For the last seven years, NASCAR driver Carl Edwards has split his time between the Nationwide Series and the major leagues of stock car racing, the Sprint Cup Series, with some truck series events mixed in. One of his long-seated racing goals has been to win championships in two series in the same year.
When the 2012 NASCAR season gets under way with the Daytona 500 on Feb. 26, Edwards and 42 other NASCAR drivers, including Danica Patrick, will be in the field for what has come to be called the Super Bowl of stock-car racing. Unlike previous years, however, the runner-up in last season's Chase for the Sprint Cup championship will direct his full efforts to just one racing series this year: driving the No. 99 Roush-Fenway Ford in the Sprint Cup Series.
After finishing in the top three in points every year in the Nationwide Series between 2005 and 2010, Edwards came in 89th in the drivers' standings in 2011, despite winning eight races. It didn't really matter, though, because prior to last season, NASCAR amended its rules, allowing drivers to compete for only one national series championship in any season.
"Once they said we could not run for the championship, I had already committed, the Roush and the sponsors had already committed to running the full season," Edwards said, "so we stuck with it, and we did it. But to me, that was really my last real go at it (in the Nationwide Series) for the full season."
The Columbia, Mo., native began his NASCAR career in 2002, with one start each in what was then the Busch Series and the Craftsman Truck Series. Jack Roush signed the now 31-year-old Edwards to a full-time truck ride in 2003, and a year later, he was driving for Roush in what became the Nextel Cup Series when the cigarette brand Winston dropped its sponsorship of NASCAR's top racing level.
Edwards' best season at the Nationwide level was in 2007 when he won the championship, logging four wins and 15 top-five finishes. He finished second in four of his nine years running in the Nationwide Series. During the seven seasons in which he competed full-time in Nationwide while also running a full-time Sprint Cup schedule, Edwards won 37 times in Nationwide, with 173 top-ten finishes, and earned the pole 27 times. Over the same time, racing in Sprint Cup, he has 19 wins, 144 top-tens and 10 poles. In addition to his second-place finish in Sprint Cup to Tony Stewart of Stewart-Haas Racing last season, Edwards also was the points runner up in 2007, in that year to Jimmie Johnson in the second of his five consecutive Cup championships.
"I'm hoping this lets me focus more on the Cup car, lets me be a better Cup racer by maybe having more time during the race weekend to maybe hone the setups in," Edwards said. "I don't know how it will actually affect our performance, but I do know my calendar is a lot more open and I'm able to breathe a little more."
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