Carl Edwards 2013 year in review
December 10, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
This is the first in a series of 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver recaps that will be featured on NASCAR.com.
With two victories already posted and the regular-season points lead after 26 races (before the standings were reconfigured for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup), it’s easy to understand why Carl Edwards felt good about his team’s chances heading into this year’s Chase.
Just two years removed from the closest championship finish in the history of the Chase, Edwards rolled into this year’s 10-race stretch fresh off a victory at Richmond and yet surprisingly under the radar.
Ten weeks later, the season was officially over and the Roush Fenway Racing driver found himself 13th in a Chase field that was 13 drivers deep.
Not exactly what Edwards, 34, had in mind.
FULL SERIES COVERAGE
SEASON IN REVIEW
- Dec. 11: Carl Edwards
- Dec. 12: Kasey Kahne
- Dec. 13: Ryan Newman
- Dec. 16: Kurt Busch
- Dec. 17: Greg Biffle
- Dec. 18: Joey Logano
- Dec. 19: Clint Bowyer
- Dec. 20: Jeff Gordon
- Dec. 23: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
- Dec. 26: Kyle Busch
- Dec. 27: Kevin Harvick
- Dec. 30: Matt Kenseth
- Jan. 2: Jimmie Johnson
"We went into the Chase thinking, 'OK, we can win this thing,'" Edwards said. "And man, that’s where the low part (to the season) started."
Under a format that rarely allows a single misstep, Edwards and the No. 99 team were forced to endure three:
A wheel issue at Dover resulted in a 35th place finish and cost him seven spots in the points standings;
An engine problem at Texas saddled him with a 37th-place result after he led 38 laps;
And a gas gamble failed to pay off at Phoenix, landing him in 21st after he had taken the lead and appeared to be headed for the win.
All told, the three miscues kept Edwards from finishing in the top 10 in points for the second consecutive season in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series. He finished 15th in 2012.
It wasn’t the most difficult three months of his racing career, he said, “but it was an eye opener to me,” Edwards said.
"I learned a couple of things – Robby Reiser (RFR’s vice president of competition) and Jack Roush (team co-owner) are racers. Jimmy Fennig (crew chief) is a racer. These guys settle for nothing but the best … we’re not going to run like this. We’ve got to get better.
"I also learned that this sport can change extremely fast. We had kind of a false sense of hope, I think, after 26 races. Leading the points, two wins, I thought ‘hey we can do this.’ But you can’t rest on anything like that. You have to be able each week to come to the race track, grab another gear and go even better. Our competitors did that. I’d say it was a little kick in the pants for us."
The season wasn’t a total bust – he was one of 17 drivers to win one or more races, and he did qualify for the Chase. A 70-race winless streak was finally broken when he won at Phoenix in March for his 20th career Cup victory. Win No. 21 came later at Richmond.
Twice in his career Edwards has gone 70 races without a win – and both times he found his way back into the win column at Phoenix.
The Phoenix win was also special, he said, because it was his first with Fennig, who took over the team following the off-season departure of former RFR driver Matt Kenseth.
Fennig, 60, is one of the longest tenured crew chiefs in the Cup garage and has 38 career wins. Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Mark Martin and NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison all won races under Fennig’s watch.
"Winning at Phoenix with Jimmy and I working together for the first time, that was huge," Edwards said. "I felt like I learned a lot from Jimmy. That was really cool to get to know him, see how hard he works.
"I think the first year ... showed that we can communicate really well, that we can do really well. He’s second to none in his work ethic and his ability to make race cars fast so I’m very happy with that.
"My pit crew is spectacular – we picked up spots every time we came on pit road.
"The biggest thing we have to do is as a group, we’ve got to make our cars so that when that Chase starts next year we can go out and dominate and win three or four races. That’s what we have to do and that’s what’s going on right now, that’s what we’re working on."