Carl Edwards was a relaxed driver last week, which is not what you would expect in Martinsville, Va.
He’s usually pretty uptight in the tiny town. It’s got a short track, where he usually has a tough time and Ford has struggled to figure things out.
But last week, the veteran and his car were posting fast practice times. He already had a win under his belt from the week before. Already in good shape for a Chase berth, he was feeling good.
“This is the most fun I’ve had at Martinsville for a while,” he said.
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He came out of it with a 13th-place finish, and although it cost him a spot in the points standings to third, it kept his momentum going and his confidence high as he gets ready for Fort Worth, where he has no reason to be uptight.
“I feel like we have an opportunity to try some things because of our position in the points, already having a win,” he said before racing at Martinsville. “I feel like we may find something. If we were a little more nervous, we would be more reluctant to take those big swings at it.
“We’re not worried about wasting time, we’re not worried about making mistakes. We’re just gonna go out and be extremely aggressive. That’s a fun way to race at Martinsville.”
He knows that feeling at Texas Motor Speedway, too.
He has won three times at TMS, matching Jimmie Johnson for the most by any driver in the Sprint Cup series. He was third in the April race last year and won the pole for the November race, although an engine failure left him with a 37th-place finish. Still, he’s seventh among Cup drivers in laps led at TMS and 12th in average finish.
The win two weeks ago in Bristol gives him more reason to relax. Until — and if — there are 16 different winners, he doesn’t have to worry about his spot in the Chase.
He can at least drive with that off his mind this weekend, but he’s not counting on it all the way through the year.
“I believe, and it’s held true so far, we’re going to have more than 16 winners,” he said. “It feels that way. It feels like there are more competitive cars. The disparity throughout the field is smaller between the cars, so I believe that it’s not just the win that has us feeling like we can be aggressive — it’s our points position.
“If we were 20th in points right now, we would feel a lot different. So if we were to have trouble the next couple weeks and fall in points, we would go back to racing just slightly more conservatively, so that we didn’t fall any farther.
“But I feel like if we can go another month or month and a half and we’re still leading the points or close, I feel like we’ll be locked in.”
That sounds like a very relaxed driver.