarily on computer simulations, not on actual track time. To a greater extent than in years past, the Roush Fenway drivers have also relying on communication with their counterparts from other teams.

In fact, Edwards said he’s had considerable dialogue with and gotten input this year from Penske Racing Ford drivers Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano.

“I’ve talked a relatively large amount with Brad and Joey this year,” Edwards said. “Joey and I have texted back and forth after a number of races. Brad and I talked a little bit at Darlington, and I believe from my perspective, we’re all working really well together.

“We kind of want the same things, and it’s one more step where we’re all sitting down on a weekly or bi-weekly basis and working through problems together. We’re not there yet, but I believe that we’re pretty close to that. I think it won’t be long before we realize together that we could all achieve more than the sum of our parts.”

SHORT STROKES

Testing clearly made a difference at Pocono. Cars from Stewart-Haas Racing and Richard Childress Racing–teams that used opted to test at the Tricky Triangle–peppered the upper echelons of the speed charts in Saturday’s final practice session.

Tony Stewart was fourth fastest, followed by teammate Ryan Newman in fifth. RCR driver Paul Menard was seventh quickest in Happy Hour, with teammate Kevin Harvick 12th. Kurt Busch, whose Furniture Row team is closely affiliated with RCR, paced final practice at 175.333 mph.

Menard’s team changed the transmission on the No. 27 Chevrolet on Saturday, but Menard won’t have to start from the rear, given that Pocono, like the road courses, is a track where drivers shift gears at racing speed and NASCAR’s one-transmission rule is waived.

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