Don’t Count Edwards Out

by Monte Dutton

Carl Edwards, who won nine races in 2008, hasn’t won any since.

Yet Edwards, who was runner-up to Jimmie Johnson in the 2008 Chase for the Sprint Cup, is back in it this year and actually accumulated more points in the final 10 races of the regular season than any other driver.

Consistency has become Edwards’ key. A 10th-place finish in the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway left Edwards, 31, in ninth place in the Sprint Cup standings, 95 points behind leader Denny Hamlin.

Edwards, of Columbia, Mo., felt good to put New Hampshire — and a decent finish — behind him.

“Everyone knows that the meat of the Chase is mile-and-a-half tracks like Kansas and California,” he said. “You definitely want to get a good start, but I don’t think anyone can set the tone of the Chase here [New Hampshire], just because it’s kind of a unique track.”

The challenge, of course, is beating Jimmie Johnson, who has won the past four championships.

“I think that we have proven… that we can score more points than anyone in the series, and that’s what it is going to take,” said Edwards. “Jimmie [Johnson] did a good job … of explain ing that you have to have something to hang your hat on. You either have to have wins or you have to be very consistent. You have to have some sort of thing to build your team around.

“We are building our hopes on the fact that we have shown, over an extended period, that we can score better average finishes than everyone else. Now we just have to go do that. That’s what I am counting on: the ability to go do that.”

Edwards has spent his entire Sprint Cup career driving Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 99 Ford. In 2005, his first full season, he wound up third in the Chase behind that year’s champion, Tony Stewart, and Edwards’ teammate, Greg Biffle.

Consistency is a recent addition to Edwards’ repertoire. All 16 of his Cup victories have taken place in three seasons — 2005, 2007 and 2008 — but he has qualified for the Chase in five of his six full seasons.

Edwards won the Nationwide Series championship in 2007.

Monte Dutton has covered motorsports for The Gaston (NC) Gazette since 1993. He was named writer of the year by the National Motorsports Press Association in 2008. His blog NASCAR This Week (nascar. features all of his reporting on racing, roots music and life on the road. E-mail Monte at nascar_thisweek@yahoo. com. ‘© 2010 King Features Syndicate

Carl Edwards, left, alongside Cup Series driver David Ragan, was the Sprint Cup runnerup in 2008, but is winless since that season. Nevertheless, he’s eighth in points heading into Dover. (John Clark/NASCAR This Week photo)