As solid as Carl Edwards has been all season, it was surprising on Sunday to see a gaffe on pit row nearly cost him dearly in Dover. A speeding penalty dropped Edwards off the lead lap, and no one was more disappointed than Edwards was in himself.
“I ruined it there on pit row,” Edwards admitted with a bemused smile after the race. “That’s about as small as you can feel in a race car.”
A smile? Yes, the driver of the the No. 99 Aflac Ford could bear to smile after the mistake turned out not to derail his run. A well-timed caution and the resolve of his pit crew allowed Edwards to regain his spot on the lead lap, and a third-place finish left him tied for first with Kevin Harvick in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship standings.
“As frustrated as I am with myself for messing that up, I’m really, really grateful for that gift that was given to us with that caution and the ability to come back up there,” Edwards said. “The other thing I was really grateful for was my guys sticking behind me, because they had every right to be upset with me.”
Three Chase races are in the book, and all three have been won by risk-takers, with Tony Stewart taking the first two and Kurt Busch nabbing first at Dover on Sunday.
That’s all well and good, but a look at the Chase leaderboard reveals that, as usual, the Chase isn’t about chancy, pedal-to-the-floor, if-you-ain’t-first-you’re-last racing.
The Chase is about patience and consistency, and those traits have put Edwards of Roush Fenway Racing into serious contention for the title heading into Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.
All anyone needs to know about the Chase format is that Stewart, winner of two of the postseason races, is third, and Edwards, winner of one race the entire season, is tied for first. Even in the Chase, the name of the series is deceiving; it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
“I’m really proud of my consistency,” Edwards said. “It feels really good to have a team that’s run as well as we’ve run on average this year. With the opportunities we’ve had to win races, it’s a little frustrating we haven’t won more of them … but it has been a good season.”
One victory might not seem impressive on the resume, but it’s the same amount five-time champ Jimmie Johnson claimed this season. Johnson has personified the steady performance necessary to win the Chase, a trait that Matt Kenseth rode to a points title with 25 top-10 finishes in 2003 under the old format. (RFR’s Kenseth was fifth at Dover to move into seventh in the Chase standings.)
Johnson took second Sunday to move back into championship consideration, just 13 points behind co-leaders Edwards and Harvick. Johnson’s consistency has been his recipe for success, and it could be that same approach that leads Edwards to end Johnson’s reign.
Watch video of Edwards’ postrace news conference below.