HAMPTON, Ga. — firstname.lastname@example.org
The first three times Carl Edwards competed at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the Sprint Cup Series, he came away with a third-place finish and two winner’s trophies.
That was nearly eight years ago and the NASCAR world was at his feet.
Many thought he would have his first series championship by now and he almost did, losing in a tiebreaker to Tony Stewart in last season’s final race.
If Edwards – one of the title favorites entering this season – is to have a chance to compete for the title again, he’s going to need find Victory Lane again.
And he knows the way at Atlanta.
“We recognize the position we’re in, we don’t like it, and the only thing we can do is go out and race like we’ve got nothing to lose because, in a way, we don’t,” Edwards said.
“We need to win.”
To make the Chase this season, he almost certainly does.
Entering Sunday night’s Advocare 500 at Atlanta, Edwards is 12th in the series standings, 34 points behind 10th-place Tony Stewart. Only the top 10 in points are guaranteed spots in the Chase, with the final two wild card spots going to drivers 11th-20th in points with the most wins.
Edwards is winless on the season so far and 34 points will be a difficult margin to make up with only two races left before the Chase field is set.
A win, however, and Edwards immediately becomes in contention for the second wild card spot – Kasey Kahne currently holds the first won by virtue of his two victories this season.
“The bigger part of competition, in my mind, is dealing with circumstances that don’t go the way you want them to. That’s the tough thing to do and in auto racing you’ve got to do it more than dealing with winning,” Edwards said.
“So, I’ve learned over the years that for me to be successful and for our team to be successful, you can’t let what happened last week, last year, last month affect you right now, whether it’s good or bad.
“We know that when you show up at the race track you have the same chance to win, you can hit the set-up perfectly, you can make good decisions, racing luck could go your way, and all of a sudden you can get that victory that you need.”
Those kind of races certainly have occurred this season, turning the tide of a driver’s season in the most unexpected of ways.
The most recent example is Jeff Gordon, who headed into the summer looking like he had no chance at the Chase, only to put himself back into the hunt with a surprise victory in a rain-shortened race at Pocono Raceway in August.
“There’s a race if you would have asked him before that restart, they probably weren’t considered a favorite to win that race right then, but they didn’t stop believing in their ability and the circumstances arose and they did it,” Edwards said.
“Basically I’m saying we feel like we have time. We feel like we have the team. We just need things to fall our way and we will capitalize on it.”
While it’s been well over a year since Edwards last won a Cup race, his record at Atlanta provides hope.
Besides victories in two of his first three races at the track, he also won in 2008 and has finished fifth and second in his last two starts.
“Atlanta is one of my personal favorite tracks to drive on. I don’t think there’s a more fun race track on the circuit to race on,” Edwards said.
“Chad (Norris, crew chief) and all the guys, we spoke a lot this week about our strategy for the race and we feel like we’ve got a car sitting there in the hauler that can go win that race, so we’re really excited about it.
“I hope that it goes the way we want it to.”
Like his driver, Norris remains confident.
“Well, the good thing is, Carl is one of the best in the business. I wouldn’t want to go into this fight with anybody else out there,” he said.
“We’re just going to go out and do our best and go do what we know how to do – win races, get in the Chase and fight for it at the end.”