Carl Edwards has won 18 NASCAR races in his seven years competing in the prestigious Sprint Cup Series, the highest level of stock car racing in this country. None of those wins, however, have been at Kansas Speedway, the racetrack where he covets the most taking the checkered flag and celebrating the victory with one of his signature backflips.
If ever the time and setting were right for the Columbia, Mo., native to end his winless streak at Kansas Speedway, which for all practical purposes Edwards considers his home track, Sunday's STP 400 would seem to be it. Edwards has done well in his career at 1.5-mile intermediate tracks like Kansas, where he has won 13 of his 18 Sprint Cup races.
The owner of Edwards' No. 99 Ford, Roush-Fenway Racing, also has run strong on intermediate tracks. Roush cars have won at the two previous 1.5-mile circuits this year, Las Vegas Motor Speedway with Edwards and Texas Motor Speedway with Edwards' teammate Greg Biffle. Roush has won three times at Kansas Speedway, including last year in the Chase for the Cup championship series with Biffle at the wheel.
Edwards told reporters this week that for him, a victory at Kansas would be equivalent to winning the Daytona 500, considered NASCAR's Super Bowl. "You don't know how much that would mean," he said. "Our program is suited very well to those tracks. We have been very close there (at Kansas)."
In his seven Sprint Cup starts at Kansas, Edwards has performed well, but not well enough to win. He has five top-ten finishes there, his highest being a second-place run in 2008, when he hit the wall after making a pass around Jimmie Johnson on the final lap. He does have one win at the Speedway, in 2004 in what is now NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series.
Edwards crossed the finish line to the checkered flag eight times in 2008, and appeared to be at the top of his game and among NASCAR's elite drivers. But then he went 70 races without a victory before breaking through to capture the final two races last season. He has one win this year (at Las Vegas), but also nine top tens in 12 races, including two runner-up finishes. The strong start propelled Edwards to the top of the points standings, where he holds a 36-point advantage over second-place Kevin Harvick.
The entire stable of Roush drivers has done well so far this season with three wins and 22 top-ten finishes. "It's much easier to be consistent when the cars are as good as my cars are right now," Edwards told Sports Illustrated last week after his 16th-place finish in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Someone else who values a win at Kansas as much as Edwards is his NASCAR colleague and rival from neighboring Kansas, Clint Bowyer. The Emporia, Kan., native will be making his sixth Sprint Cup start at Kansas Speedway, where he has recorded two top-ten finishes, including second in 2007, but is still seeking his first win at the decade-old venue that could just as easily be his home track, as well. Bowyer is currently eighth in the points standings, with six top-ten and two top-five finishes through 12 starts this season.
"He (Bowyer) can't win there before me," Edwards mused. "There's a healthy rivalry that dates back about 150 years with us and the guys right across the border. There would be a lot of pride."
If you're planning on being at Camping World truck race today at Kansas Speedway, don't expect to see Edwards anywhere around the track, even though he is a past winner in this race. The always-on-the-go Edwards isn't even in Kansas City. He's in Chicago running in the Nationwide Series STP 300. He'll return to Kansas City tonight after that race and be on the starting grid for tomorrow's Sprint Cup race at Kansas.
If you're looking for Bowyer this afternoon, though, you will find him on the Kansas Speedway track racing in the O'Reilly Auto Parts 200 truck race.
A victory by either of these two top NASCAR drivers on Sunday would make for a perfect weekend for local race fans.