With the Chase as close as it has been through five races and especially with the new point system, it’s hard for a driver to extend their point lead. It’s even harder to do so after a race at Talladega Superspeedway but Carl Edwards did so on Sunday afternoon.
[media-credit id=2 align=”alignright” width=”227″][/media-credit]Entering the day with a five-point advantage on Kevin Harvick, Edwards like every other Chase driver was just looking to survive. He did so by playing it safe and earning an 11th place finish. It puts him now 14 points ahead in the Chase lead, the largest it has been, over teammate Matt Kenseth.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever been excited about 11th place,” said Edwards afterward. “This race was one that is nerve-wracking for everyone. We came in here with a small points lead and we’re leaving with a bigger one. That’s a huge day for us.”
Thanks in part to another teammate, Greg Biffle. The two played possum in the back of the field for nearly all of the races 188 laps. Looking to avoid trouble and be around when it mattered most. Edwards also didn’t want to cause any trouble, something he did in the Chase a few seasons ago which not only ended a few drivers’ championship bids, but earned him a new enemies as well.
Not the case on Sunday. He and Biffle stayed out of trouble and capitalized on other drivers problems. Because of the new two-car drafting Biffle became an important part of Edwards’ day and success. The two stuck together, never leaving each other’s bumpers and worked their plan from start to finish. Something that Edwards was thankful for in the end.
“I cannot believe how much Greg helped us today,” said Edwards. “I owe him a lot. Greg stuck with me all day. The last lap, he was driving my car from back there. We got separated and he was screaming, ‘Go, go, go.’ Then somehow he found me again, pushed us back up through there a little bit. Just a very, very good day. Just really appreciate Subway being onboard. Good to get them a good finish. Even though it’s not a win, it’s a big battle in the war, a huge day for us.”
The series next stop is the paperclip in Virginia, a track that Edwards has never won on. But following his performance and good fortune Sunday, he now says he has never been as excited to get to Martinsville as he currently is. Ready to rock, is what Edwards feels.
But it doesn’t mean that he’ll be breathing any easier. Unlike Talladega where a driver isn’t in control of their own destiny, Edwards knows that anything can happen over the next four weeks.
“No, no,” said Edwards about feeling in good shape and taking a breath. “That would be nice, I’d love that. We’d have to have a hundred-point lead to take a breath. Anything can happen. I’m proud of our team, where we’ve come from, how far we’ve come in the last 18 months. It’s unbelievable.”
Edwards says that it shows how hard everyone has worked. And how much responsibility everyone is willing to take in order to fix what was needed to be fix. It helps Edwards have fun driving what he believes is the best team and best cars in the sport. Yet, he knows he has stiff competition from another driver who has exactly the same thing.
Coming off a win at Charlotte and a 18th place finish at Talladega, Matt Kenseth is also in championship form and now Roush Fenway Racing drivers sit one-two in points.
“I’m a little nervous about Matt, honestly, ‘cause I know how good he is and how good his team is,” Edwards said. “Having him in second doesn’t make me breath easier competitive wise.”
Neither does the fact that Edwards has been here before. Chasing a championship and being oh so close to holding the trophy. In those cases though, Edwards was left standing on the sideline watching another driver do it. And with some of his best tracks ahead, he still won’t think about what could be for 2011.
Instead he’s content just knowing that his team is competitive every week. Right now, says Edwards, his team is better than they were in years past when they were in this position. Everything is better in fact, the team and the cars.
“Just glad to be in the position I’m in,” he said. “It’s amazing to drive these Fords right now for Jack [Roush, owner]. It’s a lot of fun.”