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Are Carl Edwards and Bob Osborne just waiting for the chase to begin? Or is there something more at play here?

  Carl Edwards: Brooding, or just waiting to pounce? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   POCONO, Pa.
   It's been a curious season so far, and one story line that stands out is the Carl Edwards enigma.
   The man won nine races last season….and yet heading into August he is still winless.
   Yes, Edwards, who is arguably car owner Jack Roush's lead driver at the moment, is firmly in the playoffs, barring a complete collapses in the next month or so.
   But still winless?
   Just as the prowess of the Rick Hendrick juggernaut is drawing questions, so is the Roush camp.
   Firing blanks?
   Edwards doesn't really seem despondent or depressed or angry about it all.
   Maybe he's finally learned patience does have its value.
   Or maybe Edwards is just lurking, lurking, waiting for the chase.
   "We've performed fairly well…we have not had the results we had hoped to have, but we've been steadily getting more and more competitive, and that's good," Edwards says slowly.
   And he will start in the third row of Sunday's Pennsylvania 500. Much better than last weekend's 41st place starting spot.
   Of course Edwards gets the third row here because rain washed out qualifying.
   Will things turn around any time soon?
   "I'd definitely like to have some wins at this point of the season," Edwards concedes. "But there's nothing you can do about that.
   "So for me and my team right now the mission is to make sure we're solidly in the chase, and to make sure the progress we've made with our pit crew and our cars we can really apply for the last 10 races."
    The chase, the chase, the chase. Points-racing into the chase?
    "We're getting closer, only six to go," Edwards says.
    "I've been trying to keep my eyes off that and focus on the races…and if we just have a few good races here we'll be all right."
    Edwards' Cup career – and this is his fifth season – has been 'up' one season, 'down' the next.
    Well, last year of course Edwards and crew chief Bob Osborne were quickly on top, because they developed a special handling package that worked remarkably well. Until everyone found out the deal.
    This year….well, it still doesn't have an Edwards-Osborne imprint yet.


Bob Osborne: As crew chief, the man with the plan. But just what is the plan? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


Up or down?
   "I don't know if it's based on psychology and how people operate in competitive situations, or when you gain an advantage, then you don't work on those things because you don't want to mess it up…and maybe during that time other people are working things out and surpass you….." Edwards muses.
    "I don't know how it ends up going in waves like that, but for me it definitely has.
    "In 2005 the races we won were easy to win. We ran really well."
   And came within 35 points of winning the championship.
  "Then last season we won nine races -- and I really feel there were 12 or 13 we could have won if things had gone just a little bit better," Edwards said.
    This season?
    "I don't know…." Edwards says slowly. "I feel I'm doing a better job, in a lot of ways, than last year.
     "Bob is doing a really great job.
     "It's just the way the sport goes.
     "There are 16 races left….and (teammate) Matt Kenseth won two really big races, and we could still go win 10 races as a team.
      "So I'm not willing to write anything off.
      "I still feel we can win this championship, I feel very strongly we can win it.
      "Hopefully the worst of our trough we're through. I feel we're on our way up."
    Now if Edwards can just avoid getting nailed by NASCAR cops on pit road…..like what did in Juan Pablo Montoya's bid Sunday to win at Indianapolis.
    "I can definitely relate to Juan's frustration," Edwards says.
     "The way NASCAR determines pit road speed is way better than it has been. But it's still complex, with enough 'moving parts' and potential for error that it can be improved. And I think NASCAR will improve it.
     "If you take out the option for argument, if it's a good-enough system in place, then it's harder to question…and it's accepted more."
    One problem: "First of all I don't know exactly how they do it -- I don't know exactly how they determine the pit-road speed," Edwards says.
   "What I think could solve a lot of it would be to put a transponder on the pace car and run it down pit road (on the parade laps), and let everyone see how that works.
     "We all set our pit-road speed (via reading the tach) based on the pace car at the beginning of the race. That requires a person in that (pace) car to set a cruise-control setting on the dashboard.
    "I don't know who checks that cruise control. I don't know who checks the tire pressures in that car. I don't know what goes on there.
     "So I think they need a transponder on the pace car, with the field behind it, at pit-road speed before the race starts."
    There is of course another fix – make it easier for drivers to pass out on the track, where they're really supposed to be racing, instead of racing on pit road.
   "Pit stops are more important now than they've been in the five years I've been doing this," Edwards says.
    "It's so competitive on the track that a couple of spots gained or lost in the pits can really define your race. Especially if you multiply that over the six or eight pit stops you have in a race."

   Carl Edwards, starting up front in Sunday's Pennsylvania 500 (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


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