A native of the "Show Me" State, Carl Edwards knows better than anybody that it is at a point in the NASCAR season that he is going to have show everybody what he is capable of, and darn fast, if he expects to get his No. 99 Ford Fusion into the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship for a sixth straight year.
It all comes down to a five-race season for Edwards, and it starts with the road course at Watkins Glen this weekend, where he will do a two-fer, racing in both the Nationwide Series on Saturday and the Sprint Cup Series' Finger Lakes 355 at The Glen on Sunday.
Going fast hasn't been as much a problem for Edwards and his Roush-Fenway race crew this year as finishing. Now in his 11th season of NASCAR racing, and eighth in the Sprint Cup Series, Edwards has not won a race since March of last season, when he won at Las Vegas in the third stop of the 2011 season.
Edwards, who makes his home in Columbia, Mo., has 12 top-10 finishes in the Sprint Cup Series this year, but there also are a number of races in which he has come in the middle of the pack or higher. As an example of the difficulty he has been having this season, in six of his last 11 Cup races, Edwards has finished 20th or higher.
Up until the current season, Edwards was a regular and semi-regular driver for seven seasons in the Nationwide Series (formerly the Busch Series), the developmental series one level down from the Sprint Cup Series. Although his 37 Nationwide wins, including the 2007 championship, are the third most ever, Edwards declared at the beginning of this year that he probably would not run in any Nationwide races in 2012, presumably so he could concentrate fully on Sprint Cup and winning his first championship in that series after runner-up finishes in 2008 and last season.
But with no wins this season, placing him in grave danger, sitting in 12th place in the points standings, of not qualifying for the 10-race season-ending championship series that starts in a little over a month (after five more regular-season races) at Chicagoland Speedway, Edwards and Co. find themselves in serious straits. And of the five venues left before the Chase begins, the 3.4-mile road course at Watkins Glen is one of two racetracks (along with Richmond, to end the regular season) where Edwards has never won.
That does a lot to explain why the Missourian with the famous race-winning backflip, which has been missing for well over a year now, will be in the field for the Zippo 200 Nationwide race on Saturday at The Glen. He's anxious to learn as much as he can in hopes that the extra running time on the racetrack will better prepare him for the main event on Sunday.
Edwards admitted on Friday, as wet weather in the Northeast wiped out much of the scheduled practice time for the weekend races at Watkins Glen, that he has missed running in the Nationwide Series this season.
"I've missed it a little more than I thought I would," Edwards said. "It was nice to go over to the Nationwide garage (on Friday) and see a lot of the guys that I haven't seen for a while.
"We've tried to make the cars (the No. 60 Ford Mustang and his regular No. 99 Ford Fusion Sprint Cup car) as similar as we can, so that I can carry over anything we learn," he said. "Maybe (Saturday's) race will be a good time to try any race-line type of things I can use for Sunday. So I've got an idea of what I want to do to be the best I can be there on Sunday, and hopefully it all comes together."
Edwards said this doesn't necessarily mean he will run in any more Nationwide races this season, but he clearly is leaving the door open on the possibility.
"We'll see how this goes, and we'll see what Ford and (team owner) Jack (Roush) and everyone is up for, but if this goes well and if it's fun, I think there might be more in the future," Edwards said.
Because of Friday's rainout, qualifying for the Nationwide Zippo 200 will be held Saturday morning, followed by qualifying for Sunday's Sprint Cup race. The Zippo 200 will start at 1:15 CT Saturday afternoon, weather permitting.
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