Carl Edwards won the final two NASCAR Chase for the Cup races in the 2010 season, but won only once in 2011. That was 48 races ago in the Sprint Cup Series. The Columbia, Mo., native has not seen Victory Lane since: the third race of 2011 at Las Vegas Speedway..
That doesn't come close to the 143-race winless drought that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. had suffered through before breaking his nearly four-year winless string in convincing fashion Sunday in the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
Edwards was the Sprint Cup points leader most of the 2011 season and finished second in the Chase championship, but he did so while recording only one Cup win the entire season. He has finished as high as fifth place twice in the current season (at Las Vegas, site of his last race win a year before, and at Fontana, Calif., both in March), but other than that hasn't really been much of a threat in most all of the other races, despite having eight top-ten finishes.
The native Missourian is currently 11th in the points standings, which is exactly where he finished at Michigan on Sunday after moving up 31 spots from his starting position of 42nd, the biggest advancement of the day by any driver. Edwards and his pit crew experienced fuel issues in qualifying, which forced them to abort the qualifying effort and pushed Edwards to the back of the pack on the starting grid.
"We were just too loose all day," Edwards said about the performance of the car on Sunday. "That is as hard as I can drive, and (crew chief Bob Osborne) and I just didn't pick the right setup for the race.
"We didn't expect it to be that loose," he said. "It wasn't a terrible day for some of the fighting and wiggling we were doing out there. It was crazy, and I am glad we finished in one piece and got a decent day."
Because Edwards has no wins so far in 2012, however, the No. 99 Roush-Fenway Ford would not qualify for one of the two wild card spots that are awarded to complete the 12-car Chase for the Cup field.
Two of Edwards's Roush-Fenway teammates would make the Chase, if the regular season were to end after 15 races. Matt Kenseth is the current points leader and Greg Biffle, the previous leader, is 17 points back in third place. Both have one win each this season.
The other NASCAR hometown favorite, Clint Bowyer, has quietly put together the same number of top-fives (2) and top-tens (8) this season as Edwards, but sits two positions better in the standings because of better race finishes and more overall points. Bowyer, in his first season driving for Michael Waltrip Racing after spending his first eight years in NASCAR with Richard Childress Racing, finished seventh in Sunday's race at Michigan.
Other noteworthy developments from Sprint Cup round No. 15 Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, about 50 miles southwest of Detroit:
- It turned out that the blistering qualifying speeds that the drivers were running in the weekend practice and qualifying sessions for Sunday's Quicken Loans 400 were the result of unusual blistering on the tires Goodyear brought for the race. The Repaved racing surface at Michigan International Speedway was also a contributor to the tire problem. Highly cognizant of the huge tire issue in the NASCAR event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year, the decision was made to be safe rather than sorry and replace the left-side tires for the race with a harder tire. Goodyear distribution officials worked all night on Friday to get the new tires to Michigan from North Carolina. Obviously the new tires necessitated more than a casual adjustment on the drivers' part from what the setups they had practiced and qualified with. It wasn't really that noticeable in Sunday's race, however.
- The start of the Quicken Loans 400 on Sunday was delayed by nearly two hours by rain.
- Hendrick Motorsports went 11 races into the 2012 Sprint Cup season looking for its 200th NASCAR win. Jimmie Johnson's win at Darlington in May finally got Hendrick over the hump. Hendrick drivers have won three of the four races since that time, including Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s first win under Hendrick and first victory in 143 races on Sunday at Michigan. Four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon is the only one of the four Hendrick drivers that hasn't recorded a win this season.
- Jeff Gordon has just four top-ten finishes this season, including his sixth place finish at Michigan on Sunday.
- Eleven different drivers have won the 15 Sprint Cup races in 2012. Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski have won twice each.
- Michigan was the second straight week a driver broke a winless streak of greater than 100 races. Joe Gibbs' Racing's Joey Logano had not won in 104 races when he took the checkered flag at Pocono the weekend before last.
- With 12 top-ten Sprint Cup finishes in 15 starts this season, the most of any driver, it was just a matter of time, i8t seemed, before Dale Earnhardt, Jr., finally broke through with a race win.
- Dale Jr's victory at Michigan was the seventh win for a Chevrolet car this season and 20th win all-time at Michigan International Speedway.
Follow NASCAR and coverage and commentary on the Sprint Cup Series all season long at SB Nation Kansas City.