Runaway leader Edwards in cruise control entering Daytona

Even Dave Blaney conceded the Busch Series championship is probably out of reach. Carl Edwards' monstrous 784-point advantage appears insurmountable, writes Rupen Fofaria.

Updated: July 6, 2007, 2:29 PM ET
By Rupen Fofaria | Special to ESPN.com

Carl Edwards's lead in the NASCAR Busch Series standings has grown so large that the question to competitors is no longer how they plan to chisel away at the 784-point canyon.

"The championship is probably out of reach," said Dave Blaney, a somewhat surprising surrenderer given that he's ranked sixth in the standings with more than half of the season left to race. Then again, sixth place is still an astonishing 945 points off Edwards's blistering pace.

Carl Edwards
The points stuff is comforting at the end of the day to think that we have a big points lead, but what makes the day great is to win.

Carl Edwards

"Carl has a heck of a lead and he seems to just keep padding it every week," said David Reutimann, whose second-place ranking 784 points back is not even enough to give him hope of soon catching the points leader.

"We just keep grinding away and we'll find out where we end up once Homestead rolls around. I'm really not even paying attention to how far out he is in the points because I know he's a long way out there. It really doesn't matter because it's our job to try to catch him. He's got things pretty well covered, but we'll keep blasting away at him."

It's an admirable stance. Especially given that Edwards' points lead is only half of the problem for Busch Series competitors. The other half is dealing with the fact that Edwards and Co. are so hot that unless the closest competition finds a way to close out the season with top-three finishes they'll likely continue to fade into Edwards' rearview mirror.

In 18 events, Edwards has finished outside the top 10 only thrice. He's offset those subpar days (and we use the term loosely; after all, two of those sub-10th finishes were 13th and 17th) with four victories. Indeed, for Edwards the question becomes: How do you stay focused when you could virtually set the cruise control and coast to a title?

"It's pretty simple," Edwards responds. "Just like every racer, every race you go to it doesn't matter if you win 10 races in a row at your local track, it's still just as much fun to win that 11th one and it's just as big of a challenge. We go to the races to win races and that's what's exciting.

"The points stuff is comforting at the end of the day to think that we have a big points lead, but what makes the day great is to win."

Boss taking over
Dale Earnhardt Jr. sent a clear message about the standard he wants to set for his Busch Series outfit, JR Motorsports. Through 18 races, his driver Shane Huffman was ranked 13th with four top-10 finishes. Not terrible for a driver with only 11 Busch Series starts entering the year.

But Junior wants the best. So he's relieved Huffman of driving duties effective immediately and will race his own car -- for the first time, in fact -- at Daytona International Speedway. Thereafter, Junior is hoping to put someone else behind the wheel.

Harvick closing in
Kevin Harvick has already won at Daytona twice this year -- once in the Busch Series and once in the Cup Series. Though he's digging deep and working tirelessly to repeat on the Cup side, a repeat Busch win would bring him within two races of tying Jack Ingrim for second on the all-time Busch Series wins list. He'll have a ways to go before catching Mark Martin in first, though. Martin has 47 wins.

Penalties
NASCAR announced that three teams in the NASCAR Busch Series have been fined and penalized for rule violations at New Hampshire International Speedway. Pierre Kuettel, crew chief for the No. 60 Ford driven by Carl Edwards, was fined $5,000 for using equipment that does not conform to NASCAR rules and a right rear shock absorber that would not compress within the specified period of time. Edwards was penalized 25 championship driver points and team owner Jack Roush was penalized 25 championship owner points for the infractions, which were discovered during post-race inspection on June 30.

Also at New Hampshire, Ricky Pearson, crew chief for the No. 36 Chevrolet of Brent Sherman, was fined $1,000 for a carburetor spacer plate that was tapered and beveled; and Wally Rogers, crew chief of the No. 77 Chevrolet of Bobby Labonte, was fined $500 for misuse of fuel cell foam. The No. 36's infraction was discovered during pre-race inspection and the No. 77's during practice the day before the event.

Rupen Fofaria has covered NASCAR for ESPN.com since 2002. He can be reached at rupenisracin@yahoo.com.