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Pedley: Did Perfect Storm Cost Edwards His Shot?

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, November 26 2011

Carl Edwards and his team did not get any help from Mother Nature at Homestead-Miami last week. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

There is zero doubt that the level of competition in the Sprint Cup Series is at an all-time high. So high that each and every week, there are 20 or more cars and drivers on the track which are capable of winning races. So high that no teams or drivers are assured playoff berths.

And so high that teams and drivers who find themselves with solid opportunities to win a Cup championship had better cash in because those opportunities may never come along again.

You know that Carl Edwards knows that today. You know that everybody on his team knows that today. And you know that coming up one point short in efforts to win this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship has put and uh-oh gulp in the throats of all who work for, and root for, the Roush Fenway Racing No. 99 team.

Edwards had one of those special seasons in 2011. The kind that are absolutely necessary to get even the slightest sniff of a Sprint Cup championship.

His team was solid from top  to bottom: Crew chief Bob Osborne made few if any big mistakes; the guys in the Roush Fenway Racing shop put great cars together; the Roush-Yates engine guys put big power in those cars; and the pit crew did its job.

Edwards only won one race, but he finished in the top five in over half (19 of 36) the races and in the top 10 26 times. He led laps in 25 races. He had zero DNFs.

Carl Edwards was introduced at Homestead as the points leader. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

In a time in which consistency is still rewarded more than victories, Edwards was The Man. The closest contenders in top-fives were Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson (who each had 14). In top-10s, it was Johnson, who had 21.

Edwards took full advantage of the system and had the series lead for 21 weeks.

Last week, Edwards started the season-ending Ford 400 in first place. He had a three-point lead over Tony Stewart. which, in the scoring system which was introduced for 2011, that is enough of a lead to have made Edwards a solid favorite.

It took perfect triangulation for Stewart to deprive Edwards of the championship. Stewart won the race and Edwards was second. When the points and bonus points were added up, the two were tied at the top.

But Stewart was handed the big, gaudy check and the bigger, gaudier trophy because he had the tie-breaker in his corner – he won more races (five) during the season.

And Edwards, for the second time in his career, finished, as Ricky Bobby would say, as first loser. I remember talking to Edwards in the hours after he came up one place short to Johnson in 2008. He was cool with it. Disappointed, of course, but cool.

He had finished top three just three years before (second, actually but that time he lost the tie-breaker for runner-up status to teammate Greg Biffle) and Edwards’ look and tone both said: Next time.

Next time was last week at Homestead-Miami Speedway. And again, at the end of the day, there was Edwards, a driver of enormous driving talent, talking to reporters about coming up second.

This time, the body language told a little bit different story. Though gracious and outwardly positive, Edwards looked a bit more agonized to me. He looked more exasperated. Probably because of the nature of this year’s Chase – in which it took five victories in 10 races and a weather-aided victory by Stewart at Homestead – and possibly because of overall circumstances.

At 32, Edwards is not the young upstart any more. Yes, he is still well within the peak-years portion of his career, he has a new contract with a top team and this year could give him momentum heading into next year.

But, time and circumstances may no longer be on his side.

The Sprint Cup Series is not going to be any less competitive next year. If anything, it could be more competitive when you think about some of the changes in the works.

Not just Edwards, but all drivers, have to feel that if they get into position to win a championship during this, the era of in which NASCAR has gone way out of its way to make for an even playing field, that legit chances of winning Cup had better be cashed in.

And Carl Edwards, he had a beauty of a chance in 2011. Perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime chance.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, November 26 2011
5 Comments

5 Comments »

  • Andrew Harris says:

    As much as I think Stewart deserved the Championship. I almost wish that He would have finished 26th instead of 25th at Dover (third race of the chase) then NASCAR could have had to explain about how one bad finish can outweigh five wins with the current point system. Maybe then real changes would be made.

  • Mr. Racing says:

    Simply put, win more. That’s not a perfect storm, that’s the object of the excercise.

    Much like most racing writer’s jobs are to whine for Carl, in hopes of carrying a story for 2 months.

  • Lydia says:

    I personally think Edwards watched his last chance at a championship drive by him on the last restart of the last race…. He will race hard next season..and I think that will be his downfall. This season he took very few chances, points racing as they say. But, after watching Stewart race with no regard for being safe, I think Carl will take on the same attitude next season and it will cost him dearly. It takes a very special driver to race as Tony did the last ten races..and I don’t see Carl as that driver.

  • Christopher W Herbert says:

    What cost Carl Edwards his chance of Championship glory. Was some small thing called ‘The Chase’ .. Since Edwards earned more overall points in total than any other Sprint Cup driver in 2011. Of that Edwards also gained more than a million dollars in prize money over than of his closet rival for the Cup. (Nevertheless ‘The Chase’ took away the prize that Edwards in other terms did gain) .. The Chase took the Cup out of Kevin Harvick’s hands in the past, and ‘The Chase’ give some one named Jimmy Johnson 5 Cup victories in as row. (So much for entertainment, or the price there of)

    • Eric says:

      I guess the Superbowl cost the Patriots their championship in 2007 too…considering they went undefeated in the regular season and had more wins than any other team.

      Wait…what was that? They didn’t win when it counted? Oh…sounds just like the any other sports team that doesn’t win the championship rounds despite what their regular season looked like….kind of like Carl Edwards.

      All these “Chase did this and chase did that” comments are pretty much coming from sore losers who are upset because their favorite driver didn’t rise to the occasion when it counted. (Although there’s some irony to that considering that Carl didn’t really choke it away, but instead, just got outdriven by Stewart in the championship.) This is not a 36 race season….it’s a 26 race season that serves as qualifiers to put yourself in position to win the 10 races championship. Every driver knows this and knows how the format works. Score the most points over the final 10 races and you win the championship. That’s when it counts the most. Just like in every other sport. Making it to the playoffs and winning it when it counts the most is what crowns you the championship. It’s no different in NASCAR. Making the chase, and scoring the most points over those final 10 races is when it counts the most. Both Stewart and Edwards did that as the tied, and the championship was rightfully awarded to Stewart, who won the most races.

      There’s no denying that Edwards had a brutally consistent season…but lets face it, NASCAR should be about wins, and when one man goes out there and wins 50 percent of the championship rounds, I see no reason to complain about how Edwards got robbed. He won 1 race all year long. Stewart won 4 more races than Carl….all in the 10 race championship rounds. When you consider what Tony had to do to take that crown away from Edwards, the fact that Stewart actually accomplished it and overcame all the adversity he went through in the final race goes to show you he rose to the occasion and earned his trophy the hard way…by winning, not by cruising around with top 5 finishes.