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Archive for Thursday, April 12, 2007

Renewed Optimism

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April 12, 2007

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Where is the last place Carl Edwards won a Nextel Cup race?

Carl Edwards is ninth in the Nextel Cup standings, but leads the  Busch Series by a 321-point margin.

Carl Edwards is ninth in the Nextel Cup standings, but leads the Busch Series by a 321-point margin.

Well, as of right now, the answer to that question is Texas Motor Speedway, where Edwards will drive his No. 99 Ford in Sunday's Samsung 500.

Edwards, of course, has no intention on allowing that victory on Nov. 6, 2005, to be his "last" win in NASCAR's top series. But it is his most recent win, and it has been 44 races since he's made it to Victory Lane in a Cup race.

After winning four times and finishing third in the final standings in his first full year in the Cup Series, Edwards missed the Chase for the Nextel Cup and finished 12th in the final points standings a year ago.

Late last year, however, Edwards was reunited with Bob Osborne, who'd been his crew chief in 2005, and the 27-year-old from Columbia, Mo., came into this year with renewed optimism.

He's ninth in the current standings and looking forward to this week's return to a 1.5-mile track and to turning back from the "Car of Tomorrow," which has been used in the past two races. The last time the "old" cars were used, Edwards finished seventh at Atlanta.

"I feel like we have a lot of ground still to make up," Edwards said of his Cup season to date. "I feel like our team can be a lot better and I can do a little bit better.

"I don't know if the 'Car of Tomorrow' is going to be good for us or not. I can't quite tell yet. I definitely am excited to go to Texas with the success that we've had there."

After winning at Texas in the fall of 2005, he led 50 laps there a year ago before crashing and finishing 36th. He finished 15th in the fall race last season.

Edwards also has finished seventh or better in three of the four Busch Series races he's run in at Texas (he was 43rd after blowing an engine in the other). He'll also go into the weekend looking for a third straight win in the Busch Series after taking a commanding 321-point lead in that series with wins at Bristol and Nashville.

His success in the Busch Series has certainly been welcomed, but it doesn't take much to keep Edwards enthused about driving a race car.

"I just really enjoy racing," he said. "We had a little circle down the street that we rode our bicycles around in the dirt, and I would run 100-lap features by myself just imagining that I was racing, as a kid.

"A lot of these guys - guys like Ken Schrader, Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon and all these guys - I think they really enjoy driving. I think we're the happiest when we're driving race cars."

Edwards said after his Busch victory on Easter weekend at Nashville that sometimes he just takes a moment to think about how lucky he is.

"I'm leading this race at a beautiful race track and it's a holiday weekend and I'm doing exactly what I love to do and people are paying me for it," he said. "I feel very fortunate and I truly enjoy it."

Last season there was a chance Kevin Harvick would pull off an unprecedented double by winning the Cup and Busch series titles in the same year. Harvick ran away with the Busch championship, by 824 points over runner-up Edwards, and made the Chase for the Nextel Cup, finishing fourth.

Edwards is a favorite to win the Busch title this year, and if he can remain in the top 12 in the Cup standings through 26 races he, too, could have a shot at that double. Right now, though, he's not worried about that.

"I don't have any general goals to beat records," Edwards said. "The goal that I have every day is to be the best race car driver that day. If we run 30th, that's what we do, but if we win the thing, that's what we can do."

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