Columbia, Mo.'s, Carl Edwards knows as well as anybody that there is very little margin for error if you want to win NASCAR's Chase for the Cup. Edwards is still looking for his first Sprint Cup championship, and he holds the slimmest lead you can have in the points standings, a one-point margin, entering the halfway mark in NASCAR's 10-race championship series.
Edwards leads Kevin Harvick by a single point and is four points ahead of five-time defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, who inched closer to a sixth straight crown with a victory last week at Kansas Speedway. The Chase for the Cup is in Charlotte, NC, this weekend for the Bank of America 500 tonight at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Edwards knows that first and foremost you have to have a good race car to win it all at this time of year, but you also have to have some good breaks and be able to capitalize on them.
"I truly went into Kansas thinking, ‘Boy, I sure hope we don't finish second or third in this race, I'm here to win this one,'" Edwards said this week between practices for tonight's race at Charlotte. "And then about 15 laps into it, I thought, ‘Man, I'd give anything to finish second or third in this race.' So you just don't know what to expect. You don't know what's going to happen. Your best race could end up being your worst nightmare. You just don't know."
Edwards knew he was in trouble last week in the first turn of the very first lap. His premonition was right on, and he found himself two laps down in the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford fairly early in last Sunday's race. He credit crew chief Bob Osborne and his pit crew for keeping their cool and not conceding anything despite the horrible start at the track Edwards considers his home track and where he really wanted to do well.
As NASCAR followers know, Edwards' pit crew was able to make important adjustments to the car as the Kansas race wore on, and the No. 99 car was able to make a championship-like recovery to finish third behind winner Jimmie Johnson. "We got very lucky to get the breaks we got," Edwards said. "But we did come back and we didn't lose our heads, and I believe that comes from the maturity that we've built through a lot of pain and frustration through the last couple of years."
"I think to win the championship, you have to not have bad days," the Missouri-native said. "I think (the finish at Kansas) showed our team is better prepared to recover from some days like that than we have been in the past."
Edwards has not had a good race history at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but he did win the Sprint All-Star Race there earlier this year. The No. 99 Roush Fenway team is hoping that some of the unpredictability that has blanketed the entire Sprint Cup season this year will come into play again this weekend and that Edwards will turn the tables on a track that has always caused him trouble and produce a long-alluded victory that could prove to be one of the biggest in his career. "That would be huge," Edwards said.
Tony Stewart will be on the poll for tonight's Bank of America 500. Edwards will right there with him, though, starting in the No. 3 position.