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Carl Edwards: Cautious start to the season...by design


Carl Edwards -- making the championship chase is the big picture (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern

   Uh, what's wrong with Carl Edwards?
   Mr. Lightning last season, this year he's started off more slowly.
   It's all calculated, Edwards says.
    Edwards won nine races last season but lost the championship, so this year it's about all about the big picture:
   "We all know that we just have to be in the top-12 with 10 races to go," Edwards says.
   So he and crew chief Bob Osborne have a new game plan: "Bob and I talked about it.  Yeah, we won a lot of races last year, and that was great. But we didn't win the championship. 
    "We know what it feels like to win races. We just want to win the championship.
   "So whatever puts us in the best position to do that…
   "If we're 12th at Richmond (for the September playoff cut), and we've got a shot at it…we can still go win the championship, as long as we can still do it. Then that's no worse than being first going into it. 
    "I have a couple of goals:  Number one, just make the chase.  Number two, to win the championship.
    "And I don't really care how many races we win, as long as we can achieve those goals."
   Last weekend at Las Vegas, after teammates blew engines, Edwards babied his, almost all the way to the finish line. It blew with three laps to go.
   "We were going to be second, and maybe fighting for the win," Edwards says. "But this is racing. 
   "Jimmie Johnson sure didn't get off to a stellar start last year. 
    "It only matters to get into that chase, and then to be good in those last 10 races. 
    "The engine isn't a worry for me this week. I don't think that's going to show up again. It's not a problem we're looking into."
   Too much RPM, from more tire speed than expected, and high RPM over an extended period of time, longer than anticipated, he said about Vegas.
   Besides, he's still ninth in the standings, only 82 points out of first, and the year's still young.
  "Really we've just had two races," Edwards say. "Daytona is a crapshoot -- I was on Matt's bumper when we went through that wreck, so I figured if I would have made it through without any damage, I could have had just as good a chance at winning. 
    And our car was the fastest car last week. We just had a bad pit stop and then the engine blew up.
   "So our performance is there. And we've actually had some pretty good luck. That's the only time I've rolled across the finish line with a blown engine and seen the checkered flag. I coasted a lap and a half, that's how fast we were going."
    Here? Sunday's 500 is shaping up as a quite different race than last weekend's Vegas 427.
   "The track is real slippery….it's pretty wild," Edwards says.
   That sounds ominously like last spring's race here.
   "I like this place when it's like that," Edwards insists. 
   Indeed: Edwards won here last fall, and he was leading in the spring until his engine blew.
   What was going on last week with the Jack Roush motors?
   "Jack and I talked about it, and he didn't feel the RPM issue was the only thing that hurt us," Edwards said. "He thought there might have actually been a little problem with the one of the clearances on our bearings."
   One big issue at Las Vegas was not just higher than expected RPM but longer runs at those higher RPM, with teams hitting the 9800 limit at the start-finish line and carrying all that RPM on down into turn one. For nearly four hours.
    "This place, it'll slow down, and there will be more change in RPM over a lap, so it should be easier on the engine," Edwards says.
   "It seems like the tires are going to fall off quite a bit…which is great for the racing. 
    "We talk about how hard it is to pass, and how many passes you don't see. Well, you're going to see passing because there will be guys who gamble and stay out (on old tires) and guys who get new tires and come through the field.  
   "What Jimmie did in that last race -- coming all the way back (after a late tire stop) up to second, that's fun for the fans to watch."
   Despite so many complaints about last spring's rock-hard tires here, Edwards says he loved it: "I enjoyed running on the tire they had last year. 
    "It was a bear to drive, but it was the same for everyone."
   And Edwards says this Sunday's 500 is shaping up as more of the same: "They’re (still) pretty hard to drive. There are going to be a lot of people with their hands full.
    "This is one of my best tracks, probably my best track. 
    "I don't care what they do with the tires as long as they don't blow out."

Carls Gameplan

Would I like to see Carl win a race soon...maybe this weekend? Of course. Would I rather see him win the Championship at the end of the year?? YOU BET!!! Is this a smart guy or what!!

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