The season opened great for Greg Biffle (L) and teammate Carl Edwards, taking the front row at Daytona. But since then.... (Photo: Autostock)
By Mike Mulhern
Something seems to be missing here.
Yes, Edwards and crew chief Bob Osborne, despite a couple hits of bad luck, are still 12th in the Sprint Cup standings...a far bit better than Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne, for example.
And, yes, Edwards scored fifths at California and Las Vegas, closing fast, and he pulled off an eighth at Daytona.
So other than Phoenix, where he ran out gas, and Bristol, where he got caught up in an early wreck, things really aren't that bad, it would seem.
However it's that fire -- the fire that Edwards has exuded throughout most of his career -- that seems missing.
Or is Edwards still fighting off that incredible disappointment in November of missing the championship by the slimmest of margins, after posting the best overall numbers of anyone in the sport?
Edwards certainly isn't panicking. He doesn't even really seem perturbed.
Of course Martinsville Speedway isn't the best place to relight any fires -- team owner Jack Roush hasn't been to victory lane here since 2002, and Edwards concedes this isn't one of his best tracks.
"We've had a couple of bad races," Edwards says. "We had Phoenix, where we ran out of fuel...and Bristol, where we wrecked early.
"If it weren't for that, I think we'd be up there near where (teammate) Greg (Biffle) is."
Biffle is the tour leader heading into Sunday's Goody's 500.
"We've had good runs -- last week we were coming on strong at the end and finished fifth, so that was okay," Edwards points out.
But here? Well....
"I'll level with you guys -- if we have a good run here...we're going to be really, really ecstatic."
"We've run here; I know what it feels like to run well here.
"But this is a very tough race, and it'll be really tough if we don't make the car a little faster."
Carl Edwards loves the big tracks, like Las Vegas, California and next-stop Texas. But Martinsville, well, that's frustration. (Photo: Autostock)
Now Texas Motor Speedway, the stock car tour's next stop, April 14th, is one of Edwards' best tracks. He should be one of the heavy favorites.
Martinsville, though, has been an exercise in frustration.
"It's a really fun track when your car is fast....because you're the guy rootin' and gougin'.
"On the other hand, if your car is slow, it's a long day. When you're hanging on, battling with that car the whole day, it leaves an impression on you.
"Do I get mad? Yeah, are you kidding me? I think every driver here gets mad at some point.
"You can get mad at anything here. You can get mad at yourself...at other drivers...at pit crew members because you get blocked in on pit road.
"If you start thinking about the guy who designed the curbing, you get mad at him.
"It's a very frustrating place.
On the other side of the Roush Ford camp is Biffle, who is having a great start to the season. New crew chief Matt Puccia gets much of the praise from Biffle.
Edwards: "They've been fast, and you guys know if Greg Biffle is happy and feeling positive about his crew chief, he's going to be fast."
Edwards and Puccia themselves go way, way back in this sport, to the days some 15 years ago they were both working for Ken Schrader.
Impishly, Edwards prods: "Have you guys ever talked to Matt and about when he almost killed me at Ken Schrader's shop?
"I had to go to the hospital and everything.
"He dropped a truck on me. I was underneath the lift, and he let the lift down, and it was ugly.
"It was close.
"He says he had nothing to do with it; but when I looked up, he was the guy standing next to the lever."
Edwards can laugh now.
But now here Sunday....
"We just have such a hard time getting the car dialed in," Edwards gripes. "I don't know if it's the way we practice, but there's something we're missing.
"Our whole team has never been extremely strong here...but we have had those glimpses of speed."
And if Edwards does manage to win here Sunday, he'll almost certainly have to beat Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin, who have dominated this track for years.
Johnson too hasn't had a great start to the season. And, gee, it's been 11 races without a win for Johnson and Chad Knaus, since Kansas last October.
Edwards, whose last tour win was at Las Vegas over a year ago now, laughs at Johnson's woes: "He hasn't won in 11 races? The poor guy...
"But that shows you how successful he is. When Jimmie is upset about not winning in 11 races, he's truly upset.
"That's the way you have to be as a race driver: You have to wake up and say 'Man, we should have won.'
"Jimmie is that 'we.'
"We look at them every week, no matter where they're at in the standings, or how fast they are in practice.
"Like it or not -- which I don't -- they are the model team in this era."
A pensive Carl Edwards, apprehensive about Sunday's Goody's 500 at Martinsville (Photo: Autostock)