By admin | July 13, 2012
By Richard Allen
If you noticed a sense of urgency in the voice of Carl Edwards during his early weekend interviews from the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, there’s good reason. It seems as if Edwards and his crew have come to realize that the ‘Now or Never’ phase of the season has begun for them.
Edwards currently sits in the 11th position of the Sprint Cup standings. Considering that the top-10 in the standings plus two wildcard drivers who are outside those positions but have won races make the Chase for the Championship playoff, his current 11th doesn’t sound so bad. However, also consider that the Missouri native is 31 points out of the 10th spot, which is more than it sounds under this current system used by NASCAR.
Edwards has no wins so far this year, only one season removed from ending up in a tie for the Sprint Cup title with Tony Stewart in 2011. He would not be able to claim a wildcard spot unless he wins a race or races within these final eight “qualifying” events.
So with this being only the 18th race on a schedule of 36 events, why the urgency? Remember that the NASCAR Sprint Cup season does not really operate on a 36 race schedule. If so, the season would only be halfway through and there would still be time to make up lost ground. But the schedule is really broken into two parts of 26 races and a ten race stretch drive.
A driver and team has 26 races to make the Chase. There are only eight races left until the cutoff. The reward for making the playoff is a chance to win a title. The punishment for not making the Chase is a ten race stint of obscurity. Thus, the sense of urgency.
Asked about being so far back on the speed chart following practice despite saying his team would be working on qualifying setups at the beginning of the session, Edwards said, “As we progressed, everybody else progressed at the same rate. We’re still a little bit behind but the car is getting faster.”
Edwards’ Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle was among the fastest in practice.
“(Crew chief) Bob (Osborne) just told me on the radio ‘We’ll just put the 16 setup in and move forward’ so it really pays to have these great teammates who are working really hard,” Edwards added. “And hopefully they tell us all the secrets because we really need a good solid run.”
When asked if there actually was anything he would take from the setup on the 16 car, Edwards quipped, “Everything. We’re going to steal his shoes right now.”
This time of urgency couldn’t have come at a worse moment for Edwards and company. The New Hampshire Motor Speedway has been among the driver’s worst since his career began. He has no wins and only two top-5s and three top-10s here in fifteen starts.
With only eight races to go before the Chase, it’s ‘Now or Never’ for Carl Edwards. Either win races to get a wildcard, run consistently in the top-10 to get into the top-10 by the 26th race, or plan on not being the focus of much attention in the final third of the season.
Edwards will start Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at NHMS from the 21st position on the grid.
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