Carl Edwards has made no secret that he hopes to emulate Matt Kenseth’s successful move from Roush Fenway Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing of two seasons ago.
Kenseth left Roush, where he won three races in 2012, to win seven races in his first season with JGR – the most of any driver in 2013.
He also finished second in the Sprint Cup Series championship race, dueling down to the wire with six-time champion Jimmie Johnson.
This weekend’s Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a good place for Edwards to kick-start his quest.
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It was here two years ago that Kenseth secured his first win with JGR after beginning the 2012 season with finishes of 37th and seventh in the first two races.
“Matt has been huge in my transition. Matt kind of does things under the radar. He put together some meetings early on and some things I needed to be very aware of and really helped me a lot,” said Edwards, who has finished 23rd and 12th in his first two races with JGR.
“He’s a guy I lean on a lot. He’s a quiet guy, but he’s a very good leader and he has all the experience and success, so hopefully I can keep learning from him.”
Like Kenseth before him, Edwards had spent virtually his entire NASCAR career with the Roush organization, and while change is often enticing and exciting, there comes with it a degree of uncertainty.
A long tenure with one organization breeds a sense of familiarity and comfort.
“To me the thing that is most important is just understanding the people and understanding how I fit in and making sure that I’m giving everybody what they need,” Edwards explained.
“It’s like any new job or new situation – everyone is being polite and everyone is being nice, but you really want to get down to it and say, ‘What do you need from me and what do I need to do?’
“I’ve been trying to figure that out.”
So far, Edwards seems to be fitting right in at JGR, although the organization will be without Cup driver Kyle Busch for several weeks as he recovers from injuries sustained in the Xfinity Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway.
While crew chief Darian Grubb won a championship with driver Tony Stewart, JGR’s No. 19 Toyota team assembled for Edwards was basically created from scratch.
It’s not an easy task for any organization, including one as successful as JGR, to have a new team in contention from the get-go.
“It’s amazing to me how well-prepared this No. 19 team is. They are very well-prepared and it’s overwhelming how much they have planned,” Edwards said. “I’m real excited about that.
“I don’t know where they find the time to build all the cars, prepare everything and compile all this data and have all these presentations for me. It’s an unbelievable team.”
The on-track results may not be exactly what Edwards was hoping in the early going but as Kenseth proved two years ago, there is plenty of time to get in position to win numerous races and battle for a championship.
“I believe that change in itself is good because it puts a lot of pressure on you,” Edwards said. “That’s a motivator and for me it’s an opportunity right now.
“I’m way outside of my comfort zone and that’s good. Hopefully it yields good results.”
Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter.