Carl Edwards was hoping for a turnaround, a big day, redemption. The driver, who nearly won the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship in 2011, has struggled this season. His last win came last year at Las Vegas and his finishes this season have only been good enough to keep Edwards barely hanging on to the hope of contending for the title.
As the Chase fast approaches, Edwards is fully aware that his time to secure a spot in the final championship run is growing short. During NASCAR’s last off-week, Edwards’ longtime crew chief Bob Osborne stepped down and veteran Chad Norris took over. The team headed to Indy hopeful they could start fighting their way back.
It wasn’t to be. Despite the encouragement of a second place start, Edwards’ race turned badly, quickly.
On lap 13, the engine in his Ford began to sour and Edwards was forced to coast to the pits. The crew was able to fix the problem but any hopes for a win were gone.
“We think it is some issue with the ECU,” Edwards said. “We changed that along with the spark plugs and the engine started running better.”
The damage was already done however as Edwards fell four laps down and finished the day 29th. He also fell to 12 in the standings. But after it was over, Edwards wasn’t ready to throw in the championship towel just yet.
“We were going over what happened while it was fresh in our mind to determine the best strategy. Edwards said after he climbed from the car. “We had one thing; we had a very fast race car. Greg (Biffle) finished third with his car and I felt like ours was as good as his 3M Fusion. Right now we are going to talk to the guys. Chad and I want to make sure they know that we do not quit.”
Edwards added that after Sunday he’s adopting a new strategy for the rest of the season.
“The silver lining is this kind of makes it official,” Edwards said. “We just go race for wins now for the next six races. I don’t think there is much of a chance we are going to march back up there in the points.”
Without having to worry about points, Edwards said his only concern will be winning and that will change the way the team competes until the Chase is set.
“Well, for instance, today the decision whether or not to come work on the car,” he said. “If we aren’t worried about points you just stay out and run it. You don’t know when there is a problem if there is a valve that will tear up a mechanical part of the engine or if it is just an electronic thing, which in this case it was. Hindsight being 20-20 we could have stayed out and run, stayed on the lead lap, come in and chance the ECU and then go back and race for the win. When you are points racing you can’t take that chance. We will just go race now.”
It’s a strategy that will make is easier for Edwards going forward.
“It will involve lots of pushing on the right pedal and turning left and going as fast as possible,” Edwards said. “We have to take chances. We have to go race. We can do that, we can race like that. It will actually be a big relief in a way because there is no other choice. We just go race for wins. I wouldn’t bet against us. We can do it.”
It’s a high risk, high reward plan; an all or nothing strategy that could have Edwards climbing back into championship form and becoming a real contender again or leave him on the outside looking in when the 2012 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup gets underway.
“Nothing is easier, it is just simpler. It makes decisions simpler,” Edwards said Sunday. “For instance, if the same thing were to happen next week at Pocono, it is an easy decision. I would stay out and run it, no matter how sick the engine is, until we get a caution and then go work on it. We just have to do what we can. We have to plan to win these races. I don’t think we can think about points anymore. That is what I am saying when I say it is simpler. We just have to go race for wins now.”
For more NASCAR News and NASCAR Commentary, follow me on Twitter and Facebook or visit CupScene.com