NASCAR

Edwards eager for a fresh start

2012 Sprint Cup season was full of disappointment

bspear@thestate.comFebruary 15, 2013 

  • DAYTONA SCHEDULE Today: The Sprint Unlimited, 8 p.m. Sunday: Daytona 500 Pole Qualifying, 1 p.m. Thursday: Budweiser Duel, 2 p.m. Feb. 24: Daytona 500, 1 p.m.

“New crew chief, new car, new tires,” Carl Edwards says in looking forward to the 2013 stock-car racing season that comes to life this week at Daytona Beach.

Left unsaid — but obviously implied — his “new” list would include results.

Or, at least, he wants a return to the results of 2011.

Anything that could go wrong in 2012 did for Edwards and his No. 99 Ford, which was expected to be the powerhouse of the Roush Fenway stable. Instead, the team that lost the 2011 championship on a tiebreaker was stuck in neutral. Don’t blame the equipment; running mates Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle combined to win five races and led the championship standings 21 of the 26 weeks.

“Any time things go bad, you want a change, and I like all the change we can have right now because last year was so disappointing and so frustrating,” Edwards said during a visit to Darlington for tire tests last week. “We plan on making that season an anomaly.”

Edwards adores the newly designed Gen 6 car that makes its debut this year and veteran Jimmy Fennig, who guided Kenseth to victory in the Daytona 500 and two other races last year, will be his new crew chief.

“Jimmy is serious about racing and he wants to win right now,” Edwards said. “We haven’t talked about much except how to win races. He’s really cool. He doesn’t mess around; he’s here to win.

“We’ll talk and I’ll ask him about a situation and he will say, ‘Well, Mark Martin did it this way and Bobby Allison did it that way.’ He goes down the list of drivers he has worked with. It’s pretty humbling, but it’s also a good opportunity.”

After finishing even with Tony Stewart in points in the 2011 Chase for the Championship only to lose the title on the tiebreaker — Stewart won five races to Edwards’ one — Edwards ranked among the 2012 favorites, and the year opened with promise. He won the pole for the Daytona 500.

That represented the season’s highlight. His top-five finishes dropped from 19 to three and he finished 15th in the standings. He has not won and treated fans to his celebratory victory back-flip in 69 races.

Maybe the most astounding statistic is this: Edwards led more than one lap is two races.

“Not in the last few years have I been this excited to go racing,” he said. “I want to put last year out of my memory and look ahead. I know Jimmy wants to come right out of the box with a couple of wins and get locked into the Chase, and so do I.”

Team owner Jack Roush figures pairing Edward with Fennig is an ideal match.

“It is our expectation that (the pairing) will provide the spark to get the No. 99 program and Carl back into championship form,” Roush told reporters during racing’s January media tour.

That’s the idea, Edwards agreed.

“We look at this as an opportunity” to eliminate the bad taste left by the 2012 performance, he said. “With so much new — crew chief, car, tires — you have to like that.”

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