With eight races left before the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup begins and with a firm grasp on the point lead until recently, Carl Edwards still doesn’t want to start thinking about what could be in terms of a championship.
“Man, this thing can change quickly,” said Edwards in Daytona. “You guys know how this works. Look at what Kurt’s [Busch] been doing. They’ve turned things around. They’ve been running spectacularly.”
[media-credit name=”David Yeazell” align=”alignright” width=”247″][/media-credit]While Busch might be one of the hottest drivers on the circuit, it’s Edwards who has been at the head of the class. He’s won both a point paying race, Las Vegas, and the non-point Sprint All-Star race. Had it not been for the likes of Trevor Bayne or Regan Smith, Edwards could have multiple victories and a bulls-eye on his back when it comes to the championship fight.
Instead, his Roush-Fenway Racing team is satisfied just taking it one week at time. Back running competitively after an ugly 2010 is all they wanted, having the point lead was a bonus considering when the Chase starts teams will be seeded by wins and the lead reset.
Edwards though, who came into 2011 as the pre-season favorite, isn’t concerned about what’s down the road. As far as the Chase is concerned, he wouldn’t even say he thinks he’s locked in because “anything can happen.” Engine failures, wrecks or even getting injured are all reasons Edwards isn’t going to be relieved until the right time.
“Until this season is over, if I’m standing there with the [championship] trophy that would be great” he said. “But I’m going to just keep my head down and keep working because anything can happen, but we have had a very, very good year.”
Perhaps it’s because Edwards has been in this position before that he isn’t ready to take it for granted. In 2008 Edwards sat second in points heading into the Chase, having already won six races. He was going to be the man that dethroned Jimmie Johnson but Edwards, even after going on to win three more races came up 69 points short.
The following two seasons Edwards didn’t come close to contending for the title. The No. 99 team went winless in 2009 and not finding victory lane until the final two races of the 2010 season.
“It’s nice to be disappointed with second-place runs at a lot of these tracks,” Edwards said.
Yes, Edwards has been in this position before and he’s better for it. The last two years, a second place finish would have been like a win for Edwards’ team. While he remained competitive in the Nationwide Series, winning races and contending for a second championship, the Cup program lacked.
Yet, Edwards forged ahead. Grateful for the opportunities that he was given and knowing things would soon change. Away from the track he enjoyed other successes like getting married and having two children. To Edwards, he says he’s won the lottery and is the luckiest man in the world.
Not only does he get to travel to places like Daytona or Indianapolis and do what he loves, he’s become quite good at it. The 2011 season is shaping up to be one of his best, even though Edwards hasn’t been able to win since Las Vegas. But he knows they’re good enough to contend.
“I believe that as a team we’re running well, our cars are fast enough that we don’t have to go make these lunges for life and have crazy strategies, and I don’t have to do wild things on the race track to run well and have chance at winning, so it’s been really good.”