NASCAR Race Weekend Central

2010 NASCAR Driver Review: Carl Edwards

Carl Edwards

2010 Ride: No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford
2010 Primary Sponsors: Aflac, Scotts, Subway, Kellogg’s, Cheez-It, Toy Story 3
2010 Owner: Jack Roush
2010 Crew Chief: Bob Osborne
2010 Stats: 36 starts, 2 wins, 9 top fives, 19 top 10s, 2 DNFs, 3 poles, fourth in points

High Point: Edwards’s high point would have to be the final two races of the season — Phoenix and Homestead — in which he broke a 70-race winless streak to score back-to-back victories as the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season came to a close. Edwards led a combined 283 laps and started on the front row of each race, though both dominating performances were overlooked by the drama of the championship battle.

Plus — aside from Edwards’s traditional backflip after a victory — he introduced a new celebration method in a Nationwide Series race in Texas Motor Speedway: running into the grandstands to celebrate with his loyal legion of fans.

Low Point: Atlanta Motor Speedway. March 7, 2010. Brad Keselowski. Need I say more? In case you’ve been living under a rock, Edwards and Keselowski don’t really get along very well. (Does Keselowski get along with anybody?!) They’ve had more than their fair share of run-ins, and in the spring race at AMS the “spit” hit the fan. On lap 41, Keselowski clipped Edwards and sent him up the track into Joey Logano and the outside retaining wall.

Heavy damage kept Edwards in the garage for over 150 laps before he returned back onto the track. We would later find out why. On lap 324, Edwards used a crossover move on Keselowski to clip his left-rear fender and send him spinning. Keselowski flipped over and smacked the wall heading into turn 1. He was able to get out of the car unscathed, but NASCAR was none too forgiving; they parked Edwards for the rest of the race and placed him on probation for the next three events.

Summary: Following the 2008 season, Edwards had scored a career-high nine race wins, finished second in the standings and was the 2009 preseason favorite to unseat Jimmie Johnson from the championship throne. It wasn’t to be, though, as Edwards went winless through 2009 and finished a dismal 11th in points.

2010 didn’t look to be a whole lot better for Edwards. In the first 24 races of the season, Edwards led a total of six laps. Yes, from Daytona to the fall Bristol race, Edwards could count on both hands how many laps he led. Take out the Atlanta and Richmond fall races, plus his two victories, and Edwards only led 17 laps all season. Even before his perfect ending, Edwards only had one top-five finish in the first eight races of the Chase.

Team Ranking: Edwards was first among his RFR teammates, putting him fourth in points just ahead of teammates Matt Kenseth (fifth) and Greg Biffle (sixth). In fact, Kenseth and Edwards had somewhat of a tense discussion in Homestead under caution.

While under yellow on lap 196 for Dave Blaney, Kenseth radioed to Edwards to ask him to let him by to lead a lap for five bonus points. While Edwards initially agreed to do it, a discussion between Osborne and Edwards left Edwards concerned with their points position (Kenseth and Edwards were in competition for fourth) and instead decided he had to worry about doing what was best for his team. When the race resumed, Kenseth and Edwards battled for the lead and a frustrated Kenseth came over the scanner and told Edwards to let him go.

A caution came out just a few moments later, and Edwards explained the situation to Kenseth. Kenseth wasn’t very accepting of the explanation and said, “I’ll remember that for next year.” Kenseth did eventually get by to lead a lap, gave it back to Edwards, and the No. 99 never looked back.

2011 Outlook: It’s hard to say whether or not the last two races of the season were flukes or a fire in the belly of a team that had gone winless for nearly two years. While momentum is a big part of racing, whether or not this late season success will continue into 2011 remains to be seen. Consistency and competitiveness were something the No. 99 team struggled with throughout the season, albeit with some amazing highlight reels. However, if the momentum carries over into 2011, we’ll be seeing a lot more grandstand runs from Edwards next year.

2007 Frontstretch Grade: B-
2008 Grade: A+
2009 Grade: C-
2010 Grade: A-

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