Edwards plummets in Chase standings after disastrous weekend at Charlotte

CONCORD, N.C. -- Carl Edwards began the weekend with his hand around Kevin Harvick's throat.

He ended it with his championship hopes all but choked away.

No, it hasn't been a good three days for the backflipping driver sponsored by a duck at Lowe's Motor Speedway. It hasn't been a good week, period.

From starting a multicar crash at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday to getting in a physical confrontation with Harvick on Thursday to an electrical ignition problem early Saturday night, he has gone from Chase contender to Chase pretender in less than seven days.

The 33rd-place finish dropped Edwards from second place, 72 points behind Jimmie Johnson, to 168 back in fourth with five races remaining in the Sprint Cup season.

"I can guarantee you that if I had the week to do over again, the last seven days would be a lot different," Edwards said in a soft-spoken, humble tone. "But you just have to do what you think is right at the time and move on after that.

"I truly believe that the only place I failed this week real big was to let things get to me. What's the saying? You can't control anything but your attitude. That's something I let myself down a little bit on this week. I've got to work on that. Tonight was another good test."

Edwards has run the gamut of emotions since Lap 174 at Talladega, where he took out himself, Harvick, Roush Fenway Racing teammates Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth, and a host of others while trying to push Biffle to the front with an ill-planned bump-draft in the corner.

Saturday night was a microcosm of the week.

It began when Edwards was forced to pit on Lap 52 with a loose wheel. He appeared to have gotten a break when AJ Allmendinger crashed, bringing out a caution.

But before he got to the end of pit road -- at least according to NASCAR -- leader Johnson passed him on the track to put him a lap down. Edwards and crew chief Bob Osborne argued feverishly with NASCAR that they got out ahead of Johnson and later that they deserved the free pass, but the governing body didn't agree.

"This is a joke," Osborne radioed. "This is unbelievable."

It got more unbelievable as Edwards attempted to pit again under caution. As he pulled from his stall the crew radioed, "Back up! Back up!" so they could tighten a loose lug nut.

But the real trouble didn't begin until Lap 67, when Edwards' car began having ignition troubles. Stalled on the track, he needed a push from a tow truck to get back to pit road.

He sat there for 16 laps as crew members scrambled to fix the problem that didn't get corrected until both ignition boxes were replaced. By then Edwards was headed for consecutive finishes outside the top 16 for the first time this season in a car he thought was good enough to win.

"That's the frustrating part," Edwards said. "There's nothing wrong with the car now. It's real fast. It just took too long to fix that."

Edwards entered the Chase on a roll with three wins and seven top-10s in seven races. His worst finish during that stretch was a 13th at Richmond.

He began the Chase with a bang as well, finishing third at New Hampshire and Dover and second at Kansas after a last-lap pass of Johnson left him against the wall.

I can guarantee you that if I had the week to do over again, the last seven days would be a lot different.

-- Carl Edwards

He appeared poised for a solid finish at Talladega until causing the crash that apparently didn't sit well with Harvick, who referred to him as a "pansy" for hanging around the back of the field much of the day.

Edwards, upset about the comment and a 29th-place finish, left a note on the seat of Harvick's airplane that, after a few expletives, said, "I was really trying to screw up everyone's day. Love, Carl."

Then the real fun started. Edwards, passing by Harvick's stall in the Nationwide Series garage on Thursday, asked the Richard Childress Racing driver if he'd found the note.

When Harvick turned to walk away, witnesses said Edwards grabbed him by the shoulder and spun him around. That led to a shoving and choking match that sent Edwards onto the hood of Harvick's No. 33 Nationwide car.

Harvick said he simply was "protecting our turf."

"You've just got to be careful who you want to pick a fight with," Harvick said. "If you want to pick a fight with the wrong person sometimes it turns around and bites you, no matter how big and tough you think you are."

On Saturday, a mechanical issue took a big bite out of Edwards' Chase hopes.

But the fire Edwards showed during the confrontation with Harvick was replaced by a calm voice resigned to a bad day.

"I just didn't have much to say," Edwards said. "It seems the more I do or say this week, the worse off I am, so I just wanted to get to the end of the race and go do some testing and go race at Martinsville. I've never been so excited to race at Martinsville in my life."

Osborne said the last week has been a learning experience for his driver, who finished tied for second in the 2005 Chase.

"He's growing as a person, growing as a driver, we're growing as a team," he said. "We're all learning from all the situations that we're involved in. Next week we'll be a better team because of it."

Team owner Jack Roush, who a few months ago said Edwards was in the best position of his career to win a title, agreed.

"We've got to endure times like this," he said. "This is a very contentious, very problematic business. Things quite often don't work out the way you like. Depending on how you deal with adversity during tough times is what your likelihood of winning a championship is."

Edwards dealt with adversity better than most Saturday. Instead of parking his car and rushing for the helipad, he faced the questions he knew were coming.

"The last six or seven days have not been good," he said. "Not good. From causing a wreck that takes out a bunch of my teammates to letting what people say bother me to going and making a bad decision about that to this race, it's not a good seven days.

"But if these are the worst seven days this year that's great. I've got a lot of good things going for me."

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.