News & Media


Edwards not worried about a 'Chase hangover'

December 02, 2011, Mark Aumann, NASCAR.com

LAS VEGAS -- When the 2012 season begins in February at Daytona, Carl Edwards will be trying to avoid what could be classified as a "Chase championship hangover."

Only once since Jimmie Johnson went from 2005 runner-up to 2006 champion has the second-place finisher even cracked the top five the following season. In fact, the past three years have been brutal on drivers who had Chase near-misses.

"If I sense that this is affecting us somehow for next year, we're going to have a meeting and we're going to straighten it out. And if somebody senses it's affecting me, they're going to slap me around and say, 'Hey, listen. You go out there and you race.'"

--CARL EDWARDS

Edwards went from second in 2008 to 11th in 2009, Mark Martin completely missed the Chase in 2010, and Denny Hamlin's brilliance last year was tarnished by a ninth-place effort this season.

So how can Edwards keep from suffering the same fate that befell him three seasons ago? He's hoping the experience he's gained with every season -- and particularly this championship battle -- will continue to pay future dividends.

"I understand the sport a lot better," Edwards said. "I know so much more about myself now than I did in 2008. I think [then] I was still reaching for things and trying to figure out what the limits of my abilities were.

"Now, whether it's right or wrong, I feel a lot more mature. I feel like I know what I need to do. I know where my weaknesses are more. And I guess I feel a little more confident now than I did after 2008."

If it's a matter of inner strength, Edwards believes coming within one point of his first title will only make him hungrier to capture the cup in 2012. If there is a concern, it lies with how the rest of his team has dealt with disappointment.

"I don't worry about it for me," Edwards said. "And after talking with my guys and talking to Bob, I don't really worry about it for our team. We really do have a strong group that's pretty amazing."

That point was driven home for Edwards when he saw his No. 99 Ford team Thursday at the Myers Brothers awards luncheon, where they were named most valuable pit crew. Any worries he had about their mental state were quickly dispelled.

"You can go talk to our pit crew," Edwards said. "You can go ask them. They are ready to rock. They're ready to go race.

"They were up there on that stage and said, 'You know, if we had had one more caution [at Homestead] -- if we had the opportunity to beat those guys on pit road -- we'd have done it.' That's how they feel. And I feel the same way."

At the same time, Edwards knows 2011 was an opportunity lost. And there's no guarantee of future success in a business where winning and losing can be timed to a thousand of a second -- or even measured by a single point.

"You never know when you'll go on a tear and win five championships," Edwards said. "We might not be in this position again for five years. If I sense that this is affecting us somehow for next year, we're going to have a meeting and we're going to straighten it out.

"And if somebody senses it's affecting me, they're going to slap me around and say, 'Hey, listen. You go out there and you race. Don't let that bother you.' "

Now that the disappointment of Homestead is beginning to lessen, and he's had the chance to mull things over, what most expresses Edwards' mood now is a sense of personal satisfaction.

"I'm proud to say that nobody scored more points in the Chase than us," Edwards said. "Nobody scored more points in the season. But Tony is the champion and he should be. If you have a tie, the guy who wins the most races should win the championship. There's no better way to do it.

"I cannot take anything away from them. They did earn it. If I won it the way he did, I'd be so proud. I'd be the most proud guy on Earth."

And if Edwards can avoid the pitfalls that have ruined the repeat chances of recent runners-up, maybe it'll be his turn to inflict a Chase hangover on someone else in 2012.

Watch Edwards' Chase highlights from 2011:

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