Edwards, Ford expect more in Race to the Chase
June 08, 2013, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com
LONG POND, Pa. -- Second in the standings and with a race victory to his credit, Carl Edwards hardly looks like a driver whose race team is suffering from a systematic problem. Certainly not compared to this time a year ago, when the Roush Fenway Racing driver languished in 13th. Only once has he enjoyed a better position at this point -- 2011, when Edwards led the Sprint Cup Series for 22 weeks before losing a tiebreak to Tony Stewart for the championship.
And yet, Edwards is under no illusion as to how strong his No. 99 car might be should the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begin tomorrow.
“If the Chase started right now, I think we’d be in a little bit of trouble. I don’t think we are as fast as we need to be, and the way we look at it is we’re not getting beat by a driver or a crew chief, we’re getting beat by organizations. The Gibbs cars are very fast. The Hendrick cars are very fast right now. So we have to figure out -- as an organization -- how we just get that little extra bit,” Edwards said at Pocono Raceway.
"We’re not bad. We’ve won a race. We’re second in points. We’re not panicking or anything, but we’ve got to make slight adjustments now that will hopefully pay off when the Chase starts, because we don’t only want to be in the Chase, we want to be in this Chase and dominate it. We want to win three or four Chase races and win the championship."
“We’re not bad. We’ve won a race. We’re second in points. We’re not panicking or anything, but we’ve got to make slight adjustments now that will hopefully pay off when the Chase starts, because we don’t only want to be in the Chase, we want to be in this Chase and dominate it. We want to win three or four Chase races and win the championship. We’re not there right now, so we don’t know exactly what it is. We’ve got some really good areas to work in and some directions, but we’ve got to go do it.”
Earlier this week, Edwards’ teammate Greg Biffle said Roush was dealing with a “systematic problem” hampering the organization’s ability to compete. Although reigning Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski and Penske Racing joined Ford prior to this season, only two drivers sporting blue ovals have won races so far -- Edwards at Phoenix and Front Row Motorsports’ David Ragan at Talladega. With the exception of Edwards, the other drivers piloting chassis built by Roush (which includes Aric Almirola and Marcos Ambrose of Richard Petty Motorsports) rank 12th or lower.
Edwards has shaved Jimmie Johnson’s lead in the standings to 30 points despite finishes of 11th and 14th over the past two events. Prior to the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race a few weeks ago, Edwards, Biffle and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. met and came to the conclusion that they were missing something, a contention emphasized by the spectacular start former Roush driver Matt Kenseth is enjoying at his new home, Joe Gibbs Racing.
“We know that there is some parameter that we’re missing. The elephant in the room is that Matt Kenseth leaves, and he runs really well at a different organization. And not that Matt didn’t run well at Roush, but we know that we can perform at that level. So what we have to do is figure out what we’re doing differently,” said Edwards, a two-time Pocono winner, who will start second Sunday.
“Jamie Allison from Ford (director, Ford North America Motorsports) spoke to us in a meeting this last week, and he reminded us, he said, ‘Hey, everybody in this room has won championships and races and had spectacular years. There’s something in the way we work together and the way we spend our time that we can do better, and that must be what we’re lacking.’ So I think that’s what Greg is saying, it’s a process thing or a way that we go through information or a way that we solve problems. … It’s like (crew chief) Jimmy (Fennig) said, we’re just a little bit off. We just need to turn the ship a little bit and head the right direction, and I think we’ll be good.”
Roush isn’t the only Ford team searching at the moment. At Penske, reigning champ Keselowski and Joey Logano are both looking for their first race wins, although their cars have shown a little more speed than those of their Roush brethren. During an appearance earlier this week at Kentucky Speedway, Keselowski said the integration with Ford was still a work on progress. Logano agrees there remains work still to do.
“I guess if you look at it, the results don’t lie … but I do feel like we are working really hard and trying to make improvements, and trying to work together at one Ford and as one team and trying to figure out what we’ve got to do to go a little faster,” he said.
“That’s how it’s always going to be. We’re always looking for more speed. Even if we were the fastest cars out there, we would need more speed all the time. That’s how our sport is, and that’s how racing is. Are we where we want to be? No, we’re not where we want to be. We need to be faster. We haven’t really won the races that I feel like we should have won already this year as Ford in general, but I do not feel like we’re way far off. All the guys at Ford are working really hard and trying to pinpoint what we need and how we can improve on it.”
Although Biffle indicated the communication between Roush and new manufacturer stable mate Penske is a delicate balance -- neither team wants to give away too many secrets -- Edwards said he’s texted regularly with Logano, and spoke with Keselowski after the recent race at Darlington Raceway. “I believe from my perspective, we’re working well together,” Edwards said. “… It’s one more step (toward) sitting down on a weekly or biweekly basis and working through problems together. We’re not there yet, but I believe that we’re pretty close to that.”
And Edwards will take all the help he can get, as the No. 99 team tries to improve from the good one it is now to the great one it needs to be to contend for the championship.
“We talk about the struggles that we’re having and then I think, ‘Yeah, but we’re second in points,’ but that can sometimes be a little bit of false security,” Edwards said. “I’ve been a lot worse in the points and been having more fun, I’ll tell you that, because we’re not out dominating races and leading laps and winning races, and that’s what it’s about. If you can go out every week and have the fastest car and qualify on the pole and lead laps and be racing for the win, you really don’t think about points that much. So we’re holding on to that second in points and saying, ‘Yeah, that’s great,’ but we know we can better.”