It was another frustrating race night – a 20th-place finish and no laps led – for Carl Edwards.
And the clock is ticking.
Edwards was forced to pit for fuel with four laps to go, leaving a top-five spot in the final minutes of the Quaker State 400.
Edwards stayed 11th in the Sprint Cup point standings but remains on the outside looking in in the Chase for the Sprint Cup race. He is 34 points out of the 10th points spot – and the final Chase qualifying position in points, a position held by Saturday night’s winner, Brad Keselowski.
And Edwards is currently a non-factor in wild-card activity. He hasn’t won a race since March 2011. With only nine races remaining until the Chase cutoff, he’s riding a very big bubble.
“We just, we have to stick together as a team,” Edwards said after the race. “That is what Bob (crew chief Bob Osborne) and I talked about last week.”
Edwards said he is aware of garage talk that he and his team are struggling because of the disappointment of losing a close championship race to Tony Stewart last year.
“I hear it all,” he said. “I hear everything. I hear, ‘He is focused on the 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 and get this Ford in victory lane for Fastenal and everyone that supports us.”
Edwards carried UPS sponsorship Saturday night and had hoped to outduel Denny Hamlin, who finished third in the FedEx-sponsored car.
“I am definitely frustrated with how it played out,” Edwards said. “We had UPS here and wanted to have a really good run for them. I really wanted to beat Denny considering the implications there for delivery companies.
“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.
“It is time for us to get it in gear. I am real frustrated, Bob is real frustrated, and I know we can do this. We ran as well as any Ford out here tonight. At the end, I think with some fuel we would have had a chance to win it.”
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 30 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.