Pedley: Edwards Lost In The Desert
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
Carl Edwards got lost on Sunday. Got lost among a sea of frontstretch fans at Phoenix International Raceway and, more importantly when it comes to the history books, got lost in NASCAR Nation’s mind’s eye.
Yep, one of the worst things about the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championships is that focus upon its main plot can shove really cool and significant subplots into the margins.
The Edwards Story of the past two seasons has been a mystery. How could a driver with so much talent, and who drives for a top team, and who twice in his seven-year career has come close to winning Cup championships, freakin’ disappear?
Prior to winning Sunday’s Kobalt 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, 70 races passed since Edwards last was able to do perform his signature gymnastic move from the driver’s side window of a Cup car.
Edwards and gone from flipping to flopping.
Yes, he made the Chase last year and this year but who – other than Edwards and his family – are going to remember that in 20 years?
“It had been far too long since we’d been in Victory Circle with Carl,” were the first 14 words out of team-owner Jack Roush’s mouth after Edwards‘ win. “Everybody expects Carl to win as Carl expects to win.”
But then came PIR.
He won the Nationwide race on Saturday (it was his second straight in NNS as he won at Texas the week before) and on Sunday followed it with the drought-buster.
Relief, the way it sounded, overpowered joy as the emotion of the moment.
“A lot of them and none of them are good,” Edwards said when asked about his thoughts during his 0-for-70 days. “I have a lot of confidence. Jack has a lot of confidence, Bob (Osborne, his crew chief) does too, and we all work very hard, so we expect out of ourselves and people around us, we expect to win. We’ve had a lot of success before and with that comes a little more expectation, not just from the outside, but from within.
“I’m very proud at how our team has come together through this past two years since we’ve won, and I’m very proud to be a part of this team because we very easily could have fallen apart. Instead, we just kept working and here we are in Victory Lane, fourth in points, salvaging a season that did not begin well, so I’m just proud of everybody.”
Sunday’s victory may not have been a style-points job – he won it by saving fuel, not by making classic moves or use of brute strength.
But it was a victory and it was greeted as though it was a classic.
“ A win is very important to us,” Edwards said. “It’s a big accomplishment for us. It’s something that we needed for our confidence and we needed it as a payoff for all the hard work that the guys put in at the shop and the engine department. It would be nice to get another one at Homestead, but to go into the off-season knowing that we’re getting better and it looks like we have a really legitimate shot to finish fourth in the points, to be in the All-Star Race next season, to have that energy going forward – all of those things are good.”
A big question which was put to Roush after the victory concerned the future. Was the victory at PIR, which was just the third of the season for his four-driver team, the start of a trend or an aberration?
Roush sounded cautious about that one.
“First off what occurs to me is, too late smart?” he said. “We didn’t realize we needed
to build something. We thought we finished last year with sufficient momentum to be able to get in this year and do what we needed to do and early on we figured out that the things we tried to predict didn’t work, and some of the things we tried to simulate didn’t work out as well as they needed to.
“We were waiting for our FR9 engine and we needed a little more work on the aero side of the car. Throughout the year, the engineers worked hard on the aero piece. We had a problem with vibration that bit us last weekend with Greg Biffle’s car and we’ve had two weeks of testing on an independent race track to evaluate that. We think we’ve got a handle on the vibrations and we wish the year would not end, but I certainly feel like all the sponsors will enjoy the moment.”
Edwards, apparently not content with one signature victory celebration, went into the grandstands after Sunday’s race. Would have done it following Saturday’s victory, too, he said, but when he got to the gate that leads from the track into the fan area, he found it locked.
Sunday, he was greeted at the gate with a ladder being lowered.
“People are wound up,” Edwards said about the atmosphere among the paying customers. “Fortunately, they all seem to be fans of mine, but everybody is really excited. I had never really considered doing that until that gate was open at Texas – the hole in the fence there at Texas was right in front of me, so I thought, ‘Well, we’ll see how this goes.’
“The wrestler, John Cena, he was at a Gillette commercial shoot with us a few years ago and he did that. There were some fans there and they just couldn’t believe he did it,
so that’s kind of what sparked the idea. Those two times I’ve done that, I’ll never forget those. It’s really neat to go up there. I would highly recommend it to anybody. It feels really neat.”
Sunday was very much a neat day, an important and emotional day, for Edwards and Roush and Osborne and Ford.
It’s just too bad it all occurred on a day when the Chase was dividing attention.
– Jim Pedley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgOne Comment