For the longest time Carl Edwards was considered a menace on the restrictor plate racetracks of Daytona and Talladega.
[media-credit name=”CIA Stock Photo” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]Three years ago Edwards started the ‘Big One’ at Talladega and a week later it led to a shoving and choking match between he and Kevin Harvick. Harvick wasn’t pleased with Edwards and called him a pansy. Edwards responded with by leaving a note in Harvick’s plane.
Sunday though, during the 53rd annual Daytona 500 it was Edwards who did everything right and came home second to rookie and Cinderella story Trevor Bayne. To many a second place finish is nothing to sneeze at but in the Daytona 500 it doesn’t mean much.
“I can tell you guys that second place in the Daytona 500 feels ways worse than any other position I’ve ever finished in the Daytona 500,” Edwards said afterwards.
“That is made better by listening to Trevor [Bayne] and how excited he is. He is a really nice young man and a great guy to represent this sport with this win.”
Edwards lead the charge for Roush-Fenway Racing. After Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle were knocked out of the race, Edwards and teammate David Ragan were able to preserve their cars and get to the front of the field for the frantic finish.
Ragan in fact, much like Biffle last year, was leading the Daytona 500 on the first attempt of a Green-White-Checkered finish. On the restart though he changed lanes before the start-finish line and was black-flagged by NASCAR. He finished 14th and said he would be going to NASCAR for clarification of what he did wrong.
Ragan’s mistake and coinciding caution cleared the way for Edwards to get a push from David Ragan all the way to third on the final lap. Coming off turn four Edwards had one chance at Bayne who perfected the block and won the race.
“David [Gilliland] just pushed me and that’s what we needed,” said Edwards.
“All day we waited and waited and tried not to tear up our racecar and there at the end it almost worked out perfectly. Trevor [Bayne] just blocked the bottom and that was a rocket and took off to the finish line and we didn’t have a chance to mount up a real charge on him.”
Edwards will be the point leader heading into the Phoenix International Speedway next weekend, where just three months ago he won. He also won the season ending race a week later to end the 2010 season on a high note. He’s picked right up where he left off.
“If we had gone to the high side I think we would have gone around them if we didn’t get broken up,” said Edwards in talking about he and Gilliland trying to get around Bayne and Bobby Labonte.
“I think I was pretty much in trouble no matter what,” Edwards thought.
“I think the experience of running with the chance to win these races is what I need to break through to the next level and win some of these restrictor plate races. I think I got some of that today.”
Behind Bayne and Edwards came Gilliland to help Ford pull off a 1-2-3 sweep of the Daytona 500. Much talk leading to the big race was how the Ford came had perfected their water-cooling system to help their cars be able to push a little bit longer than everyone else.
The RFR cars were on the top of a few lists to be contenders. Not only were they contenders, no driver using a Ford engine had to leave the race because of a blown engine.
“Doug Yates and those guys build great engines,” said Edwards, also saying the old engines were great as well. “Now that we have this new engine we may have a lot to look forward to. That was a really good day for the engine. I don’t want to jinx it or anything but I’m really excited to run that engine for the whole year.”
Through all the good though, it won’t stop him though from trying to figure out what he could have done differently to make it three in a row.
“Right now this is going to be a long night for me,” revealed Edwards.
“I’m going to go back motorhome I’m going to watch the replay, I’m gonna think about 100 different things I could have done. I’m gonna think ‘Man, what would it have been like to win the race.’ BUT, when I roll into Phoenix next week I’m going to look at those points and go, ‘Hey, this is OK.’”
Edwards then continued, “We’ll go race the Daytona 500 again next year. There is a very, very bright side to our day today. We are going to have bad days but it’s nice to get out of this one considering the chaos that was going on, it is nice to get out of here with a great points run.”