Edwards contends on two circuits

Friday, June 3, 2005

CONCORD, N.C. -- Carl Edwards still is adjusting to sudden fame. Luckily for NASCAR's newest star, his girlfriend steals the spotlight every time she's on his arm.

Edwards is dating Olympic swimmer and part-time model Amanda Beard, who has caused a stir at the handful of races she's attended this season.

"She's more famous than I am, so it makes it a little easier on me when she's around," Edwards said. "It's kind of wild for me when I get recognized in the grocery store. I'm still getting used to all of this."

Edwards better get comfortable quickly.

He is a legitimate contender to qualify for NASCAR's 10-race Chase for the Championship after jumping from 13th to eighth in the standings with a third-place finish Sunday in the Coca-Cola 600. He's 288 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson but only 83 points out of third place.

He's also on top of the Busch Series standings, holding a 180-point lead over Clint Bowyer.

Besides running in both of NASCAR's top series, Edwards jumped into a dirt modified car last week for a little extracurricular racing.

His week was so full, the staff at Lowe's Motor Speedway jokingly made him some business cards that read: "Carl Edwards, World's Busiest Driver. Looking For a Driver? You're Looking For Me!"

The cards were a nod to Edwards' early efforts to break into racing. So desperate for a chance, Edwards, then 19, distributed business cards and placed a personal ad in a 1998 edition of National Speed Sport News, a weekly trade newspaper.

"There were days when every single time the phone rang, I prayed it was someone calling about racing," said Edwards, who grew up in Columbia, Mo.

With jobs few and far between, Edwards enrolled at the University of Missouri and spent time as a substitute teacher.

He got his break when Roush Racing gave him a chance to drive in the truck series. Edwards blazed onto the scene with three wins in 2003 and rookie of the year honors. He scored his first career Nextel Cup win earlier this season.

"I'm really having to make an effort to take some free time for myself," he said. "I'm so busy between the Cup car and the Busch car, and I hate saying no to anyone so I am always off doing stuff when I should be using the time to catch my breath."

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