Carl Edwards wasn’t going to sugarcoat it. He stated the obvious last week when he admitted his team hasn’t been dominant all year.
His two wins came in March and June. He’s had only one top-five finish in the Chase, coming four weeks ago at Kansas. And, by all accounts, it’s been a subpar season for the 35-year-old in his final year with Roush Fenway Racing.
Somehow, though, he’s managed to advance through each round of the Chase and is one of eight drivers who have kept their championship hopes alive. With the Chase headed to Texas Motor Speedway this weekend, Edwards seems to be as good of a choice as any to win.
His three Sprint Cup wins at Texas Motor Speedway are more than any driver, and he was the pole-sitter in last year’s race before he blew an engine.
But, as Edwards said: “The problem with the success I’ve had at Texas is it happened a long time ago.”
Edwards’ first win at TMS came in 2005 when he stormed to the front after starting 30th. He then completed the season sweep in 2008. Since then, he has only three top-five runs in the past 11 races.
The engine failure last year left him 37th, and he came in 14th this past spring.
“Texas is one that I’m actually a little more nervous about than this track or Phoenix,” Edwards said before the Eliminator Round kicked off last weekend at Martinsville.
Edwards had a disappointing run at Martinsville, finishing 20th, and sits sixth in the points standings. He now needs to put together two strong races at Texas and Phoenix to advance to the final four, or a win that would clinch a spot.
“We’ll go to Texas and go for the win,” Edwards said after Sunday’s race. “That’s all we can do. We’ve got a bunch of wins at Texas, so there’s nothing saying we can’t go there and do it.”
Nobody is counting him out.
The new Chase format was implemented to create “Game 7 moments” and get a March Madness-type feel to it. That’s part of the reason drivers such as Edwards and Ryan Newman have been able to advance.
TMS president Eddie Gossage compared Edwards to a Cinderella team in the NCAA tournament.
“Carl has had a typical Carl Edwards season, but he can come in here and win and then go win a championship,” Gossage said. “There’s always a Gonzaga or Butler that advances in the men’s basketball tournament and, to me, that’s Ryan Newman and Carl Edwards this year.
“You don’t expect them to be in the Chase, but look at them. They could really pull this thing out. That makes it so cool to me.”
It’s been quite a feat for Edwards and his team to simply stay in the hunt, especially when it would have been easy for them to throw the season away. Edwards is headed to Joe Gibbs Racing next season, but he has not wavered in his desire to win a title for Jack Roush.
Edwards’ ability to survive and advance has even caught other drivers by surprise. As he said, he hasn’t been a dominant team but just a little more consistent than his competitors.
“My wife and I were talking about Carl and how he’s made it through quietly,” said six-time champ Jimmie Johnson, who has been eliminated from the Chase. “It just shows that collecting points is still important. We’ve been so focused on winning that there is an argument that overlooked just having solid runs. It’s not a bad approach to go out there and be conscious of top-fives, top-10s and staying alive.”
Edwards has done that and would love nothing more than to have a storybook ending to his RFR days.
Edwards at Texas
Wins: 3 (Fall 2005; Spring and Fall 2008)
Average finish: 15.5
Average green flag speed: 173.402 mph, fourth-fastest
Quality passes: 716, fifth-most
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This story was originally published October 30, 2014 6:36 PM.