News & Media


Edwards still struggling to get hold on Martinsville

March 31, 2012, Joe Menzer, NASCAR.com

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Paperclip is No. 99 driver's third-worst track; 20th and 32nd in two practices

If there is one thing Carl Edwards needs, it's a strong finish in Sunday's Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

What he is certain he does not need is the weekend off that will follow whatever transpires in Sunday's race.

Carl Edwards

M'ville Cup results
YearSt.Fin.Led
'05-S36380
'05-F18260
'06-S15160
'06-F27120
'07-S9170
'07-F20110
'08-S2790
'08-F430
'09-S5260
'09-F29200
'10-S1380
'10-F780
'11-S23183
'11-F1928
Avg. /Total17.116.331

"I think we've had one off weekend the last seven years or something like that, so this will be the second one in eight years. I have no clue what I'm going to do," said Edwards, who is focusing on his Sprint Cup season and is not driving a full-time Nationwide Series schedule for the first time since 2004.

It could be argued Edwards appeared clueless for years at Martinsville, where he owns just one top-five finish in 15 career starts and has never won. Even with three top-10 finishes in his past four races at the .526-mile paper clip, Edwards' average finish of 16.3 at the track is one of his worst on the Sprint Cup circuit -- with him averaging a poorer finish at only three others.

That is something Edwards would like to change. But he wasn't all that optimistic after Friday's first practice, telling the media: "I'll just level with you guys. If we have a good run here on Sunday after that practice, we're going to be really, really ecstatic. We've got a long ways to go because there are some really fast cars relative to ours."

The bad news for Edwards was it didn't get any better in the next, and final, practice before Sunday's race. In fact, it got a whole lot worse.

Edwards' fastest lap of 95.685 mph in the first session ranked 20th on the speed chart. The best he could manage in the second session was a top lap of 94.322 mph that ranked 32nd.

That wasn't the kind of speed Edwards was looking for at a track where he's struggled to make small gains the past several years. As he explained, small gains on the stopwatch at Martinsville can mean huge gains in track position throughout the course of a long day -- and vice versa.

"It's a really fun race track when your car is fast -- and when you say fast, I don't mean you have to be head and shoulders faster than everybody. You just have to be that two-hundredths of a second faster than the guy in front of you, and then it's fun because you're the guy rooting and gouging and picking a spot where you're going pass the guy in front of you. And you're making his day terrible," Edwards said.

"On the other hand, if your car is the one that's a couple-hundredths slower or a tenth slow, it's a long day. Even when you run well here it's a hard-fought battle and it's tough. When you're hanging on battling with that race car the whole day, it leaves an impression on you. You leave here and you remember the place, so I think that's why you see more guys frustrated with this race track. Now that doesn't mean it's a bad race track or anything. The fans love that. The more frustrated we get, usually the better

off the racing is, so I guess it's good for the sport. But it is a tough place."

Despite legitimate concerns about his race car, Edwards said he is on better terms with the Martinsville track than at any point in his racing career. He's hoping he and his team will find a way to put his No. 99 Ford up front, so he can improve on his position in the point standings that took a hit when an early wreck at Bristol two weeks ago relegated him to a 39th-place finish.

Edwards finished fifth last week at Auto Club Speedway to move from 15th to 12th in the points, and would like to keep heading in that direction. So much so, in fact, he said he really would like to be racing Easter weekend instead of taking it off.

"Truly, for me, I feel like I've run half as many races as normal by this point in the season," Edwards said. "I'm used to running the Nationwide Series so much, I don't need a weekend off right now as a driver. I need to keep racing. I'm ready to race."