2011-12-01 / Sports

Edwards Came Out A Winner

By Gerald Hodges

One of the things Carl Edwards has going for him is character.

In his loss to Tony Stewart for this year’s Sprint Cup championship, Carl Edwards was the first to congratulate Stewart.

“ He beat us fair and square,” Edwards said after the race.

Edwards did virtually everything right in the Ford 400 Sunday in pursuit of his first Sprint Cup championship.

He led 119 laps, 54 more than anyone else. He led 90 of the first 112 laps without a serious challenge. He drove a mostly flawless race. He scored a second-place race finish for the third consecutive event.

Yet he fell short of the big prize by a margin so narrow that it really wasn’t a margin. Edwards and Tony Stewart tied for the championship at 2,403 points, but Stewart won the title using the first tiebreaker, race wins (five to one).

It was the first end-of-season tie atop the point standings in the history of NASCAR after a final race that already has been labeled as one of the greatest in the sport’s six decades.

Stewart won the race despite a laundry list of problems during the event, finishing 1.30 seconds ahead of Edwards. It was a tough loss after an eventful season, but a defeat that Edwards absorbed with class.

“Whether we won tonight or we lost, I mean, tomorrow is the start of the next season,” Edwards said. “I was prepared before this race began to do exactly what I’m going to go do, and that’s to be even better next year and to apply what I’ve learned here.”

“We knew we could come into this thing and we knew that of all of the circumstances that could happen, this one the tie was the least probable. I mean, for us to finish like that, tied, fighting for the win. That is the least probable outcome.”

“And so I was prepared for anything. I knew that this was a possibility, though, and I was prepared for this. And I told myself, I told my family that the one thing I’m going to do is I’m going to walk back to that motor home, win, lose or draw, and I’m going to be a good example for my kids and work hard and go be better next season. Because, you know, we talked about it before the race, even if we won this thing, you go halfway through next season and struggle, that’s quickly forgotten.”

“As painful as this is right now, I know that we have – we are fortunate to have the opportunity to go to Daytona in February and just start all over again and go race.”

After the race, Edwards met briefly with crew chief Bob Osborne, who seemed particularly shaken by the night’s results. They shook hands before Edwards continued with a raft of postrace media responsibilities.

“I just wanted to make sure that Bob knew that I believe he’s the best crew chief here, and that he will be my crew chief for as long as he wants to be, and I’m behind him and his decisions 100 percent,” Edwards said.

“As tough as it is for me, you know, it’s tougher, I think, for those guys, the guys that prepare these cars and determine which things we are going to work on throughout the year and what strategies we are going to use. They make some very, very big decisions that they can’t turn around.”

Aside from the obvious disappointment of falling short of the championship, Edwards said the run through the Chase will make him a better racer for future title opportunities.

“There are lessons that I learned and things that I learned about myself, about competition, about failure and things about success; things that I could not have learned any other way,” he said. “If there weren’t any pressure, there wouldn’t be any diamonds, that’s what my trainer says.”

“We dealt with a lot of pressure, and I feel very proud of the way our team and myself and everyone has handled everything through this, and I feel that we made it all the way through, and although we didn’t come out with the outcome that we wanted, that we are better because of it, you know, and I’m not trying to be philosophical or anything.”

“I’m truly telling you, if I’m in this position next year, I’m going to be better at it. I’m going to be – I’ll be better. So that’s cool. That’s something you don’t get every day is a lesson like this.”

It takes a real man to come through situations like Edwards did and still remain upbeat.

Nationwide to lose a race

The 2012 NASCAR Nationwide Series will have one less race. It will be down from the 34-race schedule in 2011, to 33 races.

Nashville Superspeedway, which had two races this year, opted not to have any NASCAR races in 2012, and one of those races will go to Kentucky Speedway.

The race at Montreal, Canada, is back on the schedule after months of speculation that it might be dropped after the promoter did not get financial incentives from the government to market the race.

Truck series races cut from 25 to 22

NASCAR has reduced the number of races in the Camping World Truck Series from 25 to 22 for 2012.

NASCAR Vice President Steve O’Donnell indicated they will continue looking at other tracks.

“Looking ahead, interest in the Truck Series continues to grow in a number of different markets and we’re excited about what the future holds for next season and beyond,” O’Donnell said in a news release.

Nashville Superspeedway, which had two dates, has closed. The series also won’t return to Lucas Oil Raceway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Darlington Raceway.

The series will go to Rockingham Speedway for the first time, and it added a second date at Iowa Speedway.

Racing trivia question: What is the relationship between Austin Dillon, the 2011 Camping World Truck Series Champion, and Richard Childress?

Last week’s question: Which city will host the 2011 Sprint Cup Banquet? Answer. It will be held in Las Vegas on Friday, Dec. 2. It will be shown on the Speed Channel beginning at 9 p.m.

Contact the Racing Reporter at hodges@race500.com.

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