Zero Cup wins for Edwards after 9 last year
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- Carl Edwards has found a way to try to mask the frustration of his winless NASCAR Sprint Cup season.
"I've kind of tried to think of it differently," Edwards said. "It's not that we haven't had no wins this season, it's just that we've had nine wins over the last two. That sounds a lot better."
That still doesn't erase that very noticeable zero in 2009.
After winning a series-high nine races last season -- "That was an amazing year," Edwards said, almost smiling at the memory -- he was considered by many as the preseason favorite this year to unseat three-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson.
Instead, Johnson heads into Sunday's race at Texas Motor Speedway, the eighth in the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup, closing in on unprecedented fourth consecutive championship.
Edwards would just like to win a race and try to build some momentum for next season.
"Everybody was so pumped and voted us to win the championship and everybody was on board, but I knew in the back of my mind that things can go great or they can go bad and no amount of speculation can affect that," Edwards said. "Yeah, it's frustrating. But I know how cruel this sport can be."
And how good.
When Edwards got to the 1 1/2-mile, high-banked track last November, he already had seven wins. He made it eight when he drove his No. 99 Ford to Victory Lane by a comfortable margin after gambling on fuel to complete the first two-race season sweep in Texas -- and become the first three-time winner there. He won again in the finale two weeks later at Homestead to finish 69 points behind Johnson.
Without a wreck at Talladega and an ignition problem at Charlotte in consecutive Chase races, for finishes of 29th and 33rd, Edwards probably would have been able to end Johnson's title streak last year.
The luck has been no better this year, even though the Roush Fenway team got started with Matt Kenseth being the first driver in 12 years to win the first two races of a season and Edwards made the Chase again.
"We were at the top of our game last year and didn't manage to make the improvements and didn't manage to find the next new thing that we needed this year and that left us with a disappointing year," owner Jack Roush said. "It's just a cycle of things. ... Hopefully next year we'll be back on top."
After Kenseth's two victories, Roush didn't win again until Jamie McMurray won at Talladega last weekend.
Only Johnson (13) and Kyle Busch (12) have more than Edwards' nine victories over the past two seasons.
Busch is racing in all three of NASCAR's top series at Texas, and has a chance Sunday to be the first driver to win in all three on the same weekend. He got his Texas trifecta started by winning the truck race Friday night and the Nationwide race Saturday.
With a 184-point lead over Mark Martin, Johnson needs only to average a 10th-place finish over the last three races, or 11th if he leads at least one lap in every race, to clinch the championship. Johnson has an average finish of 3.4 in the seven Chase races so far, finishing top 10 in all of them.
"I'm still trying to race as if we're behind in points," Johnson said. "I feel if we start focusing on an average position where we need to finish, do some things that are different, we will set ourselves up for a problem. ... If we can go out and outrun the 24 (Gordon) and the 5 (Martin) the next two weeks, we'll set (clinching the title) into our minds then. Right now, I'm just trying to keep blinders on and stay focused on maximum points."
Johnson was second at Texas in April behind Hendrick teammate Jeff Gordon, who is the polesitter Sunday. Martin, another Hendrick driver, qualified seventh and Johnson starts 12th.
Gordon's victory in April broke a 47-race winless drought and gave him his first victory ever at Texas. It is still his only win this season.
Edwards finished 10th in April at Texas and it looked like he might be getting on a roll soon after that when he finished seventh or better in four consecutive races. But he didn't maintain that momentum, and has only five top-10 finishes in the 17 races since.
Only four Nationwide victories this season have kept Edwards from getting rusty at doing his celebratory backflip.
His worst Sprint Cup finish came three weeks ago in Charlotte, when he was 39th because of a blown engine that put him out of the race with 35 laps to go. He was 14th last week at Talladega.
"I feel like I'm doing sometimes a better job in the race car and we're not getting the same results, but that's what makes this sport tough," Edwards said. "The good times are good, the bad times you've just got to dig in and work."