News & Media

Edwards playing it cautious at RIR, everywhere

April 27, 2012, Dave Rodman,

RICHMOND, Va. -- Carl Edwards continues to be a little bemused by how his 2012 Sprint Cup season has unfolded but, considering he's running a string of four consecutive top-10 finishes at Richmond International Raceway, his optimism to break a 40-race winless string Saturday night is high.

Qualifying second for the third time in 16 Richmond tries stoked his fires a little more.


Race Lineup
2.C. Edwards128.29021.046
3. K. Harvick 128.041 21.087
4.Allmendinger 127.962 21.100
5.Ky. Busch 127.956 21.101

Carl Edwards

2012 stats
Starts 8
Wins 0
Top-5s 2
Top-10s 5
Fin. 21-worse1
Lead Lap Fin. 7
DNFs 0
Laps Led1
Avg. Start16.9
Avg. Finish12.8
Points Rank 9
Behind Leader-61
Ahead 10th+2

"Our expectation is to run pretty well here," Edwards said of the Capital City 400. "We ran top-five both races last year and this track, the first time I came here was 2004 in the Cup car. We ran great and it was a blast. We had a super-fast car and finished sixth and I thought, 'Man, this is going to be my favorite race track.'"

But the next dose of reality for Edwards was akin to what he's experienced so far this season.

"For the next four or five years [at Richmond] it was terrible for us," Edwards said of 2005 through '07.

After Edwards was tied in points for the 2011 Cup championship with Tony Stewart only to finish second on a tiebreaker, Edwards started 2012 alternating top-10 finishes with varying levels of mediocre runs this season until the past two weekends, where he's scored consecutive top-10 finishes. And now comes Richmond.

"We're back to where we think we can win each time we come to Richmond," Edwards said. "That is good."

It is, because Edwards has only recently moved into a more comfortable position in the race toward the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Edwards is ninth, but feels he's at risk of falling out of a qualified Chase spot if a strategy play goes bad.

"We would like to get a win and get up there in the points where our teammates are," Edwards said of Roush Fenway Racing points leader Greg Biffle, who qualified 28th, and second-place Matt Kenseth, who was 24th. "At this point, there is no better place for us to be than Richmond."

Even though there are 17 races before the Chase field will be set at Richmond in September, Edwards said his current standing in the championship has a profound effect on he and crew chief Bob Osborne's race-to-race strategy calls.

"We are [11th] in points and don't have a win," Edwards said of his status. "It is not like we are tied for first right now. We have to be very cautious with our points. Let's say we know some things. Let's assume some things that are true. Right now we don't have the fastest car on the race track every week so we can say, 'Alright for the next 16 or 18 races we might still not have the fastest car.'

"Under the old points system we would say, 'Damn, we are already ninth and not running that great, let's just go for it here. Let's do some crazy stuff and get a win or two and have some fun.' But we can't do that now because we say that we have to make it into the top 10. We cannot give up any points.

"What we are banking on, what we hope comes is that we hope in those last 10 races that we are good enough then to go shoot for the championship."

Edwards said there is no way he would do anything edgy because missing the Chase would mean no chance to race for the title.

"If you were in my position you would never be able to forgive yourself if you were ninth in points here in Richmond and they drop the green flag on the last restart and you have a great race car and you go for some banzai run and wreck the thing and don't make the Chase.

"Let's say those last 10 races we have a hell of a run and would have won the thing if we would have made it. I would be a moron to give it up right here at Richmond. I don't know if that is right or wrong but that is why it ends up this way because guys start to think, 'OK, just gather all your troops here, focus, work everything out, make the Chase and then go get 'em.' That wasn't intended by NASCAR I am sure but that is the way we feel."

This weekend, Edwards feels good enough to win without playing any radical strategy.

"Practice went well and we were really fast in race trim. I messed up my [mock] qualifying run but I think it's going to be a good race."

Edwards had the third-best 10-lap average in the first Friday practice and he was second to Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s best lap in Happy Hour.

Edwards finally said he'd done some analysis of his season-to-date and he was only too happy to repeat it Friday at Richmond.

"I was actually on one of the morning shows and they asked me [about the season]," Edwards said. "I said that I gave our season a C+ because we have made a couple mistakes. We learned firsthand, getting beat by a guy last year that wasn't hardly in the picture until the last 10 races -- we are gearing up to be the best we can at the end of the year.

"We have strength in our team right now and don't have a giant weak point. We don't have a big problem anywhere. We just have to start putting together better races and making better calls and qualify a little better.

"There are some little things we have to work on. I think we will get there and I tell you what, just don't count us out. We could be really good."