Average Start: 9.4
Average Finish: 9.3
Races Led: 25
Laps Led: 903
% Laps Completed: 97.6%
Points Finish: 2nd
2011 in a Nutshell
From the outset Carl Edwards was viewed as a genuine favorite to contend for the 2011 title. Unlike previous years, Edwards performed up to the level expected of him. As a runner-up finish at Daytona, a win at Las Vegas and another second-place finish at Bristol put the Roush Fenway driver atop the point standings, a position he would hold for 23 of 36 weeks. But in the end, Edwards’ outstanding year just wasn’t enough. In the closest points race in NASCAR history, Tony Stewart edged out Edwards on a tiebreaker to win the Sprint Cup championship.
Reasons to Believe
Edwards topped everyone last year in top-fives and top-10s … Bob Osborne doesn’t get the attention or the credit as some other crew chiefs, but there is little doubt he is one of the very best in the garage. His pairing with Edwards might the best driver-crew chief relationship in all of NASCAR … The unquestioned lead driver at Roush Fenway Racing … Despite the organization having some sponsorship holes, that isn’t a concern for the 99 who has a throng of companies backing them financially … A reduced Nationwide Series will allow Edwards to focus more on his Cup ride which should have him more energized ( as if that’s at all possible) … A smooth style behind the wheel translates well to the intermediate tracks – a point of emphasis for Roush Fenway … The Chase schedule plays strongly into Edwards’ strengths.
Reasons to Doubt
Carl Edwards isn’t particularly bad on the road courses, but he should be better … Can this team go through another season unscathed without having some sort of mechanical gremlin put their car in the garage prematurely? … With the exception of last year, Edwards has had difficulty living up to preseason expectations … How does a team as great as the 99 team was a year ago win only once? … He should be better and needs to improve on the road courses, as well as Richmond and Chicagoland … While at times he’s been very fast at Texas, he needs to be more consistent on the 1.5-mile track … The lingering disappointment of last season is a HUGE concern.
Area of Strength: Intermediate tracks
Much like his Roush Fenway Racing brethren, Carl Edwards is at his absolute best on the intermediate ovals; as evident by 13 of his 19 Cup victories having come on mile-and-a-half two-mile tracks.
Area of Weakness: Following up
Call it a hangover if you will, but the following season hasn’t been too kind recently to the driver who finished second in the championship the year before. Last season Denny Hamlin dropped nine spots in the standings and went from wining eight races to just one. The year before that, 2009 runner-up Mark Martin went winless and didn’t make the Chase. Martin’s former Hendrick teammate also went winless in 2008 the year after finishing second to Jimmie Johnson. And Edwards’ himself twice previously put-up a goose egg in the win column after having finished second in points the year prior. More than anything else, this will be the biggest question facing Edwards and his team in 2012.
Best-case Scenario For 2012
Carl Edwards repeats his magical 2011 season with two notable exceptions. First, he wins more races. Second, instead of tying for the championship, the Missouri native decisively wins the title going away.
Worst-case Scenario For 2012
Like Denny Hamlin last year, Carl Edwards’ can’t shake losing the championship in the way he did. As such, he’s in a funk for the entire season and does what he did two times prior after finishing runner-up in the standings – fails to win and essentially sleepwalks through the entire season.
In Their Words
“Last year, it bothered me after the race for a few minutes, but that’s not how I try to do things. I go out and do the best I can and I’m realist. There’s a reality in the world and the reality is we finished second, so that’s just it. I didn’t really have much trouble with that, but what I had trouble with was the waiting for this season – just sitting around with no racing, trying to get up in the morning and find constructive things to go do, because I’m ready to go race. I cannot wait to get in that race car next Sunday.”
Predicted Number of Wins: 4
The Racing Geek’s Final Thought
As demonstrated by what he did in 2011, Carl Edwards’ has gotten significantly better at managing expectations. Therefore rising up to the challenge of being a championship contender and putting last season behind him, shouldn’t be too tough of a task. Everything about this team screams championship. Now all they have to do is turn potential into reality.