Well Carl Edwards has racked up some new sponsors, it has been over a year since he has won a Sprint Cup Series race.
“It doesn’t feel like that to me,” Edwards said upon being told last week. “I guess it’s reality, but we go out every week and race as hard as we can and there were many races last year that we very well could have won if things would have gone slightly different. We obviously ran very well.”
Edwards added that despite no wins, he had one of the best average finishes over the course of last year, which was 9.3. The consistant finishes are thanks to the strength of the Roush-Fenway organization.
“I think we’re as good as we hoped,” he said. “You never know what to expect, but Daytona was huge. We were way better there than I expected, so that was as good as it gets. To run as well as we have for as long as we have and to seemingly have not fallen off over the winter, that’s huge.”
Edwards noted that last week Las Vegas would mark a key race as it’d let everybody know where each other was on the mile-and-a-halves. That went well for Roush-Fenway as three of the four cars were battling within the top five at the end while Edwards finished fifth. A run like that, Edwards says, gives confidence going forward.
“You can bet if a guy has a good, strong run here, that can give you a lot of confidence going to the rest of these race tracks – Texas and Fontana and Kansas and all these places that rely on this type of setup,” he said.
One thing that didn’t come into play at Las Vegas but can sometimes get times away from the result they want is pit strategy. Edwards said that his team learned a lot about pit strategy last year as it became important due to the cars getting closer.
“There were a number of races last year where, fortunately, we were fast enough, we were leading and everything is going great, and we get that final caution and we’d come down for four tires and guys would ‘gamble’ – they would stay out or take two tires and get that track position,” he said. “We saw the bad side of that a number of times for us, where guys would sneak out of nowhere and be able to hang on to the lead and win the race.
“I think that is more important now, that track position, than it’s ever been and it puts the crew chiefs in a very tough spot because the better you’re doing and the farther up front you are, the harder it is to take that risk. If you know you’ve got a fast car, you’re up front, you want to come and get those four tires and play it smart and get back to your position, but sometimes you just can’t do it.”
Strategy can sometimes bring forth calculating fuel milage, which didn’t work well for Edwards earlier this season at Phoenix when he ran out of gas.
“We didn’t expect to run out of fuel when we did,” he said. “We miscalculated a little bit, which we pride ourselves on having great fuel mileage and being able to manage that fuel mileage so that we can make it to the end of the race, so it was disappointing for us, but I think a lot of people were surprised. I haven’t really talked to anyone, but it appeared to me that a lot of people were running out of fuel, so a lot of people must have been in the same boat, where they thought that they could go farther than they could. It was really disappointing for us, but we did learn some things and I think we’ll be better next time.”
Edwards comes into Bristol now, sitting sixth in points. Edwards could continue to climb the point standings as he has won at Bristol twice in the past, while scoring four top fives and seven top 10s in 15 starts.
Edwards comes in with a slight advantage on the competition as he is one of the most physically fit driver, ready for one of the toughest tracks.
“Racing at Bristol is like fighter jets in a gymnasium,” Edwards described it in the team preview. “The banking is so high, you drive down in the corner and the forces pushing the car into the track seem so much greater than anywhere else we go. The rate at which the car is changing direction is very fast. It always takes me a few laps in the race, 10-15 laps in, to get comfortable with the pace of it because things are happening so quickly there. It is really fun to race there and we hope to get the Cheez-It Ford in victory lane.”
Crew Chief Bob Osborne says the important thing will be how they do in qualifying.
“Bristol is a tough track,” he said. “It doesn’t take much to get caught up in someone else’s accident. We had good runs at both events there last year since we were able to start up front and stay up front. Qualifying is very important at Bristol to start up front and get a good pit stall. We’re taking a car we ran a few times during the Chase last year which always ran well.”
Photo by: Simon Scoggins/SpeedwayMedia.com