Carl Edwards keeps focus on improvement
June 15, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Carl Edwards, winner of the Coors Light Pole Award for Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway, is second in points in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series.
It’s a misleading statistic, according to Edwards.
“Second place doesn’t tell the story,” he said June 13. “We’re not that good. We’re not the second-best car in the series right now.”
Edwards, 33, has one win this season (Phoenix) and Friday’s qualifying lap (202.452 mph) on the 2-mile oval marked the second consecutive week he earned a front-row starting position.
"If we can really focus and actually gain some ground, we’re going to be awesome."
-- Carl Edwards
But from a big-picture perspective, the fastest driver on Friday said not so fast.
“It’s nice,” he said of his position in the standings. “But what did we run, 18th at Pocono and 17th at Dover? Sixteenth? I don’t remember what we ran at Dover but it wasn’t good enough.
“And at the same time, Jimmie Johnson dominated both those races.
“That’s a big disparity between the first-place points guy and the second-place points guy.”
With race No. 15 on the horizon, the gap is 51 points. It is so large that Johnson, a five-time Cup champion, could take a weekend off and return with his points-leader status intact.
Points leads can be fleeting -- defending series champion Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have each been atop the standings briefly this season. Johnson’s has more of a permanent feel, having lasted for two months and change.
Edwards has been in Johnson’s rearview for six weeks, the deficit as narrow as 30 and as wide as the current 51.
Although he said he doesn’t feel his team is second best, Edwards is pleased with the No. 2 points position.
“Fortunately we are second and we have a win,” he said. “We’re not panicking about making the Chase (for the Sprint Cup). We feel like we’ve got a really good shot at making the Chase, but we have time to work on some things. And trust me, we are working.
“ … If we can really focus and actually gain some ground, we’re going to be awesome.”
Kurt Busch (Furniture Row Racing) will start alongside Edwards, the fourth front-row starting spot this season for the 2004 Cup champion.
Kasey Kahne (Hendrick Motorsports), Paul Menard (Richard Childress Racing) and Aric Almirola (Richard Petty Motorsports) will start third through fifth, respectively.
A closer working relationship between Ford Cup teams is said to be in the making. Edwards cautioned it could take time -- possibly a year or more -- before any potential benefits might be realized.
Change comes slowly. Few drivers and teams are comfortable sharing information with those outside their immediate groups.
“It’s human nature,” Edwards said. “It’s tough for anyone to hand over all of their life’s work and say, ‘hey, here’s this for free. I hope you give me something back that makes it worth the exchange.’
“Trust isn’t something you build overnight, by definition it’s something that’s gained over time.
“I’ve been in the series for eight or nine years and there are only a few guys I’ve ever talked about my car with, and it’s always on the surface. You don’t talk much deeper than, ‘hey, yeah I’m a little tight over there.’ That’s about it.”
Edwards has 13 top-10 finishes in 17 starts at MIS, including a pair of wins. It’s also the site of his first career start in the Cup Series.
That fact wasn’t lost on him in the aftermath of his pole-winning charge.
“A huge day for me personally,” he said of the 10th place finish in 2004. “I will never forget when they said ‘Gentlemen, start your engines.’ That was one of the most emotional moments I’ve ever had in a race car.”
While Edwards’ pole-winning run didn’t eclipse the track record set a year ago by Marcos Ambrose, the Generation-6 car was fast as expected. Taped up for qualifying, Edwards said, the cars have “so much grip.”
That will change when long runs are the order of the day.
“Having that tape on there with all that downforce can make the car feel really good and make it go for a lap but it will be a tough race,” he said. “I think if it goes long green flag, then none of us know how the tire will act and you have to be able to adjust on your car as well.
“The race will be different and hopefully we can master that whole problem and go to Victory Lane. That would be huge.”