Edwards may be caught in The Hangover
Carl Edwards did it again.
No, not another subpar finish, although he did get that thanks to a late stop for fuel that left him 20th in Saturday night's Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway.
What Edwards did again was mention the hangover -- the jinx, so to speak -- that has followed the runner-up from previous Cup seasons and that seemingly has followed Edwards after losing the 2011 title on a tiebreaker to Tony Stewart.
Without being asked about it.
After bad pit strategy cost Edwards a chance at a top-5 finish, maybe even a win, on Saturday he tossed it out there without being asked about the speculation that the problem is with longtime crew chief Bob Osborne.
A look at how runners-up in the Sprint Cup Series have fared the following season since the Chase began in 2004.
|Driver||Runner-up season||Next season|
|Carl Edwards||2011||11th *|
|Greg Biffle (tie)||2005||13th|
|Carl Edwards (tie)||2005||12th|
|* Season not complete|
"I hear it all," Edwards told reporters after the race. "I hear everything. I hear [about myself], 'He is focused on the [broadcast] booth. He is tore up over Tony's deal last year. He needs a new crew chief.'
"None of that is true. We are having some bad luck and some bad communication here. We can do this together. We could divide right now or we could come together. I have the best crew chief in the business, and he proved it at the end of the year last year. We got beat on a crazy call by Darian [Grubb, Stewart's crew chief] and those guys last year, and we need to get going."
Two weeks earlier at Michigan, Edwards was more blatant in mentioning the hangover. He prefaced a television interview by telling commentator Darrell Waltrip his misfortune has nothing to do with how last season ended, then addressed it again during his Friday media availability -- this time when asked about it.
"Let me be clear, a hangover from last year does not make tires blow or Denny [Hamlin] forget where his brakes are," Edwards said. "That has nothing to do with us. Anyway, it is not the hangover, but thank you."
Thank you, but no driver who has finished runner-up in the Chase has improved his position the next season. The average finish for that driver the next year is 9.25, including 2006, when Edwards and teammate Greg Biffle finished 12th and 13th a year after tying for second.
Edwards is doing nothing to dispel the hangover theory with his performance this year. He is 11th in points with only two top-5s a year after registering 19, including nine in the first 17 races -- where the series stands now.
His average finish has gone from 9.3 in 2011 to 14.6. He has led only one lap outside the 206 he led at Richmond, where he had a potential win erased when he was black-flagged for jumping the restart with 82 laps to go.
Hangover or not, Edwards is in danger of not making the Chase. He is 34 points out of the top 10 guaranteed a spot in the 10-race playoff. He has Kyle Busch (12th), Kasey Kahne (T-14th), Ryan Newman (T-14th) and Joey Logano (T-14th) breathing down his neck with one win each for the two wild-card spots.
With nine races left before the field is set, Edwards can't afford another bad finish.
And he needs a win for a team struggling to lead a lap.
Edwards keeps saying the team isn't that far off, that this isn't a performance issue. It's definitely not a Roush Fenway Racing issue. Teammate Matt Kenseth leads the points with a win and eight top-5s. Biffle led the points for 11 weeks, has a win and eight top-5s, and is fourth in points.
But Edwards is right about one thing: His team needs to get going.
"We just we have to stick together as a team," Edwards said. "That is what Bob and I talked about last week."
Saturday couldn't have helped that. Edwards had to pit late when others stayed out because he didn't top off for fuel around Lap 209 when a caution was out.
Edwards didn't pit with others around Lap 209 because by the time Osborne told him to come in, he was too close to the commitment cone to make the stop without causing havoc. He didn't pit the next time around because Osborne told him to stay out, leading to a debate over the in-car radio.
"I am definitely frustrated with how it played out," Edwards said. "We had a pretty good car at the end. Bob called me onto pit road. He knew we should have pitted that last time, but I was already so far around that cone that I just didn't feel right cutting across traffic and slamming the splitter down to make it to pit road.
