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"Me bugging Mike Mittler for a chance was what really started my career," says Edwards, whose father, Carl Sr., still races on dirt tracks in the Midwest. "I first drove a race car when I was 14. And to be honest, it scared the hell out of me. But it's all I've been thinking about since."
Edwards's first full-time Cup season exceeded his wildest expectations: he won four races in '05, qualified for the Chase and finished third in the point standings.
Kasey also learned plenty from his father. On many a Friday night Kasey and his brother, Kale, would travel with their dad the 150 miles to Deming (Wash.) Speedway, where Kelly would race mini sprint cars. Then on Saturday they would drive 110 miles to Skagit, Wash., for another race. "We'd talk about racing and what makes a good car," says Kelly. "They couldn't get enough."
Kasey started racing at local tracks at age 12. Almost instantly he had what Cup drivers call a feel for the car--even when testing his sprint car at 10 mph in the driveway. "Just by doing that, Kasey would know if the car was good," says Kelly. "He was always right. Always. I couldn't do that, and I'd been racing all my life."
It was Kahne's feel for the car, in fact, that got him noticed by team owner Ray Evernham, who spotted Kahne racing open-wheel cars in Indiana in 2000. Evernham eventually offered Kahne a Cup ride on his newly formed Dodge team, and Kahne rewarded Evernham's faith by winning the '04 Rookie of the Year title. He won his first Cup race at Richmond in May '05, and most in the garage believe it's just a matter of time before Kahne contends for the title. "Kasey reminds me of a young Jeff Gordon," says three-time Cup champion Darrell Waltrip. "His future couldn't be any brighter."
Then came 9/11, and in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks many sporting events were canceled or postponed. One was the ASA race in Winchester, Ind., which was pushed back seven days. The delay caused a scheduling conflict for a driver on Ron Daniels's team, and Daniels called Stremme, whom he'd seen race a few times. "That first race I sat on the pole and led the most laps," recalls Stremme. "I had a transmission problem late, but I think I showed what I could do."
Daniels hired Stremme to drive a full ASA schedule in 2002, and Stremme responded by winning two races and finishing second six times. He caught the eye of Ganassi, who hired Stremme to drive a Busch car in '03 and '04. Though he has yet to win a Busch race, he will take Sterling Marlin's Cup seat in '06. "I may not have won yet, but Chip's seen me drive a 15th-place car to a 10th-place finish," says Stremme. "I'm going to surprise some people."
Martin TRUEX JR.