Edwards would love to tame Darlington

by Monte Dutton

Carl Edwards has never won at Darlington Raceway. Then again, he’s never arrived at the South Carolina track with the Sprint Cup point lead.

Darlington is NASCAR’s oldest superspeedway… and strangest. It is eggshaped in that one side (turns 3 and 4) is markedly narrower than the other. The track itself, in terms of usable asphalt, is narrower than any other. As such, it is perhaps stock-car racing’s sternest test.

“The first time I went to Darlington was in the Truck Series, and I had studied tape with Jeff Burton,” Edwards recalled. “Bobby Hudson was my spotter. He grew up right around there, and he’d seen races there forever, and I mean, for a month leading up to that race, I heard more Darlington stories… about how tough that track was, and learned about the history of it through my studying of how to run fast there. To me, it’s a mythical place.

“To win there, to me, would mean a lot. It would be huge. I’ve been very close. We’ve been fast in the trucks, fast in the Nationwide car, really fast in the Cup car, and have never won a race there. That’s a very important race to me.”

A year ago, Edwards finished 15 th in the Showtime Southern 500, won by Denny Hamlin. Overall, his record is solid: four Top 10 finishes in seven races, including a second place in 2008 to Kyle Busch.

So far, Edwards, from Columbia, Mo., has finished sixth or better in seven of the nine Sprint Cup races. He has a win and two poles. He’s also won twice in the Nationwide Series.

Edwards leads Jimmie Johnson, winner of the past five championships, by only nine points.

“Right now… it’s all about winning races, learning and performing well enough to lock yourself into the Chase,” said Edwards. “For us to be leading is fun. It feels good, but it’s also about having a little bit of insurance…. Jimmie [Johnson] and those guys have been doing really well.

“Hopefully we can keep them behind us.

That would be nice.”

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 ( features all of his reporting on racing, roots music and life on the road. E-mail Monte at ‘© 2011 King Features Syndicate

Sprint Cup points leader Carl Edwards has never won at Darlington, a track he calls a “mythical place.” (John Clark/NASCAR This Week photo)