"We were put in a box. We hoped there would be a caution, but there wasn't."
So Edwards gave up a top-5 position for fuel, losing even more ground to eventual winner Brad Keselowski, who is 10th in points.
"It is time for us to get it in gear," Edwards said. "I am real frustrated, Bob is real frustrated and I know we can do this. We ran as well as any Ford out here. At the end, I think with some fuel we would have had a chance to win it.
" [We] need to get this in gear. We need to go."
If not, the hangover could keep Edwards from a season-ending trip to Las Vegas for the banquet.
It shouldn't be overlooked that Richard Petty turned 75 on Monday.
"I really don't think about age too much," Petty said in a team statement. "I just keep going to the next race. I've been doing that all my life, and that's what I'm going to keep doing. But I am grateful for each day and all the fans who make this a lot of fun for us."
Have a happy one, King.
Nationwide Series: Austin Dillon wins in the 3
Team owner Richard Childress, who won six titles with Earnhardt in that number, left a crack in the door after watching his grandson collect his first Nationwide win.
"Dale Earnhardt made that stylized No. 3 famous, and we don't have any intentions of running that stylized No. 3 in Cup," Childress told reporters after the race. "We don't have any intentions, but that always leaves an opening. Right now, we don't have any intentions of running that stylized No. 3 in Cup."
The "right now" part was deafening. Childress didn't do anything to tone it down, pausing and then adding, "That leaves an opening, doesn't it?"
Yes, it does. And when somebody talks about an opening, that implies it is or will be under consideration.
Dillon is on the fast track to Cup. He drove two full seasons in the Truck series, winning the title in 2011. Friday's win shot him into the Nationwide points lead by two over Elliott Sadler, although he's expected to lose that when NASCAR penalizes him because his car was too low in postrace inspection.
Sources said Dillon likely will suffer a loss of six championship and driver points, just as Sadler's team did earlier this year from a penalty at Iowa.
But the key number remains 3. Dillon has driven that number in Trucks and Nationwide. He has embraced it, saying the pressure that comes with the number drives him to give "110" percent.
On Friday, Childress said Earnhardt would have been proud, adding, "I know Dale's looking down smiling to see that 3 win tonight."
He should be just as proud if Childress brings the number that he drove before Earnhardt back to Cup with a family member behind the wheel. It's time, and Dillon's time for Cup isn't far off.
The 22-year-old already has run a couple of Cup races, and is likely to run at least a partial Cup schedule in 2013.
When he makes the move, it should be in the 3.
Camping World Truck Series: Title race heating up
Don't look now, but the Truck series has the tightest race in NASCAR.
Five other drivers are within 57 points of the lead. Only four drivers are that close in the Cup and Nationwide series.
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Racing Resources says
Sprint Cup Series
• Brad Keselowski won the Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday, his seventh career win in his 106th race. He last won at Talladega, six races between. Six of his seven wins have come in the past two seasons.
• This was his first win at Kentucky in his second start, and his third win of 2012 (Bristol, Talladega), most of all drivers. His three wins ties his career best for wins in a season (2011).
• This was Keselowski's second win on a 1.5-mile track, both on fuel mileage (Kansas, June 2011). He last pitted on Lap 208 and went the final 59 laps on fuel. He remains 10th in points but 34 ahead of 11th.
• He led three times for 68 laps, including the final 56.
• This was the 74th career win for Penske Racing and the team's first win at Kentucky. Keselowski has all three of the team's wins in 2012. • This was Dodge's third win of 2012 -- all by Keselowski -- and first win at Kentucky. • Kasey Kahne (finished second) earned his eighth top-10 finish of 2012, and first in the past four races. He is currently in the second wild-card position.
• Denny Hamlin (third) had his eighth top-5 finish of 2012, including four in the past seven races.
• Jeff Gordon (fifth) got his sixth top-10 finish of 2012, including the past three races, and only his second top-5 finish of the season.
