Monday, November 21, 2011
Edwards Is NASCAR's Other Champion
If there were a trophy for class, however, Edwards would have taken it, hands down.
As his Roush Fenway Racing Aflac Ford crossed beneath the checkered flag Sunday, just 1.5 seconds too late to realize his season long championship dream, Edwards spoke immediately to his team, hailing them for their hard work over the last 10 months, urging them to “keep your heads up” and promising to “go home and work and beat them next year.” He spoke directly to crew chief Bob Osborne on the cool down lap, calling him “the best on pit road," then exited his racer to deal with the media.
He waited patiently while third-place finisher Martin Truex, Jr., answered his post-race questions in the deadline room, then fielded dozens of his own; describing the toughest, most demoralizing night of his career with an uncommon degree of poise and grace.
“They beat us fair and square," said Edwards, forcing a smile. “That was all I had at the end. My guys did a really good job. We led the most laps, and Tony still managed to do a good job with their strategy. That was all I (had) at the end. That’s as hard as I can drive.”
When he mourned, he did so for his team, not himself. “As tough as this is for me, it’s tougher for those guys,” he said. “(They're) the guys that prepare these cars and determine which things we’re gonna work on through the year and what strategies we’re going to use. They make some very, very big decisions that they can't turn around and change in a heartbeat.
“As a race-car driver, I can make quick decisions out there and I can fix things and make things happen. They make some very, very thought-out decisions, and I’m sure their disappointment is as great -- or greater -- than mine.”
“As painful as this is right now, I know we are fortunate to go to Daytona and start all over again.”
Edwards’ grace under fire was not lost on Stewart, who recalled his post-race conversation with the Missouri native. “You couldn’t ask for a better guy,” said Stewart. “He (said), ‘I hope a year from now, we are in the same battle again just like this. Everyone respects Carl for the person that he is. There have been a lot of things that have happened (in the past) that make you go, `Is there sincerity involved in what he says?' But there were no cameras there when he said that. He just came and talked to me, driver to driver. That means a lot. It shows who he is as a person… and he’ll win a championship.
“He’ll be up here in our position again.”