DOVER, Del. - There was no bigger fan of the Chase for the Sprint Cup format than Carl Edwards this season.
Why? Because the "reset" of series points that comes with the start of the Chase erased the enormous deficit Edwards faced and reinvigorated his title hopes.
With nine races left to determine the champion entering today's AAA 400 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway, Edwards is 11th in points, 113 points behind leader Mark Martin - still a workable margin.
Yet, that is a far cry from last season, when Edwards entered the Chase with six wins and ended the year with a series-high nine victories - and lost the championship to Jimmie Johnson by 69 points.
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"I feel like last year's experience in the Chase was really valuable to me," Edwards said.
"To be able to stay within reach of Jimmie until the last part, the final race, the last lap - I think that experience and going through those emotions, battling through some adversity through a few bad races that we had, I think that's good. I think it helps me."
The more important question: Why has Roush Fenway Racing, and in particular Edwards, had such a drop-off in performance this season?
Last season, three Roush drivers - Edwards, Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle - made the Chase, and Edwards and Biffle both won two or more races.
This year, Kenseth started the year with a pair of wins, at Daytona and California, but failed to make the Chase. Edwards and Biffle made the Chase field, but neither has won a race.
"For our team to have the type of Chase we had last season where we were battling until Homestead, we've got to keep gaining ground like we have," Edwards said. "Our pit crew (has) worked really hard, two, three times a day, practicing pit stops.
"And our cars, we've been working really hard behind the scenes, all the engineers and all the minimal testing that we've been able to do.
"We've been looking at that, trying to put it together into something that we can use for these last 10 races."
But is it too late? Since the Chase format's inception in 2004, only one driver (Johnson in 2006) who finished lower than sixth at New Hampshire has won the crown. Edwards was 17th last weekend and Biffle finished ninth.
Edwards remains undaunted.
"I define my successes on my effort that I put out, personally how I perform and how our guys perform, and if that yields a championship, that's great," he said. "And if it doesn't, we've still got to keep our heads up.
"I'm going into this thing thinking we can win it. I know we haven't performed to that level lately, but we're going to throw everything we've got at it."