• Jimmie Johnson (sixth) had his fifth straight finish of sixth or better. He has had only one finish outside the top 12 in the past 16 races. All four Hendrick Motorsports drivers finished in the top six.
• Matt Kenseth (seventh) had his 12th top-10 of 2012 and remains the points leader by 11 over Earnhardt.
• AJ Allmendinger (ninth) had his third top-10 finish of 2012, including the past two races.
• Kyle Busch (10th) rebounded after changing a shock for his first top-10 in four races.
• Carl Edwards (20th) pitted from fifth for fuel with four laps to go and is now 34 behind 10th with no wins to help him get one of the two wild-card spots to make the Chase.
• Tony Stewart (32nd) had engine issues (ignition/EFI) early and spent 34 laps behind the wall. He came back on the track to gain nine positions but dropped from fifth to ninth in points.
• Current wild-card drivers are Busch, 12th in points, and Kahne, 14th in points. Both have a win.
• Austin Dillon won the Feed the Children 300 at Kentucky Speedway on Friday night. It was his first career Nationwide Series win in his 26th start. His previous best finish was third at Nashville in July 2011. He became the first rookie to win since Juan Pablo Montoya won at Mexico City in 2007.
• This was Dillon's first Nationwide start at Kentucky.
• The 3 car had last won in the Nationwide Series when Dale Earnhardt Jr. drove it to Victory Lane at Daytona in July 2010.
• Dillon led three times for 192 laps (out of 200), including the final 56. It was the fourth-most dominant performance by a driver getting his first win behind Dale Jarrett, who led all150 laps in his win at Orange in August 1986; Morgan Shepherd, who led all but two laps in his win at Hickory in May 1982; and Ryan Newman, who led all but six in his win at Michigan in August 2001.
• Richard Childress Racing posted its 59th career Nationwide Series win and second victory at Kentucky. RCR has three wins in 2012.
• Chevrolet posted its fifth win of 2012 and fifth victory overall at Kentucky.
• Kurt Busch (second) has top-10 finishes in nine of his 10 starts this season.
• Kevin Harvick (third) has top-10 finishes in five of his six starts in 2012.
• Michael Annett (fourth) posted his career-best finish and first top-5 finish.
• Justin Allgaier (fifth) got his second top-5 in four starts at Kentucky. He is the only driver with top-10 finishes at all four 1.5-mile tracks this season.
• Sam Hornish Jr. (sixth) has top-10 finishes in four of the past five races.
• Brad Keselowski (seventh) had his worst Kentucky finish in his fifth start there.
• Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (eighth) ended a four-race streak of finishes outside of the top 10 with his 10th top-10 finish of the season.
• Elliott Sadler (ninth) got his 11th top-10 finish this season.
• The top four in points (Dillon, Sadler, Stenhouse and Hornish) are separated by 33 points.
Camping World Truck Series
• James Buescher won the Unoh 225 at Kentucky Speedway on Thursday night. It was his second Truck series win in his 80th start. He became the first repeat winner in eight races of 2012. His previous best Kentucky finish was third in October 2011.
• Buescher became the youngest driver to win a Truck series race at Kentucky (22 years, 3 months, 2 days).
• Buescher led three times for 119 laps, including the final 43.
• Turner Motorsports posted its third overall Truck series wins, all three coming in 2012. The three victories in 2012 lead all teams
• Chevrolet posted its fifth victory of 2012 and sixth win at Kentucky.
• Brad Keselowski (second) tied his career-best finish for the third time.
• Austin Dillon (third) has finished in the top 10 in the past 10 races. He started the race in the rear after an engine change.
• Matt Crafton (fourth) got his third top-5 finish of 2012.
• Kyle Larson finished 10th in his Truck series debut after starting the race in the rear after an engine change.
• Justin Lofton (14th) had his first finish outside of the top 10 this season.
• Parker Kligerman (19th) had his worst finish of the season. He finished in the top 11 in the first seven races.
• The top four drivers in points are separated by nine points.
-- Racing Resources