|Carl Edwards is at a crossroads|
Equally important, we’ll know which teams have the fortitude to overcome the disappointments encountered in the first 26 races of the season.
For drivers like Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano, the 2012 campaign has been one of frustration and heartbreak. After ending the season-finale at Homestead Miami Speedway in an unprecedented tie for the championship a year ago – only to lose the title on a tie-breaker to Tony Stewart – Carl Edwards has been a non-factor this season. He failed to visit Victory Lane (after winning only once in 2011) and failed to qualify for the Chase after finishing 14th in points, with only two Top-5 finishes in 26 starts. Busch also failed to make the post-season Chase, squandering a 12-point advantage over Jeff Gordon in the regular-season finale at Richmond. Like Busch, Logano came to Richmond with a viable chance to make the Chase, only to run in the back of the pack all weekend en route to an abysmal 30th-place finish.
|Logano has a new deal for `13|
Logano may have the simplest task of the three. He will depart Joe Gibbs Racing at season’s end for an exciting new opportunity at Penske Racing, driving the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford. The Connecticut native has nothing to lose in the next 10 weeks, and should be able to remain positive, upbeat and aggressive, regardless of on-track performance.
Edwards’ road may be a bit rockier. He and his No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing team must somehow rediscover their long-lost mojo and find their way back to Victory Lane after an absence of some 59 races. A late-season crew chief change has done little to right the ship, and the next 10 weeks could determine whether more personnel changes will be made in the off season.
|Disappointment for Kyle Busch|
Busch may have the most difficult journey of them all. After years of regular-season success and post-season struggle, Busch suffered through a maddening series of issues this season. His last chance at Richmond fell victim to both questionable strategy and a botched final pit stop, leaving him outside the 2012 Chase, looking in. The outspoken Busch never thought much of JGR’s transition to TRG engines this season, and made no secret of his unhappiness with the repeated engine failures that followed. He has openly second-guessed both the strategy and set-ups of crew chief Dave Rogers, as well, raising questions about whether he and his team can remain on the same page of the play book for the rest of the season.
If they are able to join hands, circle the competitive wagons and run well, they may survive to compete together again in 2013.
If not, it could be a long and bloody winter.