Can Carl Edwards do it?
“We have the time and the team,” he said Wednesday.
Edwards has moved into back-to-the-wall territory this week with only two races remaining in the Sprint Cup regular season. Winless since March of last season, Edwards needs a victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway Sunday night or at Richmond International Raceway next weekend to put himself in serious contention for a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
“I don't think there could be two better tracks coming up,” Edwards said. “Atlanta, it's one of my personal favorite tracks to drive on (he scored his first Sprint Cup win there in 2005). I don't think there's a more fun track on the circuit to race on. Chad (crew chief Chad Norris) and all the guys – we spoke a lot about our strategy for the race. We feel like we have a car sitting there in the hauler that can go win that race.
“So, really excited about it. I hope that it goes the way we want it to.”
Edwards is in a must-win situation, a position that explains his late-race decision at Bristol last week to stay on the track despite the fact that he probably would run out of fuel before the race ended. He led 17 laps before giving way to Denny Hamlin, then ran out of fuel with four to go.
“We need to win,” Edwards said. “That's why you saw me stay out at Bristol and hang on to old tires, a low tank of fuel and try to hold the guys off, stay out front. Those are the kind of things we need to do if we don't have a dominant car.
“I pretty much made the call. It turned out to be the wrong call because we ran out of fuel. I stayed out hoping for more cautions. Those are the types of things that when you have to win, those are the types of things, decisions, that you have to make to put yourself into those spots and risk things like that.”
Edwards, who narrowly lost the championship to Tony Stewart last season, said he can cope if he doesn’t make the Chase this year.
“You can drive yourself crazy wanting the whole world to be perfect, wanting everything to go your way,” he said. “What I've realized for me personally – I don't know if this works for everybody, but the only way to come away from competition or a race or a season and feel content with it is to just lay everything you have on the table, do your very best, then don't look back. If you win, you win. If you don't, you don't. You can't change the outcome; you can only change the way you compete.
“I've grown a lot over the years and been able to deal with success and failure a lot better on the race track. I think that's one of the neatest things, most valuable things that racing has taught me, is just to do your best. Winning is a hell of a lot more fun than not winning, I can tell you that. But, if you dwell on things and beat yourself up too much, you hurt your chances of winning more in the future. That took me a long time to learn.”
During a NASCAR teleconference, Edwards brought up recent talk that he might be moving to Penske Racing to drive the No. 22 car next season, saying any rumors to that effect are not true.
“First of all, I haven't discussed that ever with anyone at Penske,” he said. “Two, I'm contracted to drive the 99 car. I'm very excited about next season. That's what's happening in case anybody wants to know. I wouldn't mention it except that it's gotten bad enough that sponsors and folks are asking me about it. I guess I have to try to address that now and make sure you know I'll be driving the 99 car next year, for sure.”
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.