Philadelphia, PA – Carl Edwards came oh so close to winning the 2011 Sprint Cup Series championship, but this year, the Roush Fenway Racing driver is in danger of not making the Chase.
And it's frustrating him.
After finishing 20th in last Saturday night's 400-mile race at Kentucky Speedway, Edwards remained 11th in the point standings but fell 34 points behind 10th-place Brad Keselowski, who claimed his third win of the season at Kentucky.
Edwards started 25th in the race but made his way up to the top 10 by the halfway point. He last pitted during a caution with 55 laps to go. His crew chief knew the fuel would not hold up for the remainder of the event unless another caution came before it concluded.
That caution never came, and Edwards was forced to relinquish his third-place running position when he had to pit for a splash of gas with just three laps left. He was the only one of the front runners who had to make a stop in the closing laps.
"I am definitely frustrated with how it played out," Edwards said. "We had a pretty good car at the end. (Crew chief) Bob (Osborne) 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."
What's even more frustrating for Edwards is that his winless streak has now stretched to 50 races. His last victory in Sprint Cup came in March 2011 at Las Vegas.
"It's time for us to get it in gear," he said.
Osborne has served as Edwards' crew chief on the No. 99 Roush Fenway team since Edwards made his debut in NASCAR's premier series in 2004. But Osborne's future with the team could be in jeopardy if things don't improve soon.
Last year, Edwards and Tony Stewart ended the season with the same number of points, but the tiebreaker went to Stewart by virtue of his five wins -- all of them in the Chase -- compared to one victory for Edwards.
Despite his 11th place in points, Edwards is behind four other drivers in the wild card standings. Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman and Joey Logano have one victory each this season. The last two positions in the 12-driver Chase field go to the non-top-10-ranked drivers with the most wins, as long as they're ranked in the top 20 in points.
So what's the game plan for the 99 team with nine races to go before the Chase cutoff on Sept. 8 at Richmond?
"We just have to stick together as a team," Edwards said. "That is what Bob and I talked about last week. I hear it all. I hear everything. I hear, 'He is focused on the (television broadcast) booth, he is torn 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."
Edwards failed to make the Chase and did not win a race during his sophomore season in 2006. He's hoping that won't be the same case this year.