Edwards drives on outskirts of NASCAR's big chase
Saturday, July 23, 2005
The driver from Columbia, Mo., is just 54 points out of the 10th spot.
Carl Edwards will have so much to celebrate if he wins Sunday at Pocono that a double backflip will be in order.
Last month, Edwards did his trademark backflip off the car's windowsill after a victory at the triangle on the mountaintop. This time, a win would mean even more.
Edwards is only 54 points behind Dale Jarrett, who holds the 10th -- and perhaps last -- position for inclusion in NASCAR's Chase for the Nextel Cup Championship.
"We've already won two races, and I think now is definitely the time to go race for points," Edwards said at New Hampshire International Speedway, where he finished 12th on Sunday. "That's not something I'm really good at yet."
Victories at Pocono and Atlanta, combined with five other top-10 runs in 19 races, have cast the second-year driver in the unlikely role of contender. He would be in even better shape had he avoided horrible finishes of 38th, 33rd and 39th in the three races that immediately preceded the New England 300.
Before that race, Edwards got some valuable advice from car owner Jack Roush.
"Jack just said, 'Carl, you've gone out the last three weeks and had terrible finishes. You've put your car in places where you probably will learn not to,'" Edwards said. "He said, 'You can go out here and if you do everything right and you give it 100 percent and you drive the wheels off it, you might win three more races but you'll probably wreck three or four more times and you won't be in that Chase.'"
Roush Racing has won the last two Cup titles with Matt Kenseth and reigning champion Kurt Busch. So the boss knows plenty about what it takes to hoist the trophy that goes to the best stock car racer in the world.
Edwards said Roush has convinced him that an average finish of fifth in the seven races that remain before the field is established for the final 10-race Chase should just about guarantee his inclusion among the elite.
So the hard-charging Edwards plans to throttle back a bit and hope patience is rewarded.
"I'm going to do my best to go out and use the first 75 to 80 percent of the races just to race for points," he said.
Then, Edwards and crew chief Bob Osborne will decide what to do in the closing laps.
"If we feel like we can go out and drive the wheels off of it and try to win the race, that's what we'll try to do," Edwards said.
The presence of Edwards could mean four of the five Roush cars would be among the final 10. Greg Biffle is second in the standings, Busch fifth and Mark Martin seventh.
Patience is the word for all in the Roush garage, even with Kenseth's team. They're 16th in points and probably can't make the top 10 without a series of fine finishes between now and the cutdown after the race Sept. 10 in Richmond, Va.
But crew chief Robbie Reiser isn't ready to concede anything
"We've got to keep finishing in the top 10 every week," he said after Kenseth finished 10th in New Hampshire. "That's the only way we're going to make it."
Both Edwards and Kenseth need to look no farther than Busch to see how it's done. Despite winning only once, Busch has overcome some bad luck -- including crashes resulting in placings of 35th and 43rd -- with 10 top-10 finishes.
"Right now, consistency is the key," said Busch, who finished second to Tony Stewart in Loudon, N.H., to move up five positions in the points race.
Busch said the key phrase for him is "not to panic" in adversity.
"There are so many things that come into play now that mean patience," he said. "If we finish 10th, that's fine. We're not going to stretch it to try to finish fifth and hurt ourselves and end up with a blown tire."