Edwards in the Driver’s Seat
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on November 2, 2011 | 10:00 A.M. EST
Carl Edwards has an eight point lead with three races remaining. (Photo: Getty Images)
Carl Edwards is in the best possible position as the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup leader with three races left in the season and he plans to stay there.
The Roush Fenway Racing driver has put together a solid first seven races of the Chase schedule with only one finish outside the top 10. That’s added up to his eight point lead over Tony Stewart heading into Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
As the series returns to the Lone Stare State for the second visit of the year, Edwards says his strategy is very simple.
“I don't think there's a specific strategy other than to go to Texas and try to build on the success we've had with our Aflac team,” said Edwards. “We've run really well there. There could not be a better racetrack for us to be going to. I feel like we made it through the first seven races of the Chase better than we expected. Now we just go these last three races and go for broke.”
Edwards has had some challenges the last two races at Talladega Superspeedway and Martinsville Speedway, but was able to overcome them for decent if not spectacular finishes.
But Edwards warns not to confuse the circumstances he dealt with during those two races with his team just trying to get by or points race.
“Two things happen the last two weeks,” Edwards explained. “At Talladega, (teammate) Greg (Biffle) and I, our plan was to be there to win that race. We thought the best way to do it was to drive defensively for most of the day, then we needed another lap or two to be able to charge up to the front at the end. But that race overall, yes, I think you're right. That was kind of a defensive strategy.
“Martinsville, that's all we got. We just messed up our setup. We did not have a fast car. So all the races, except for maybe Talladega to some degree, I feel like we've been on offense. We've been going for it, doing everything we can. The problem is that we messed up a couple of those races and we had to scramble for a good finish.”
After Stewart’s win in Martinsville last Sunday, the two-time series champion threw down the gauntlet and reminded Edwards that he was coming for the point lead. It led to a verbal exchange between the two but any real “trash talking” is something Edwards isn’t interested in taking on.
“It is kind of fun,” Edwards said. “It's fun to go back and forth, give each other a hard time. At the end of the day, I think Tony and myself would both be foolish if we thought all we had to worry about was one another. That would be great. That would be the best case.
“I'm fine with it 'cause I don't participate. My job is to go out here and do the best I can, win these championships.”
Edwards also ignores talk that if he does go on to win the title without winning a race in the Chase it would be a black mark for the sport. While Stewart has been the hottest driver in the playoffs with his three wins, Edwards could easily hold serve and his points advantage by continuing his consistent approach.
It’s safe to say any such talk doesn’t keep Edwards awake at night.
“To me, there's absolutely nothing wrong with going out, doing our jobs, performing the very best we can, taking this championship home with just our one race win at Vegas,” said Edwards of his regular season victory back in March. “No matter how you slice it, this year has been a great year for us. Although I plan on winning three more races, we've proven we can do that, if it doesn't happen, that's just fine with me. Those are the cards we're dealt.”