With two wins and seven Top-5 finishes in 32 starts this season, Edwards has been overshadowed by drivers like Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Jeff Gordon. But while others have more visits to Victory Lane, Edwards arrived at Martinsville Speedway this weekend in an eight-way tie for the Sprint Cup Series championship lead.
“It’s a great feeling,” admitted Edwards today. “We admittedly have not been a dominant team all year, so this Chase format gives us an opportunity to be tied for the points lead with four races left. We’re looking forward to this race. We’re looking forward to the next two and hopefully advancing to Homestead, where we feel like we would have a really good shot at winning the championship. I’m excited to be here and looking forward to this three-race stretch.”
Edwards said this year’s new Chase format has ramped-up the intensity and placed a premium on winning, adding, “We got a win early -- which was spectacular – and up until the Chase started, we were having fun. There wasn’t a lot of pressure, (but) there is more pressure now.
“Everyone knows what the goal is and everybody works all year to be the champion. That’s what we do this for. Being here this weekend, I can sense it. A couple of (my guys) have already said, ‘Man, it would be nice to win here and advance this weekend.’
“Everybody is feeling it.”
Edwards said the tight Martinsville half-mile provides a much different challenge than Talladega did a week ago.
“It’s a tough place,” he said. “It’s a difficult race track that requires a balance of finesse and focus and aggression. If you watch the guys after the race, when they get out of their cars, most of us will be sitting down and breathing heavy. It’s a physical, tough race track. It’s not like Talladega, where you’re waiting around for something to happen. There’s always something happening here and you’ve got to be vigilant and focused the whole time.
“You have to balance how aggressive you want to be,” he said. “You don’t want to rip the fenders off and have the wheels pointing the wrong direction. I’ve tried all that stuff and it does not work. You have to race with a certain amount of etiquette. If you watch the guy that wins, his car will probably be pretty much the same shape as it was when he started. He won’t have made too many people mad, because otherwise he would be wrecked."
Perhaps surprisingly, Edwards said his status as a lame-duck driver at Roush Fenway Racing has not affected his team’s performance.
“It’s been great and it has surprised me how much hasn’t changed since I announced I was leaving,” he said. “Robbie Reiser, Steve Newmark, Jack Roush, they’ll joke around a little bit about it, but there’s really nothing but hard work and dedication by all those guys to get this 99 team a championship.
“Someone asked me the other day, ‘So, have they been keeping you out of meetings or withholding anything?’ I don’t know if they have been. I asked Steve Newmark about it and he laughed and said, ‘No.’
“He said, ‘We actually had a talk about that. We thought it would be pretty silly to not go 100-percent at this championship,’ so nothing has really changed (and) I hope it continues like that.
"These guys are my friends and they’re like family to me. I hope that through this whole process, it stays that way.”