Carl Edwards made a big statement on Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway. He's back!
Edwards not only snapped a lengthy 70-race winless streak in the Sprint Cup Series but ended a string of bad luck as well.
It looked as though Edwards had another season of struggles ahead of him following his "crash-filled" Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway this past month. Unlike Jimmie Johnson's nickname for his five consecutive Sprint Cup championships (2006-10), Edwards had been bestowed the title as "Five Time" by many for his number of accidents at Daytona.
Edwards was hoping for a reversal of fortune when he came to Phoenix, and it happened, as he claimed his first victory in NASCAR's premier series since March 2011 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
With the win, Edwards is now in the early season conversation of who is in contention to make this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. The Roush Fenway Racing driver did not qualify for the 2012 Chase after he finished the previous season in a points tie with champion Tony Stewart.
"I'm very happy to be back in the mix here," said Edwards, who finished 15th in the point standings this past season. "A victory is huge and for so many reasons. Last year, we didn't make the Chase. For me to sit home while everybody was at the Chase stuff and at Vegas (NASCAR Awards Banquet), that was a little bit of a shock to me. I did not like that at all.
"To get a victory helps us be in a better position for the Chase. It just feels good to win, and I'm just very glad to be here."
After the 2012 season concluded, team owner Jack Roush placed crew chief Jimmy Fennig with Edwards. It appears the two are working well together.
"The one thing I was most nervous about coming to Phoenix was having another problem, having some wreck or a parts failure or something like that," Edwards said. "I actually missed a shift and over revved the engine a little bit in practice. I knew that we couldn't have another problem with that, because I knew if we had two bad races to start, it would be hard for some people - not Jimmy or Jack or me - but there might be guys on the team or at the shop that would start hanging their heads because it is very difficult to come out of a hole like that."
Fennig is one of the more accomplished crew chiefs in NASCAR. He had been paired with Matt Kenseth, guiding him to appearances in the Chase the past three seasons and a victory in last year's Daytona 500. He also served in the role for Kurt Busch and Mark Martin's teams when they drove for Roush Fenway. Busch and Fennig won the series championship in 2004, the inaugural year of the Chase.
"I go about my work a little different than some people do," Fennig said. "I'm a hard worker. We sit there and pay attention to detail on our race cars, and that's about it. I do the same thing that I did with Matt, with Mark Martin in '98. That's the way I work."
Last July, Bob Osborne resigned as crew chief for Edwards' team due to a health issue. Chad Norris took over the role for the remainder of the season, while Osborne moved into a senior management role with Roush Fenway.
Osborne had been Edwards' crew chief since Edwards made his Sprint Cup debut in 2004. The two won 19 races together, including a series-high nine victories during the 2008 season. He finished second to Johnson in points that year.
Edwards and Fennig are hopeful it won't be another 70 races before their next trip to victory lane. Edwards was 0-70 in Sprint Cup before he won the fall race at Phoenix in 2010.
When asked if it was a coincidence that both of his losing streaks ended at Phoenix, he responded, "That is kind of strange, huh?"
Phoenix might now be his favorite track on the schedule.