Odds favorable for more in Edwards’ turnaround

jutter@charlotteobserver.comMarch 9, 2013 

— Remember when Carl Edwards broke his 70-race winless streak in the Sprint Cup Series?

The most recent one, that is.

It actually was last Sunday at Phoenix, but considering the circumstances in NASCAR since, that seems like an eternity.

Edwards actually has a good chance to win Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and create a winning streak – something he hasn’t done since he won the final two races of 2010.

Edwards’ recent change of fortune has been lost in the furor surrounding the penalty NASCAR assessed Thursday to driver Denny Hamlin for what it called “disparaging remarks” about the on-track competition after last weekend’s race.

There has been little mention of Edward’s victory, nor any mention that he could follow up with another this week. He was second-fastest during Saturday’s final practice.

Edwards hasn’t appeared fazed by the attention being directed elsewhere.

“Not winning a race for 70 races is really frustrating. Even though it was a 70-race drought, we did have an awesome 2011 season with (seven) second-place finishes … , so it wasn’t 70 races of frustration,” Edwards said.

“But 2012 was a long time. It was a full season of pretty lackluster performance for us, so it felt good just to get that turned around and have a real solid day.”

Matt Kenseth’s departure from Roush Fenway Racing ended up providing a gain for Edwards – he picked up Kenseth’s crew chief, Jimmy Fennig.

Fennig and some other members of Kenseth’s former team moved to Edwards’ No. 99 Ford team during the offseason in hopes of bringing an end to Edwards’ drought.

Only two races into 2013 and Edwards already has reaped the rewards.

“We were holding Carl back last year without meaning to, just because we didn’t have the right chemistry around him,” team co-owner Jack Roush said.

Edwards seems to agree with Roush’s assessment.

“I believe the ingredients we have right now, the pit stops are fast, Jimmy Fennig’s experience, the cars seem to be running really well, the engines are fast,” he said. “I think all of those things are good for this season.

“I think we have a lot of great things to look forward to, but a win right off the bat is really, really good for us.”

Another would be even better.

In fact, had Edwards not won last Sunday, he would have rolled into Las Vegas likely spending the week being asked about his 2010 victory at the track – which had been most recent Cup series win.

Perhaps it still would have been overshadowed by Hamlin’s penalty, but Edwards still enjoys having a different topic of conversation.

“During the 2012 season it was very frustrating and I said often I was a lot happier when I was winning than when we were not winning or running well. So it is very trying when you’re not doing well,” said Edwards, who will start 16th Sunday.

“It is tough to just keep doing what you know is right, keep working hard and keep moving forward.”

Edwards said as he stood in Victory Lane last weekend at Phoenix, he wanted to make sure Roush was the first person he thanked.

“He’s the man who’s seen the ups and downs of business life and throughout the entire 2012 season he never once wavered,” Edwards said.

“He just said, ‘I believe in you. We’ll build the right team around you. We’ll make this work.’ ”

And once again Edwards is delivering.

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