News & Media

Edwards all but done, all but speechless

September 03, 2012, Seth Livingstone, Special to NASCAR.COM,

Blown engine at Atlanta puts serious dent in No. 99 car's odds to make the Chase

HAMPTON, Ga. -- If not for his media-savvy personality, Carl Edwards might have been completely speechless.

The smell of a blown engine filled the air as seven crew members pushed his Ford Fusion from the track to the garage at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The hood went up, Edwards climbed from the car and shrugged a shrug he's had all too much opportunity to master since coming within a tiebreaker of winning the Sprint Cup title last season.

""We've never had this bad [run] of luck. I've been trying to live right and do the right things, so I hope there's a reason for all of this. But man, it's just so frustrating."


"I don't even know what to say. That's so fitting for how our year has been going," said Edwards, processing what had just transpired. "Somebody must be trying to teach me something here."

Sunday night's lesson: You never know what to expect in NASCAR.

Although not challenging for a win that would have directly altered the Chase qualifying picture, things seemed to be breaking Edwards' way.

Pole-sitter Tony Stewart was running so poorly Sunday night that he was in danger of squandering his hold on one of the top 10 positions in points. That would have created a scenario in which Edwards could possibly slip into the top 10 in points in next week's race at Richmond International Raceway -- thereby qualifying for the Chase even without a victory.

Comprehending the points situation only added to Edwards' frustration level.

"I'm just trying to come to grips with how pivotal this is for our season, how bad it is," Edwards said. "I don't know. We could still be within distance. Anything can happen and I don't ever quit. This team doesn't ever quit. But man, that's getting kicked when you're down, right there. That's not what we needed.

"But we've got big shoulders. If there's anybody that can take it, we'll take it and we'll go out and do our very best. Like they say, a bad day at the race is better than a good day doing almost anything else."

Indeed, it could have been worse.

As Edwards was being consoled by team owner Jack Roush, Ryan Newman's car was being deposited three stalls down from the back of a wrecker. Newman, in need of a victory as badly as Edwards, had seen his night end in a collision with Jimmie Johnson.

With a victory in his pocket this season, Newman retains more hope of making the Chase than Edwards. A victory at Richmond would give him a chance to join his team owner, Stewart, in the field.

"We have one chore to do with the U.S. Army team and that is to go in to Richmond and win," said Newman, who felt he was squeezed by Johnson and had nowhere to go when the two tangled on Lap 271. "We've done it before and we can do it again."

Edwards, on the other hand, had known for weeks that his best chance to make the Chase was to win a race. For weeks, he'd been pulling out all the stops, looking for a victory, something that has eluded him since the third race last season. He'd managed three top-10s in the previous seven weeks, but hadn't sniffed victory lane.

Last week at Bristol he rolled the dice, electing not to pit late in the race even when the fuel and lap numbers were stacked against him. His team never got the chance to strategize at Atlanta, this time because equipment let him down.

"I heard the engine making a little bit of noise about 30-40 laps ago [before it blew] and was kind of in denial," said Edwards, who had rolled into his pit stall on Lap 264 of the scheduled 325-lap race. "I thought, 'No,it's OK. It's all right.' The, finally, it looks like a piston broke -- or something like that. I don't know what to say.

"The car was running pretty well. I was having a lot of fun. We were tuning it in and it was getting better as the night went on. The pit crew was almost flawless tonight. ... This is not the interview I wanted to be doing after this race."

Now, after Sunday's 36th-place finish, Edwards is all but mathematically eliminated from Chase contention. He sits 49 points behind Stewart, who finished 22nd and has guaranteed himself no worse than a wild-card spot in the Chase by virtue of his three victories this season.

Edwards' only hope is to win at Richmond, make up 26 points on Kyle Busch, currently two places ahead of him in the standings, and also leapfrog Jeff Gordon in points.

It will take the kind of performance and kind of good fortune Edwards has simply not had this season.

"We've never had this bad [run] of luck," Edwards said. "I've been trying to live right and do the right things, so I hope there's a reason for all of this. But man, it's just so frustrating. It's so amazing how many things can compound and go bad.

"But we're still standing up and everybody is all right. We'll go racing at Richmond for the win. There's no better place. This [track at Atlanta] is as good as it gets and Richmond is almost as good as this place for us."