2008 Ride: No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford
2008 Primary Sponsors: Office Depot, AFLAC, Dish Network
2008 Car Owner: Jack Roush
2008 Crew Chief: Bob Osborne
Stats: 36 races, 9 wins (series high), 19 top fives, 27 top 10s, two DNFs, second in points.
High Points: It’s all good… just not quite good enough. Carl Edwards started the year with two wins in the first three Cup points races, won three of four between Pocono and the Bristol night race, then closed the season with wins in three of the final four Cup events (while still battling for a Nationwide Series title, I might add). Throughout it all, he genuinely seemed to be having a blast on and off the track.
Low Points: The first bump in the road came after Edwards’ win in Las Vegas. In post-race inspection, NASCAR officials found the lid of the oil reservoir wasn’t properly secured on the No. 99 car. While the Chase points system largely negated the resultant 100-point penalty, the 10 bonus points he lost for winning that race when the Chase seedings were tabulated might have come in handy.
After a strong start to the postseason, the wheels fell off Edwards’ title drive in two consecutive races. At Talladega, Edwards made a questionable move on Greg Biffle in front of him, and the resultant wreck took Edwards and two of his title-contending teammates out of the race. The following week at Charlotte, both ignition boxes in Edwards’ Ford failed, leaving him with a 33rd place finish, 17 laps off the pace.
Summary: Edwards had a career-defining year in 2008 winning those nine races. More importantly, he ran consistently well all season. Kyle Busch was hot early and Jimmie Johnson was great late, but Edwards played all four quarters hard. He remained upbeat and focused throughout the season as well, gamely claiming he wasn’t going to give up on winning that title — even at Homestead, when the odds against him were stacked. But remember, this is a fickle business. Two years ago, Kasey Kahne won six races and everybody expected him to be a title contender in 2007. My guess is Roush Fenway Racing is a lot more stable team than Kahne’s “Gillette – Where the Hell did Ray Go?” Racing, though, and he’ll do just fine in 2009.
Off Track News: For 2009, AFLAC replaces the Office Depot as the No. 99 team’s primary sponsor, meaning Edwards will be enduring the indignity of driving a race car with a duck painted on the side. That makes me recall the chicken outfit Stroker Ace had to wear in the movie of the same name. This year, Edwards also got engaged to his girlfriend, Dr. Katherine Downey, which makes me think of another stock car film — Days of Thunder. Maybe Downey got involved with the team just to tend to Edwards when he finally does break his damn fool neck doing one of those backflips? My niece tells me Edwards is lucky to find a woman to marry him because “that Opie Taylor look is SO not working anymore.”
Team Ranking: Edwards has definitely assumed top dog (duck?) status at Roush Fenway Racing.
2009 Outlook: The future is so bright he has to wear (a particularly ugly) pair of shades. A rivalry, real or perceived, between good guy Edwards and bad guy Kyle Busch might just be the shot in the arm this sport needs after years of domination by the Wonder Bread and Mayonnaise twins over at Hendrick. Cue the duck. Edwards is going to be a player in 2009, keeping the home fires burning for the Blue Oval Crowd.
2006 Frontstretch Grade: B.
2007 Grade: B-.
2008 Grade: A+.