Carl Edwards has had three realistic chances to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.
In his first full Sprint Cup season in 2005, he finished third behind Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle. In 2008, he won nine races but couldn’t overcome an in-his-prime Jimmie Johnson. And, in 2011, he lost one of the most competitive championships in recent memory to Stewart.
A championship is all that is really missing from Edwards’ résumé and, if he gets one, he’d be a strong Hall of Fame candidate. This is a driver who has 27 career wins and has won multiple races in eight of his 13 seasons.
“I’ve been close to the championship three times and each time it was more important and more special,” said Edwards, who made an appearance in the Metroplex on Wednesday to promote the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on Nov. 6.
“I want to win this championship more than anything. This is what I get up every morning to do and hopefully we can get it done this year.”
Edwards took the first step by surviving and advancing to the Round of 12 with an average finish of 11.7 in the opening round.
The Round of 12 kicks off this weekend in Charlotte, and Edwards understands the importance of putting together solid races at Charlotte and the following week at Kansas in order to avoid needing a win at Talladega in the Round of 12’s final race.
Any driver in the Chase automatically advances with a win and Talladega is known for its unpredictability, which is why Edwards is focused on building a points cushion before that race.
“You have to do everything right in this Chase format to advance,” Edwards said. “You can’t give up points. You can’t have bad days. We didn’t have a win last year, and we almost made it to the final round. There’s no substitute for being fast.”
The good news for Edwards and his No. 19 Arris Toyota crew is that they have been fast all season. Edwards has an average finish of 12.6, his best since his runner-up season in 2011 (9.3).
And Edwards is on arguably the best team in NASCAR right now — Joe Gibbs Racing. His teammate, Kyle Busch, is the reigning champion, and all four of its drivers (Edwards, Busch, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth) have advanced to the Round of 12.
At some point, those teammates will become competitors on the track.
“Our group at Joe Gibbs Racing is a bunch of veteran drivers and veteran crew chiefs and we all get it,” Edwards said. “We help each other as much as we can. But when you drop the green flag, we compete hard against one another. As it gets closer to [the championship round at Homestead-Miami Speedway], it’ll be really clear to all of us what we need to do.”
For now, Edwards just hopes to advance to the Round of 8 and return to the middle race of that round at Texas with something on the line. Edwards has a strong history at Texas with three wins and 12 top-10s in 23 career starts.
“When you’re in the Chase, you come to Texas just laser focused,” Edwards said. “Everything matters, qualifying, every lap, every pit stop and you’ve got to make it to that final round.
“With this format, if you have one bad race with the competition the way it is, it’s not going to work out for you. So, yeah, Texas is a very important race.”
AAA Texas 500
1 p.m., Nov. 6, KXAS/5