Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - With seven races to go in the regular season and a new crew chief guiding his efforts, Carl Edwards is willing to do whatever it takes to make this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
It's been a frustrating season for Edwards and his No. 99 team, especially after their second-place finish in last year's Chase. Edwards is currently 11th in the point standings but sits fifth in the wild card rankings. He has yet to win a race this season.
By virtue of his two wins, including last week's victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Kasey Kahne presently holds the first wild card position. Kyle Busch occupies the second and final wild card spot with one win to his credit. Ryan Newman and Joey Logano are third and fourth, respectively, in the rankings. Newman and Logano have one victory each as well.
When the Sprint Cup Series resumes its season this weekend with the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Chad Norris will begin his crew chief duties with Edwards' team. Roush Fenway Racing revealed last week that Bob Osborne was stepping down as crew chief and Norris taking over the role. Osborne had been paired with Edwards since his Cup debut in 2004. He will remain with Roush Fenway as a senior member of the organization's management team and steering committee.
Edwards' last victory in NASCAR's premier series came 52 races ago in March 2011 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. At this juncture of the season, wins are becoming more and more important, particularly in the wild card battle. Finishing the regular season in the top-10 in points might be Edwards' only chance of qualifying for the Chase. He comes to Indianapolis 46 points behind 10th-place Brad Keselowski, who already has three wins this year.
"We're in a position where we could earn our way in on points with just good, solid runs," Edwards said. "We'd like to do it both ways. We'd like to just go out here and dominate a race or two and march into the top seven or eight in points and have a couple wins and not have to worry about it. But until that point, we'll go do the best we can, score all the points we can and take chances if they're right there in front of us. If I see something I can do that would get us that win, then I'll do it."
Even though seven races remain, is now the time for Edwards to start taking risks?
"Whenever you go lunging out there and do things that are really risky, there's a reason people don't do a lot of that stuff, because there's big potential for a downside," he said. "We need a win bad, but, at the same time, we still have enough races that if we just run solidly and run like we know we can, I think we'll march into the top 10 on our own merit just with points."
One year ago, it appeared Keselowski had a slim chance of making the Chase, regardless of his win in the June race at Kansas Speedway. He held the 23rd position in the standings and trailed then 10th-place Denny Hamlin by 95 points before Indianapolis. But Keselowski went on a tear during the month of August, even though he suffered a broken left ankle and a sore back during a crash while testing at Road Atlanta just days after Indy. His finishes of no worse than third, including two victories, that month moved him up to 11th in points. He also held the top wild card spot.
While Keselowski had a whole lot of momentum, Stewart was in a slump during the final weeks of the 2011 regular season. Stewart wondered if he would make the Chase after finishing 28th in the Aug. 27 night race at Bristol Motor Speedway. He sat 10th in the standings, but Keselowski was just 21 points behind him.
Stewart squeaked into the Chase, earning the ninth seed and having no wins at the time. He doubted if he even deserved a spot in the playoffs before it began at Chicagoland Speedway. But Stewart went on a hot streak, winning a season-record five races during the Chase. He ended the season with the same amount of points as Edwards but claimed his third series championship in a tiebreaker.
"I think all of us in the garage look at Tony and what that 14 team did last year, and we all feel like we could do the same thing, but we just need that opportunity," Edwards said. "That's where our team is right now. It's not where we expected to be, but it's where we're at, and hopefully, we can do as well as those guys did."
Edwards is very capable of having the same surge as Keselowski and Stewart had, but it's time for Edwards and his team to get in gear.