Carl Edwards 'cashed in' at Las Vegas last Saturday during the Sam's Town 300, despite finishing second behind Roush Fenway Racing team-mate Greg Biffle. He also took the lead in the series point standings for the first time since claiming his 2007 series championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Kyle Busch, the standings leader heading into Vegas, was involved in an accident on lap 21 that dropped him to a 39th-place finish at his home track - and also dropped him four spots to fifth in the standings. Edwards capitalised and opened a 48-point lead over 2003 series champion Brian Vickers when he posted his fourth top ten finish in five races at Las Vegas.

While his Sprint Cup form may have fluctuated, Edwards has rattled off impressive Nationwide finishes thus far in 2009, with second at Daytona, fourth at Auto Club Speedway and the aforementioned runner-up result at Las Vegas - but he isn't the only driver at Roush Fenway to jump to a good start this year.

Biffle is now third in the series, and ended a 76-race series winless streak with his victory at Las Vegas, while David Ragan is sixth overall after two top tens in the first three races.

When the series returns to racing at Bristol Motor Speedway following a two-week hiatus, Edwards will be raring to go. He owns one win, two top fives and four top tens in nine races on the 0.533-mile high banked oval, and NASCAR's season-to-date 'loop data' shows him ranked first in the driver rating category.

The 2009 Nationwide Series rookie of the year class has also started the season strongly and looks to raise the level of competition this season.

Brendan Gaughan is pacing the new group of rookies, and is fourth in the standings, just nine points behind third-placed Biffle. He also leads the rookie standings by five points over Michael McDowell, building on his experience in NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series. At his home track in Vegas, he posted his second consecutive top ten finish in his first three starts this season.

"Big-time teams pull off big-time feats and that's exactly what our Rusty Wallace Racing team did," he said, "We were able to pull off another top ten and I have to tell you, this is the most fun I've had in racing in a long, long time. I can't wait to get to Bristol."

While Gaughan has yet to start at Bristol in the NASCAR Nationwide car, he's made five starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series there with a best finish of second in 2007.

McDowell, meanwhile, seems to be parlaying his 20-race Sprint Cup experience last year into immediate dividends this season. He's currently second in the rookie standings and a surprising tenth in the series overall. Last Saturday, the former Grand-Am racewinner was sixth at LVMS, a career-best finish in any NASCAR national series competition. Similarly, he'll take his first laps at Bristol in any of NASCAR's national series when Nationwide practice gets underway on 19 March.

Justin Allgaier, driving for Penske Racing, is third in the rookie rankings, but may be the most-watched young driver thus far. He had a career-best race last Saturday, leading five laps and finishing eighth, and is now eleventh in the standings after moving up 14 spots. Like McDowell, Allgaier has never competed in NASCAR's national series at Bristol, however.

Scott Lagasse Jr, meanwhile, also recorded a career-best result in Vegas, taking ninth place and cementing fourth in the series' rookie standings.



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